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Aunt Pythia’s advice

December 20, 2014

Here’s the thing, peoples. I love you – I really do, each and every one of you, except the douchey trolls – but, holy crap, peoples!

Where are the sex questions?!

Have I been unclear? Have I been beating around the sex question bush?

I think not. I think I have been more than forthright in my request demand. And, since none – I repeat, zero – of the questions this week are in the least sex-related, I’m going to have to insert something kind of awesome myself, namely this picture of a bouncey house snowman’s vagina. Remember, you made me do it:

They originally had a cylindrical tent attachment for kids to enter, but they thought twice.

They originally planned a cylindrical tent attachment entrance for the bouncy house, but they thought twice.

Question: is that what you needed to see so early on Saturday morning, before you’d even put on clothes (I’m picturing you all naked or very slightly pajama’d) and before you’ve even finished your morning coffee (and I’m also picturing you all kind of sleepy)?

I think not! So let’s all do better next time, and we can avoid this awkwardness in the future. What that means in concrete terms is a request to:

ask Aunt Pythia your sex question at the bottom of the page!

By the way, if you don’t know what the hell Aunt Pythia is talking about, go here for past advice columns and here for an explanation of the name Pythia.


Hi Aunt Pythia,

I love your blog and Slate Money Podcast and can think of few people better to share my early life crisis with.

I recently quit my consulting job in San Francisco to move back in with my parents for a year at 29 years young (how sexy is that) and take a few pre-requisite math classes while I study for the GRE in preparation for what I had planned to be admission into a dual MBA/MPP program. Except, something unexpected has happened, I’m finding myself enjoying mathematics for the first time in my life and it has me interested in pursuing something more quantitative than most MBA/MPP programs offer.

I’ve never been a math superstar, but I earned A’s and B’s at a UC in the math courses I was forced to take as a liberal arts major. I have a strong interest in learning how to solve problems and make sense of the world around me. And I’m beginning to see that math, as opposed to economics or finance, may be the best tool for doing so.

I spoke with a professor at the junior college I’m taking these math courses at and she suggested looking into an Applied Math program that would let me get exposure to everything from math, statistics, physics, computer science, and economics to different forms of engineering and finance. Her other suggestion was to remain enrolled at the junior college, complete their calculus sequence, real analysis/linear algebra, and other math electives that would allow me to apply to both undergraduate and graduate level math programs a year or so from now with a few more math classes on my transcript.

I took a look at a few applied math program curriculums and the courses look a lot more interesting than the marketing, strategy, accounting and finance I’d be stuck in at an MBA program.

But there’s a problem… being fascinated and interested by a math curriculum is great, working to gain the the skills necessary to handle those fascinating courses is the hard part.

Which leads me to my question (sorry for the wait): Do you know of any liberal arts undergraduates that have transformed themselves into successful Math or STEM related graduate students? Are their programs for students in my situation? Is this even a possibility? I’m not expecting to be the model candidate for MIT’s program but is their a path to an applied math program at a decent public/private school for someone in my position? Are there other programs outside of Applied Math that might better suit my math curiosity? Any books I could pick up at the library to help me figure out what may best interest me mathematically?

Keep up the good work and thank you for your math help!


Hi Boomerang,

I liked your letter, and I decided to print it, but to be honest I’m not convinced I know how to answer your question. I’ll just say a bunch of things that I hope will be helpful, and then I’ll sign off with some positive last words. Maybe my dear Aunt Pythia readers will have more concrete suggestions! Here goes:

First of all, I’m not familiar with people who have done what you’re trying to do after finishing college. I have met people who’ve gone back to finish a 4-year college program, got interested in math in the last year, and then furiously took a bunch of math classes. I even know someone who went to grad school in math after that. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done, just that it’s on the late side.

I also think the advice you’ve already received is good. Basically, take the fuck out of the available math classes and learn some good shit. Find out what your taste is and be an insatiable consumer of math. It’s all out there, waiting to be gobbled up by you. And to be honest, it’s never been a better time to learn math, the resources, online and otherwise, are phenomenal.

So I want to encourage your math habit, obviously, but at the same time, I do want to stress that any program in which you’re expected to learn and understand how to solve problems will or at least should involve math. Math is a field in its own right, of course, which I hope you find your way into if that’s your thing, but it’s also the major heavy lifting tool for all other fields. That’s just to say that, being a math nerd in an MBA program is still a good and useful thing, especially if you’re not an MBA asshole.

Good luck!

Aunt Pythia


Dear Aunt Pythia,

Is it possible to get over a crush and maintain a platonic relationship?

At the end of the last school year, I developed a crush on a substitute teacher at the school where I’ve taught for 7 years. I’ve been married and monogamous for 23 years, and this is the strongest crush I’ve had in that time – lascivious thoughts and everything (thoughts only). Over the summer, I did some soul searching, and decided that even if I did connect with my crush (it was by no means clear that I would or could), it would be an incredible act of selfishness on my part and wouldn’t get me much in the long run. In fact, it was clear that I’d lose a lot that I value greatly: my marriage, the respect of my coworkers, my kids, my wider family, etc.

Since then, my crush has been hired to the regular staff at my school, and we have become close friends. I have decided that I am not available romantically, and have rededicated myself to my marriage. I am closer to my wife than we have been in a long time (I had been “phoning it in” for a long time – I am now more present in our marriage).

My new friend has confided in me that she and her children were abused in her previous marriage. I intend to be a “safe male” in her life – someone available to listen and support her while she gets her life back together, but I will not seek a romantic relationship.

Is this even possible? Likely?

A Male In Denial Or Obviously Making Everything Difficult?


Gosh, I love your sign-off, and I love you. You just seem like a wonderful man.

Here’s the thing, some people are amazing and awesome and just plain old crush-worthy. And this is a good thing. An amazing thing, in fact, and handy. Think of adult crushes as a way for your body to force you to make friends with people when you’re busy.

You see, when you’re young, you just have this boatload of time to spend with people, and do ridiculous things like try to hide large objects in your stomach skin (I’m looking at you, Matt Cook), which overall serves as the bonding activity for life-long friendships. It’s amazing and wonderful, and when you finish college you feel like a like-long friendship pro.

You will never have as many friends again, however. Because soon after college ends, the harsh reality of adulthood sets in, and you often gain a spouse if you’re luck and into that, a couple of kids if you’re interested in that kind of thing, and a pile of responsibilities and time-consuming duties that keep you from spending ridiculous amounts of idle time bonding with random people. In other words, you’re at risk of never making another friend again.

Enter the adult crush. It’s a quick-bonding mechanism. Think of it as the super glue of post-college friendship. It can happen for men or women, to men or women, it doesn’t have to be romantic, and it supplies you with enough interest in the other person to care about maintaining a lasting and meaningful relationship. A rare event in these busy times!

So, to answer your question, no, you will never get over your crush, at least not if you’re lucky, and I think you’re amazing and awesome, and so does your family, and so does your new friend, and honestly she needs a good friend so good on you, and it’s all good.

And if I seem like I am enjoying your conflicted agony, then let me suggest it’s actually a huge improvement over not having it. So do your best to enjoy it. And don’t forget to have amazing fantasies.

Auntie P


Hi Auntie P

Two quick questions for you

1. Should I use dropbox?
2. How should I de-clutter my computer?

A bit of context, maybe. My private computers are full of stuff. We have 2-3 laptops and 4-5 back up disk which are all full of stuff.

Of course, it’s my own fault. Most of it is just old back up of my computer (so there is a lot of overlap), but I don’t (feel like I) keep a lot of stuff. Mostly music and pictures of my kids. Only I tend to listen to a lot of music and we have a lot of kids (so 2 private laptops and one iPad is actually not all that much). And as much as I like to de-clutter and get rid of stuff – on my computer or otherwise – I do wanna keep those. And I can do it too: my work computer is always completely empty. Since my private computers are so old, they don’t function well with that much stuff. I’d like to put my stuff on dropbox but then I’m not sure, you know with all the data stuff and all. More specifically:

1. I don’t know if I should really share my data – is there really a risk with my kids pictures and my music?

2. Is there a chance that dropbox actually gets hacked or collapses and my data disappears?

And of course, being a well structured efficiency nerd, (have you seen xkcd #1445? that’s me), and you being you, this brings up another topic: how should I go about organizing my stuff on my computer? I really like structured approaches to de-cluttering my life (thank you Gretchen Rubin) as long as they are practical and work. And you’re quite practical and you work. So I thought I might ask you.

Looking Forward to Saturday

Dear LFtS,

This is a non-problem. Data gets cheaper all the time and you never need to organize anything.

I’m sure there’s an app that collects all your music and picture files and makes scrapbooks for you. So don’t think about that for a moment longer. In terms of storage, if you’re worried about being hacked, which I wouldn’t be but don’t listen to me, then buy a couple of modern large hard disks and copy everything onto them. I say “a couple” because you should have more than one copy in case one breaks. Then after you have done that, throw away the 5 backup disks and 3 laptops you’re keeping around as inefficient storage devices.

Also, you can probably stop storing music altogether, unless you like Unbunny like I do, which is hard to stream. No, I take it back, it’s easy to find Unbunny everywhere. Phew.

Aunt Pythia

p.s. What’s happening Saturday? I hope you don’t mean my crappy answer to your question.


Aunt Pythia,

I’m a Junior studying Math, but I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve told myself I like Math since Junior year of high school when I learned Calculus. It was like a lightbulb went off in my head. I thought, “finally, this is what its uses are!” And I found it beautiful. So beautiful I was ahead of the class for the last half of it. I couldn’t wait to go back home and teach myself more of it. That passion has gone away.

I tell myself I like Math. It’s why I majored in it. But I don’t like working most of the time. There are times when I do enjoy dedicating hours to a class, like when I prove the propositions left as exercises in lecture. It’s thrilling. But most of the time, it’s hard for me to get out of bed and go to class, or sit down and do the work.

I feel like I’ve squandered two and half years on a Math degree my school paid for, and my parents, potential employers, and myself won’t value because I’m barely able to put my GPA on my resume. As a Hispanic, I’m acutely aware of how little of us are STEM majors. If I walk into a class, I will be the only URM there. And because I’m lucky enough to have grown up in an upper middle class neighborhood, I feel like I’m doing a disservice to my people. For myself, it’s more frustrating because I have an interest in Data Science, but from what I’ve gathered, graduate school probably isn’t for me.

I don’t know why I feel like this. Is it because I’m lazy? Is it because I’m privileged and have never been challenged? Is Math not for me? Am I depressed? I guess the big question is, how should I figure these questions out?

Anxious Math Junior

Dear Anxious,

I’m feeling your pain. You feel stuck. It’s not uncommon and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. Plus, it sounds like you are carrying extra weight on your shoulders.

So, the first step, in my opinion, is to get rid of that extra weight. You are not living The Life Of The Upper Middle Class Latino. You are living your own, personal, never-to-be-repeated life, and you gotta figure out how you want to live it. And you’re still a junior and you can switch majors and still graduate, so don’t worry that things are too late.

Let me suggest you go to a counselor at your school and tell them you want to discuss changing majors. There are, for example, personality tests that people sometimes find very helpful in helping them figure out what to do with their lives. Two of my close family members have been aided by such tests. Sometimes they clarify something you already kind of know, other times they really point you to something you didn’t even know was an option. In any case, not a waste of time, and I encourage you to look into them.

And by the way, it’s a great sign that you once were passionate about calculus. You have the talent and ability to master a difficult subject when the moment is right. The goal is to figure out how to create those moments and see where they will take you.

Good luck!

Aunt Pythia


Well, you’ve wasted yet another Saturday morning with Aunt Pythia! I hope you’re satisfied! If you could, please ask me a question. And don’t forget to make an amazing sign-off, they make me very very happy.

Click here for a form or just do it now:

Categories: Aunt Pythia
  1. December 20, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Boomerang: there are postbaccalaureate programs at various institutions, some more math-focused than others. Smith has a math postbac aimed at women in your exact situation.

    Also, take some stats and computer science as soon as you can (and check out statistics degrees along with the applied-math ones).


  2. December 20, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Anxious: yeah, you sound like you could be depressed. I also wonder if you are feeling socially isolated in your classes? Can you reach out to someone and start or join a study group? Sometimes it’s easier to motivate yourself for another human than for a piece of paper (and working with fellow smart people on hard problems is VERY DIFFERENT from those painful group projects we all endured in grade school).

    I don’t think you need to go to grad school to do data science-y things. But you might want to take some statistics and computer science courses while you’re in school!


  3. December 20, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Aw shux, us mathbeaus hardly ever think about anything but sex, but we’re all so, uh, y’know, um, inhibited, or else totally sublimated, that you’d hardly, haha, know it.

    Just, for instance, the other day …



  4. Auros
    December 20, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    I think unless Boomerang is specifically interested in using the Master’s of Public Policy, the MBA/MPP program is maybe not the greatest idea just because there currently seems to be a glut of MBAs, in much the way a couple years ago there was a glut of lawyers. If s/he wants to do something public policy related, then the MBA half of the program may be useful because of the attitudes of a lot of people who are influential on that — they currently are biased towards liking things like public/private partnerships, and trying to run gov’t more like a business, and so on, so that dual degree may impress them. But if s/he actually just wants to be a corporate manager, s/he should be aware that there’s actually kind of a backlash against MBAs at a lot of businesses now. Certainly Silicon Valley has developed an active bias against them. (Peter Thiel, in particular, has repeatedly expressed his distaste for MBAs.) An applied math degree of some kind might actually be more useful, currently, for getting a general business job.


  5. December 29, 2014 at 7:01 am

    >Think of adult crushes as a way for your body to force you to make friends with people when you’re busy.

    This should be in the manual they give you when you turn 18.


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