Agony Aunt: Adjusting the Algorithms

Image description: newspaper clippings with the words ‘agony aunt’ written in block letters. 

Previous column themes have been tenuous, but this is probably the most tenuous yet. Look, it’s seventh week. We’re pretty tired, both of life and of answering all of your tedious — pardon, extremely important problems. So, we humbly beg our loyal readers to excuse the loose and unnecessary theme as we tackle one person’s fear of the Spotify algorithm and another’s attempt at exploiting the highly sophisticated Agony Aunt submissions form to flirt with us. What can we say, we just have that sort of effect on people.

A little bird told me that the agony aunts are not really geriatric elders and are actually quite fit. Any advice on how to flirt via agony aunt submission form? – Anonymous

S: The word is out: we are, in fact, not wise old elders. Enlightened, yes, but geriatric, no! How can this be done, you ask? We are old souls old, fit souls. 

We’ve received this question quite a few times (obviously) and have finally decided to  take it on. Generally, we would not condone such overt flirtation via our question form; it casts aspersions on our scrupulous objectivity. However, we need the boost this week.  

I am opting to use our signature format (which you seem to like almost a little too much) by attacking this question in list form. I call it: How to Make the Agony Aunt Submission Form your Very Own Romantic Proposal…

  1. “Exaggerate” your class year. Naturally, we have a particular inclination for similarly old souls. If you’re an alum, note your graduation date. If it’s pre-80s, we may just swoon. Just because we aren’t geriatrics doesn’t mean we aren’t charmed by them.
  2. Keep questions like these coming. Better yet, keep questions in general coming. It’s so hot when you require our fleetingly serious advice.
  3. Incorporate hints to your real identity so we can stalk you on Facebook. Try your first name followed by your last name. 
  4. Include lots and lots of text faces and exclamations, lol! We think it’s so cute :3 and it tells us you’re having fun alongside us xD we like silly people hehe 😛
  5. When asked “what’s your special subject ?” reply with  “Obtainment of your number”. It’s an important course and requires three years of difficult studies. We didn’t say this would be easy.
  6. Finally, try something along the lines of these enticing queries:
    1. “I am just too attractive for my own good! All I need is to be knocked down a peg by some wise young women but I can’t find a suitable column anywhere! If I could, I’d surely bank transfer the talented writers a suitably large amount for their services. Please help!!”
    2. “I dream about the same girl everyday. She writes for an advice column. Her name started with an S…or was it an E? I can’t remember. Please help me find the girl of my dreams so I can make her the duchess by my side! Did I mention that I’m a duke? I’m a duke.”
    3. “I have a massive Mc Donald’s gift card and  just want to take a sweet girl on a date so we can split it. If she didn’t like me, I’d even hand it over to her. Do you know anyone who would be interested, agony aunts?”

These should work, I can nearly guarantee. Happy hunting!



Dear Aunts, It is February 2021, I have only had an existential crisis three times this term, I have battled a brief eye infection and I have also fallen into a deep, dark pit of almost-exclusively listening to Top Hits from 2015/16. (btw please can I just note that 2016 had absolute HITS which shaped my teenage years) Particularly, I have streamed ‘Closer’ by The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey a very shameful, humiliating, questionable, concerning amount of times in the last few days (yes it has reached my On Repeat). What do you suggest I do to get myself out of this hell? How do I rescue my Wrapped 2021???? – A Self-Aware Spotify User

E: Before getting onto the advice, I must take a moment to congratulate you only three existential crises across HT21? Hats off. 

However, despite this praise I must also issue a strong warning: choosing to listen to 2016 hits is undoubtedly a worrying reflection on your mental state. Although the year contained several highs, including (unfortunately) ‘Closer’, the release of Beyoncé’s Lemonade and the fact that Ed Sheeran didn’t terrorise the charts with any new singles  there were still innumerable lows.  What about all the awful music 2016 produced? The terrible and whiny ‘Treat You Better’ by singing Ken doll Shawn Mendes, for example. The fact that Meghan Trainor existed as an artist. Or that ‘7 Years’ by Lukas Graham, an insufferable humble-brag of a song, somehow got nominated for a Grammy!

I’m in no position to preach. If listening to tunes from days gone by brings you some joy during this stultifying time then you should not be ashamed of it. Besides, everyone knows that culture trends operate on a fifteen-year cycle. Soon, all this music will suddenly become cool again, similar to how Britney Spears and Smash Mouth, the old punching bags of the 2000s, are now revered as music icons. Someday in the near future, you will be able to show your Spotify stats to your kids whose eyes will shine with awe at the fact that you played ‘Closer’ over 200 times in 2021 — before all the young hipsters had bought it on vinyl. 

You heard it here first; by 2030, I think listening to The Chainsmokers will have the same pop culture clout as listening to David Bowie. Or rather, I hope so, for your sake at least.

Got a problem that you think merits the attention of the Agony Aunts? Submit it to us HERE! Good advice not guaranteed.

Yours in agony,

Elsie and Sonia


Art by Iona Shen