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Aunt Pythia’s advice

June 6, 2015


Due to a long bike ride complete with a flat tire, a surprise rain shower, and a pit stop at a diner, things have been rather slow this morning. But Aunt Pythia has been called to duty, finally! She’s so very glad to be here.

Let’s get started! And before you leave,

ask Aunt Pythia any question at all 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’ve got this hopeless problem. I’ve developed an on-line crush.

Here’s the thing. I’m a well-to-do, middle-aged quant. I’m of the generation where people thought math & mathy things were totally uncool. But I love em. And I love those who love em. Stuff that norms love (e.g., sports, TV) I care nothing about. But talk about QE, I’m in rapture. “Kleptocracy” is part of my vocabulary. NC is a must-read morning website. But. I’ve been widowed for several years (yes, yes, insert appropriate maunderings here). And I miss … wimmen. I miss the pairing of stochastic systems and, well, … boobies. I miss intellectual debate combined with olive oil, al dente pasta, and a cold glass of Fresca.

Anyway, I’ve developed this crush on an on-line persona. She seems to like math. She shares my socioeconomic outlook and, inferentially, status. IDGAF about looks, etc. (fwiw, I’m an exemplar of “successfully-middle-aged-prosperous”). And I’d like to learn more.

How do I do this? Any suggestions? Any help? Any clue?

Hopeless Or Randomly Nascent Yob


First of all, I love Fresca, and I am so glad you mentioned it. An entirely underappreciated soft drink. Second, I’d never heard of the word “maunderings” before but it’s a great word. And also, great sign-off.

I prefer the classic look.

I prefer the classic look.

So, what’s the problem here? You’re saying she’s awesome and (inferred to be) single? Have you also inferred that’s she’s horny? Are you asking me how to ask out a woman?

Here’s what you do, assuming you are in consistent and direct contact with her. You tell her you’ve developed a wonderful and delightful crush on her and you think she’s smart, funny, and wonderful in many ways. You say you don’t want to be at all pushy, but you’re wondering if she’s free for a light-hearted meal, at a location of her choice. It doesn’t have to be a date if she doesn’t wish it to be, but it could be if she wants.

There’s really nothing objectionable about flattery combined with a unimposing dinner invitation. You’ve got nothing to lose. Even if she says no she will be charmed.

If you’re still worried, write back with the proposed email invitation and I’ll take a look.

Aunt Pythia


Dear Aunt Pythia,

I’m going back to school to improve on my quantitative skills. Since learning advanced Maths requires a solid foundation in the basics, I am finding it very difficult to appreciate the long-term process, when in the short-term I have tests to pass. I’m afraid that I am just passing the tests, without gaining deeper knowledge. Perhaps this feeling of existential dread will pass and everything will become more clear down the road, but what advice do you have for remaining more “present” and not too outcome oriented?

As a side note, I had a similar conversation with a professor of chemistry during my undergraduate education and he had this shocking advice for minorities (I am hispanic, btw): “don’t go into science.” His argument was that a career in math/science is lonely and costly in the short-term, compared to careers in law/business. As John Maynard Keynes says: “In the long run we are all dead.”

Impatiently Waiting

Dear IW,

Wow, what terrible advice. Did he really say that was his advice “for minorities”? Crazy racist.

Here’s my advice. When you get your problem sets, read them right away. Think about why the professor asked them. Ask yourself what you’re learning from them. Start working on them right away. In a word, stay a few steps away from panic in the local sense.

In a more global sense, have a plan for which classes you’re taking, what you’ll need to know them, and how you’re going to feel comfortable with the prerequisites. Be flexible if things don’t work out longer term, but take on challenges and be a bulldog in the short term. Keep your options open and grow them at every turn.

Good luck!

Aunt Pythia


Aunt Pythia,

Do you hear the lyrics to “Uptown Funk” as “straight masturbate” like I do, or “straight masterpiece” as written?

I’m using you in a test: if you hear it correctly, then I have to conclude that I’m sex-obsessed. If you hear it like I do, can’t draw a conclusion.

What are your favorite lyrics to mishear or intentionally mis-sing, especially with a sexy twist?


Like I Might Sometimes Understand Poorly


OK here’s the song, so other readers can weigh in:

Yeah, I get you. I mean, I hear “masterpiece,” so yes you’re sex-obsessed, but I see why you get that wrong. They totally emphasize the “MAStur” part of the word, so it gets one kind of excited.

Also, speaking of excited, your sign-off made me excited, because it totally seemed planned, but I don’t get why it means anything. To be clear, limsup is a mathematical concept, but I’m not sure how it fits in with your question. But then again it’s not a criticism because sometimes I seem planned but I don’t end up meaning anything.

Aunt Pythia

p.s. I had to pause my Star Trek viewing with my teenagers in order to do this important investigative work. My 13-year-old says he hears “masterbeast.” Just wanted to thank you for that special moment with them.


Aunt Pythia,

Is there a term for sex that is intended to lead to pregnancy? I was talking with one of my friends and she just called it unprotected sex. That jarred, maybe because too many public health warnings make me equate unprotected sex with unsafe sex. Even putting that aside, unprotected sex misses the sense of work and obligation that seems to accompany intentionally trying to get pregnant.

Baby Making Welcome

Dear BMW,

What?! Work and obligation?! I always thought it should be called “the most excellent sex”. Because it was so excellent. It was so real, stakes were high. Loved that sex. A personal opinion.

But enough about Aunt Pythia, what do other people call it?

I’ve heard “raw sex,” “raw dog,” and of course “bareback.” I prefer raw dog, obviously. I’m a dog person.

Aunt Pythia


Dear Aunt Pythia,

I am a gay man in my mid-thirties. Recently I entered a relationship with a man, “Tim”. To my delight, things are going well with Tim. I’m writing you because there is some potential friction between us: my past.

Tim and I have both been what you would call promiscuous, with many dozens of sexual partners for each of us. But Pythia, did you know there are different kinds of promiscuity? Outside of his past relationships, which were monogamous, Tim has only had brief affairs and one-night stands with strangers. My past relationships were also monogamous, but while single, I tend to sleep with my friends (some of whom are themselves coupled). In fact I’ve been single for some years now, and during that time I’ve built up a loving network of friends that borders on polyamory.

Tim doesn’t pass moral judgments on my behavior, nor would he ever forbid me from seeing my friends. And we agree that we will be a monogamous couple. The only problem is, Tim really doesn’t want to meet my “close” friends. He is not interested in being reassured that I won’t sleep with them anymore — in his view they are my exes. But you see, Pythia, those friends are really important to me, whether or not sex is involved. To me, friendship is one of life’s principal blessings, and I have been extraordinarily blessed. Sex seems so petty in comparison!

So we agree to disagree, right? No double dates with the couple I used to three-way with. This might be fine in the short term, but I find it hard to imagine integrating Tim into my life without disintegrating my friend network in equal measure. Besides, in our little gay universe, we will inevitably run into people in social events that I have a history with. I’m not going to want to give them the cold shoulder.

Does Tim need to open his mind and be more sex-positive? Or do I need to set some boundaries with my friends in order to build a serious relationship of my own?


Ready to Settle

Dear Ready,

I don’t think it’s OK for Tim to separate you from your community because of a bizarre principle of “no seeing any exes.” That it too bullying, especially since you are ready to be trustworthy about not sleeping with them.

If I were you I’d talk to Tim about this abstractly, when there are no exes in the vicinity making him feel jealous. Tell him how important your community is to you, and how much you care for him, but how it’s not fair to have to choose between the two.

Having reread your question, though, it seems like maybe Tim is comfortable with you hanging out with your friends but doesn’t want to join in on the social stuff. If that’s the case, I’d say that’s possibly workable, as long as he doesn’t give you guilt trips when you do regularly go out with them. After all, nobody can be everything to someone. Plenty of happy couples I know don’t socialize in the same circles.

Aunt Pythia


People, people! Aunt Pythia loves you so much. And she knows that you love her. She feels the love. She really really does.

Well, here’s your chance to spread your Aunt Pythia love to the world! Please ask her a question. She will take it seriously and answer it if she can.

Click here for a form or just do it now:

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Auros
    June 8, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    I don’t know if you left some bit of text out, but I took HORNY to be suggesting he had a crush on you. (In particular, he says, “I’ve developed this crush on an on-line persona,” which I read as “on MathBabe”.)


  2. June 8, 2015 at 10:18 pm

    All the more reason I should take a look at the email!


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