My Dear Dr. Boli: I must ask you a question regarding the heart. What would you advise me to do if I told you that this utter squirt had taken an unshakable fancy to me? Even his name is dreadful. Once I even heard him say my laugh sounded like a freight train. He even calls my estimable father, a psychiatrist, a “loony” doctor, which I find most disturbing. Please tell me what to do, Dr. Boli, I hang upon every word that you write or say! —Sincerely, Honorable Honoria Glossop.
Dear Madam: Affairs of the heart, paradoxically, require the most painstakingly logical approach. Dr. Boli must pose a few questions to you, and upon your answers will depend his advice.
First, what is your evidence that the “squirt” in question has taken a fancy to you? A man in love does not necessarily compare his beloved’s laugh to the sound of a freight train. Tinkling bells are a more common simile, or perhaps music of the more refined sort. On the other hand, if the young man is a train-spotter or railway fanatic, he may be paying you a high compliment. Again, to call a psychiatrist of some eminence a “loony doctor” is at the very least offensive to the loonies whom he treats; but, on the other hand, he may have meant only that your father was a “loony” doctor, which would be quite unobjectionable if your father is in fact insane. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of in our enlightened age.
Let us assume, however, that you have established that the “squirt” is utterly stuck on you, like some sort of—well—sticky thing. You have then only to determine whether his attentions are welcome or not. It may surprise you to discover, upon reviewing your communication to Dr. Boli, that you have not definitely settled this question one way or the other: you may think you have settled it by calling the boy a “squirt,” but on the other hand recollect that he said you had a laugh like a freight train.
In fact, this is the heart (so to speak) of the matter, and here you may need to do some searching deep in your soul. Dr. Boli, who holds a doctorate in psychology from the Boli Institute for Advanced Studies, wonders whether your failure to be specific on this question stems from a deep ambivalence on your part. If you are certain that you despise this young man, then honesty, perhaps accompanied by a roundhouse punch, is the best policy. You may, however, in the process of trawling the depths of your psyche, discover that you rather like the squirt, in which case Dr. Boli would merely remind you of a certain old adage to the effect that the way to a man’s heart is through his valet.