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Aunt Pythia’s advice

March 7, 2015

Readers! Lots of love to spread today, and I’ve got a love shovel. So be prepared to get covered from head to toe in love.

And no, it’s nothing like snow, so don’t worry about wearing boots or anything. In fact it’s best experienced naked, as most good things are. Think of it as powerful self-love which has been donated to you by a good friend, along with a strong cup of tea and a delicious piece of chocolate babka from Breads Bakery. Holy fuck that’s good stuff.

If you don’t know what I mean by self-love then go ahead and read this piece (hat tip Becky Jaffe).

Also, and relatedly, if you find self-love interesting, you might also find Bitch Planet interesting. I haven’t read it yet but I read this review, and I found it fascinating, especially this line:

Penny not only feels more herself at her size … she also doesn’t care if she offends your eye; in fact, she prefers it.

Fascinating food for thought.

Hey, now, don’t let me get distracted. It’s time for some advice! It’s that time again when I take your perfectly reasonable questions and utterly fuck them up with terrible suggestions. Are you ready? Let’s do this!!

And afterwards, don’t forget to:

        ask Aunt Pythia a 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.


Dear Aunt Pythia,

I’m a math student in my last year (yay!) who has found an incredible study/friend group to work/socialize with since starting college and, overall, I would say life is pretty awesome (infinity yay!). Recently one of these friends (let’s call him X) has come out and, being a gay guy myself, I feel super proud of him and I want him to feel supported by everyone and to help make this transition as smooth as possible (I remember only too well how unpleasant it was for myself).

There is, however, one quirk of his that I don’t approve of and try to discourage: continually hitting on/sexually objectifying a straight male friend of ours (let’s call him Y). Y has confided in me that he is extremely uncomfortable with him doing this. I’ve seen it in action before and really any person (gay or straight) would share the same visceral reaction of extreme discomfort seeing X behave as he does around Y. I’ve tried a few times to take X aside and explain that I, too, have had feelings for straight male friends and wanted to act out the way he does, but it’s actually very rude and inconsiderate to do those things; in fact it’s no different from a straight male making unwanted sexual advances on a female colleague. But it doesn’t seem to stick. I thought it would get better once he started seeing guys, since he would have an outlet for his sexual energy, but it’s only gotten worse.

More recently, his unwanted sexual hovering has spread to basically any straight male he finds attractive. Obviously, I’m concerned for X’s sake that if he continues acting this way, he’ll end up alienating himself both professionally and socially from a lot of people (man and woman, gay and straight). My opinion (barring exceptional cases) is that people who come out before the age of 25 should get a 6-month pass to clean up whatever shit they brought with them from their straight days. But it’s been almost 4 months and it’s not getting any better.

What can I say (if anything at all) to my sexually-objectifying gay male nerd friend X? Am I doomed to watch this turn into a train wreck or should I just accept that I can’t fix this problem for him and move on? I still care a lot about his well-being and obviously want the best for him. HELP US, PLEASE?

Got A Lotta (\bar{Q}uirky/Questions)

Dear GAL(\bar{Q}/Q),

If I saw such behavior I’d just speak up, for X’s sake, Y’s sake, and a whole bunch of other (Y’)’s sakes. And I think you should too.

In fact, you’ve got a wonderful set of points to make to him, along these lines:

  1. I’m really glad you came out, good for you.
  2. In general I think people get a 6-month pass on weird stuff after they come out.
  3. For you it’s been 4 already, and I’m getting worried.
  4. Because I see some of your behavior as offensive, even if you don’t, and I’m worried about you.
  5. Namely, you focus too much sexual energy on straight guys who are not inviting it.
  6. I’ll talk about this more if you want, but I want you to know I’m here for you.

Obviously, when you make such a speech to a friend, they are likely to feel ashamed and angry. So expect that, and give it time. You will be doing the right thing, and I expect your friendship will survive. And if it doesn’t, you might not want to hang out with him after all.

Good luck!

Aunt Pythia


Dear Auntie P,

I am new to the site and I’ve already read all of your articles for this year. Every time I revisit your website, I have to scroll down for a while until I can find the next article I haven’t read. I appreciate the ‘Categories’ button but I’ve still encountered the same issue here.

I was wondering if you could organize the site better to make it easier to navigate around. Here are a few sorting suggestions:
1. Sort for most popular to least popular.
2. Sort based on blog entry year.
3. Sort based on oldest to newest.


Seeking Order Restore Trust

Dear SORT,

Nice sign off.

OK so let me get this straight, you want the greatest Aunt Pythia hits, and my current system of search by category is getting you down. I appreciate the love and want to help, obv.

The thing is, I’m not sure how to correct this. WordPress.com only gives me so many tools to work with. Moreover, they’ve lately been arbitrarily presenting me with a “new” and an “old” system for blogging, and in the old system I had categories laid out for me, hard to ignore or forget, and I’d pretty consistently categorize my posts with “Aunt Pythia” when applicable, but in the new system the categories are impossible to find, so some recent Aunt Pythia columns don’t even get categorized in the Aunt Pythia category!

In other words, major sorting calamity.

I’d love to do better. If anyone knows more than I do about how to work with an archive of wordpress posts, please pipe up, thanks.

Love always,

Auntie P


Hey Aunt Pythia!

Thanks for your column. I want to get your thoughts on a situation been going around and around in my head for ages (help!). I know there won’t be just one answer to this – but I wanna get yours!

You write about being someone who falls in love all the time, but you also write about being in a relationship. How can other couples get past the hurt/betrayal that so often seems to accompany extra-relationship flirting / crushes / affairs?

I’m in a long-term relationship I value and I see it continuing indefinitely – unless I get caught flirting and cheating again. My partner feels betrayed by this behavior, but I’m not sure I can (or want to) resist the thrill I get from it. We both want to make our relationship work but aren’t sure how.

Flirt Alert

Dear Flirt Alert,

Lots of different approaches to this, naturally.

Important question: you say your partner feels betrayed by this behavior, but you don’t say what you’ve said to your partner when you’ve been previously caught cheating. Did you promise never to do it again? Or did you explain that you still love your partner and still want to stay with them?

I know to many that may sound like splitting hairs to some, but I think it’s key.

For the cheaters I know, at least the successful ones, they don’t lie to their partners and pretend they’ll never again stray. They acknowledge the feeling of betrayal, they try to prevent pain in their loved ones, but they don’t promise they’ll change, because they know they won’t.

Here’s my advice. In a moment when there’s no temptation in sight, when you are not crushed out on anyone and so there’s no imminent threat, talk to your partner about your love for them, about your desire to stay with them, and about the irresistible thrill you get out of flirting and – yes – sometimes more. Explain that you don’t think this is something that will go away, and that if you “promise” it will never again happen, you’re afraid that will be an empty promise. See what happens.

For fuck’s sake, don’t wait until you are dying to fuck some cutie at work to bring up this topic, because that will come out and then jealousy will ensue. Talk about it abstractly to see if an arrangement can be made.

Good luck!

Aunt Pythia

p.s. Some readers might wonder what I mean by “successful cheaters.” I’m gonna leave it there for now but feel free to ask.


Dear Aunt Pythia,

Perhaps you would please give me some study advice. In disregard, but no doubt substantiating, Hardy’s admonition: do not attempt over sixty (as in the essay you mention on the blog), I am a 70 year-old self studier having started three years ago.

Needless to say I am nowhere near as proficient as I would like to be, but so what. I really dig it.

I have picked a lot of the low hanging fruit in a standard undergrad curriculum. As an alternative to academic texts (I have been quite picky in choosing them), I would really like focus and cultivate a bit of expertise in some niche area.

I would appreciate any study recommendations: I would be most interested in a cool topic, especially if it has a masterpiece text or set of notes. I am deliberately avoiding expressing any preferences for particular areas as I am more interested in the process.

Thanks for giving this your consideration.

Best regards,



Are you kidding me? I learned everything I know from wikipedia and other people. I basically never read technical books.

But good luck!

Aunt Pythia

p.s. Have you seen this?


Congratulations, you’ve wasted yet another Saturday morning with Aunt Pythia! I hope you’re satisfied, you could have made progress on that project instead.

But as long as you’re already here, 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. Aaron
    March 7, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Where’s the love for the Galois signoff? This guy has taken it to another level.


  2. March 7, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    You know what? You’re right. It was so good I couldn’t even express my love for it. It made me cry with nostalgia for Galois Theory and the world I’ve left behind. That’s not an excuse but it might be an explanation.


    • Relieved
      March 8, 2015 at 7:10 am

      Phew, that’s a relief. The Aunt Pythia I know would never have just let that slide by. I figured she’d been abducted by aliens and replaced by a not-quite-perfect simulacrum.


  3. Auros
    March 7, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    Why are you taunting me with chocolate babka? Now I want chocolate babka! You’ll have to bring some when you get out west.


    • March 8, 2015 at 8:52 am

      Hey they do mail order and ship all over the place! 😉


      • Auros
        March 9, 2015 at 3:03 pm

        If I give in to temptation, I’ll go here… Eastern European / Jewish specialties aren’t as easy to find here as in New York, but we do have them… We even have a really great bagel place in Palo Alto — the owner reminds me of my paternal grandfather.


  4. Allen Knutson
    March 8, 2015 at 8:13 am

    I’m glad to see that Gal(Q-bar/Q) is worried about his newly out friend alienating himself by hitting on the wrong people. I’d’ve been more worried about him getting himself _killed_ by hitting on the wrong people. I’d like to believe that that’s no longer a real concern.


    • Auros
      March 9, 2015 at 2:56 pm

      Probably not as long as he’s only hitting on other nerds in college towns. If he walks into some random bar in Kansas or Alabama or something? Yeah, I’d worry…

      Unrelatedly: Hi!


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