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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Friends for fat people and plum roles for flautists,
with Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

I have had this problem since I was little. I have always been too fat and I have got the feeling that people think I am ill or something. So they try to stay away from me. I don't really mind that I am not as slim as my classmates, but they all look at me as if I am a monster from some horror film!!!!

Why can't I find friends?
How can I find friends?

Yours sincerely
Fat, and feeling it

Dear 'Fat and feeling it',
Thanks for writing to 'Ask Alice'.

My feeling is that it is VERY TOUGH to be overweight when you're young, because kids can be so horrible about it. Once you're grown-up, it is miles easier. As for making friends, there are two good ways of making friends, whether you think you're too thin, too fat or just right. The first is to be friendly: to laugh at people's jokes, to poke fun at yourself ('Hey! Chuck the ball over here! I'm not too fat to run, you know!'), to be comfortable with yourself, so that other people can feel comfortable with YOU.

The other way is to be kind. Even the most unkind people feel an unwilling respect for people who, when taunted, don't hit back. The people who are horrible to you have got more problems inside with themselves than a nice guy like you can even dream of. Try to feel sorry for them if you can manage it. The other way you can be kind is to look around the school with new eyes. Often we're so busy worrying about our own troubles we don't even register other people's troubles. I bet there are other guys in your school who aren't always treated well ... other people who can feel left out, or lonely. If you make a real effort to be kind to these people you will be doing both of you a favour.

There are always some people who will see the outside of the person and not look for what's inside. HOWEVER, there are also people who do the opposite, and those are the ones who will get on best after leaving the excesses of school behind them. Write back and let me know how you're doing.


Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

I play in an amateur orchestra -- though I went to music college I've wound up earning my living in another field. My problem is that nobody gives me a chance. The other wind players have been together since around 1900 (slight exaggeration!) and my principal, in particular, never gives me a chance to play principal, even when she's ill. Maybe she's feeling defensive but I'm feeling fed-up. The other wind players share leading (sometimes, anyway) so why can't we do the same? Should I leave and let them realise what they've been missing or what?

Name supplied

Dear unknown wind player,

I do certainly sympathize with you, even though it's not the sort of thing that happens in the strings. It must be immensely frustrating to have to play second or third flute or whatever it is and never get your chance to shine. I suspect that there is a certain amount of defensiveness in your principal's attitude (especially if she didn't get to music college herself) -- and especially if she's led since the turn of the previous century. She probably wishes you'd buzz off -- but that doesn't mean that you should.

As I see it you have two options to explore before so buzzing. The first is the principal herself. Could you call her up and ask her (VERY politely) whether -- marvellous player as she is -- you might someday hope to have a go at leading? If the answer is in the negative, you still have one other option, which is to approach the chairman of the orchestra and state your case. I really don't see how the chair couldn't agree (as it's already been approved of in other sections) that a certain amount of sharing couldn't go on. Of course, as the young upstart, you would have to accept that you won't get any plum roles (not until 3000 or so anyway) but I feel sure you could be graceful about it.

If you get no support from the management, however, then you have to decide whether playing second or third in this orchestra is really better than principal somewhere else.

Good luck!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

Is it just my age or have children's maths questions got stupider? I just can't see my son's homework without bursting out laughing.

'Gary made four rows of cakes, with five cakes in each row. How many cakes did he make altogether?'

Gary? Made CAKES? Is this kid normal or is this political correctness gone crazy or what?

J B in Cardiff

Dear J B,

No, I understand and sympathize -- not so much with Gary's proclivities (presumably Jamie Oliver was dishing out cakes in rows at Gary's age) but with the question problem.

'Eric eats three bananas a day. How many bananas does he eat a week?'
(Answer: as many as he can manage without getting a mega-tummy-ache.)

'Zara saved five pounds pocket money each week for three weeks. How much did she save altogether?'
(Answer: What sane parent would give a kid five pounds a week???
And what kid of prissy little squirt would save ALL of it???!!!!)

'Ed bought 10 books costing five pounds each. How much did he spend?'
(Answer: Ed needs to get out more.)

Yours in sympathy,

Copyright © 10 February 2006 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

Ask Alice



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