Style Sex & Relationships

Wednesday 20 February 2019

Quentin Fottrell: 'People asked if the questions were real -- I hadn't time to make them up!'

Quentin Fottrell (36) from Dublin, author of Love in a Damp Climate, spent almost a decade as resident agony uncle on The Ray D'Arcy Show.

He's since moved to New York where he works as a business journalist.

'Back in the 1990s, I was a huge fan of American radio presenter Garrison Keillor's advice column 'Dear Mr Blue' for e-zine I studied psychology in college and have always loved writing, so combining the two by becoming an agony uncle seemed like a good idea. I registered the domain name, inspired by an old Noel Coward song, but I wasn't really sure what to do with it.

"Then I got a call from Today FM asking me to go on The Ray D'Arcy Show.

"Suddenly, I started getting a steady stream of emails, running the gamut from romantic problems to social etiquette. People used to ask me if the questions were real all the time. Apart from anything else, there were so many emails, I wouldn't have had time to make them up!

"One of the most common themes that came up was unrequited love. I never got used to the shocking emails from women saying that despite the fact that their partner had hit them, they still loved them.

"Occasionally, people would write back to say they had taken my advice to leave an abusive relationship. I found it very moving that real people were putting their trust in me and I always took my responsibility to write back -- or get help where there was evidence of serious abuse or depression -- very seriously.

"Naturally, there were lighter moments too. I remember one particular guy who provoked a very angry response from female listeners for complaining that his girlfriend has put on weight. My response to him was simply: 'Who died and made you the Milk Tray man?'

"Once, someone came up to me at an event and said: 'How can you give relationship advice to straight couple when you're gay?' But if anything, being a guy who has relationships with men meant I could relate to men and women.

"During my time as an agony uncle, I often advised people to embrace change and seek out new adventures. After 10 years, I decided to take my own advice by emigrating. In New York, everybody is in therapy -- asking for help is not a taboo."

Irish Independent

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