Dear Uncle Mat

I have a lot of career and a lot of extended family, and lately they’re both unrelenting in taking up my time. Pardon the generalization here, but it seems that gay men (and women) are often good at setting personal boundaries — at least the ones I know, anyway. Any advice for a hetero, over-extended chick who’s about to lose her mind?

— Calgon Take Me Away!

Dear Calgon Girl,

Those commercials were a lie. Try quaaludes or any morphine-based drug. They shut down the part of your brain that gives a shit about anything. This will totally help alienate that pesky family. If you do it right, you’ll eventually need to take a “vacation” at a nice little “resort” in the Hill Country to focus on yourself. Look at how well Britney is doing now!

Extended and immediate family can be difficult at times. It is important that it isn’t always that way. There will be times, even extended periods, when your family requires extraordinary attention. The emotional drain can become consuming. Talk to those family members you can and communicate directly your need for emotional space. Ask for breathers and warn others when you are becoming frustrated or numb. Part of your family being there for you is leaving you alone and even creating the space you need. Appeal to their protective instincts when necessary. The best thing about big families is that there is usually someone who can help cover for you. If not, you may have to employ an occasional little white lie. Work is a bitch …

Most Americans work too much. That’s what they say. We don’t know how to relax and we don’t know how to enjoy free time. We are obsessed with consumption, gathering money and shit at all cost. That’s a generalization, though. Why do you work? Specifically, why that job? And what is the reward you expect? Same as with family, occasional periods of high demand at work will occur, but shouldn’t be the norm. What is your career plan? Where are you, what are you accomplishing, where do you want to be, and what do you want to accomplish? Does the extra work make sense? If no, it’s time to find a way out. If yes, then might I suggest whistling?

Meanwhile, you need to weather the storm. All of this stress takes a physical toll, which then begins to compound the mental and emotional trauma of the daily grind. Three words: diet, exercise, and sex.

Watch what you are eating. Keep your sodium intake low and eat a lot of raw fruit and vegetables. Avoid processed sugar as well. Water is your friend. If you are a caffeine fiend, try to increase your intake through green and black teas rather than more coffee.

Exercise. Hit the gym if you belong, or the yoga studio. Even if it’s just once or twice a week. Walk whenever you can. It’s exercise and alone time!

Get laid. We don’t always feel attractive or sexual when we are stressed out, but it is a great tension breaker. You’ll feel better about yourself, and orgasms are great for momentarily wiping your brain clear, like the aforementioned morphine products sans the undesirable side effects.

The Calgon people might have been peddling snake oil, but they did have a point. You can’t be a serious adult all of the time. You have to steal a little time each day and chase a butterfly, think of something that makes you giggle, or any other useless and frivolous activity that is about joy. Avoid “guilty pleasures” or over-indulgences as these spawn acts of attrition and deeper holes. Think simple and happy.

All of this is fine and good, but some days the shit is too deep. This is my secret weapon: Lie down on the floor and just give up for 30 seconds. Tell yourself you quit. You’re done. Fuck all of them and their sinking boats. It works, but you really do have to give up. It might take a little practice, but it is completely freeing and refreshing. This will feel great for about a half a minute, and then your conscience will re-engage and you’ll feel a new desire to kick ass and take names.

Much love and a little respite in the near future,

Your Uncle Mat

Uncle Mat answers questions about relationships, sex, pets, and art. Email him at
[email protected] or Your true identity is safe with him.

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