The Existential Expert tackles disturbing sex dreams … and a flatulent co-worker

The Existential Expert responds to your questions. Photo: Pixabay/LEEROY Agency.

Is this mature and reasoned edition of our popular advice column, we respond to readers’ questions about inappropriate fantasies – and how to handle a flatulent colleague.

Dear EE,

What does panacea mean? Just kidding. I’ve recently come out of a reasonably long-term relationship and my libido is off the chain … Great, right? WRONG. I am having ‘intimate’ dreams about nearly every male friend and colleague I know, and while some should be sexy by definition, many are actually just really stressful and I imagine it’s going to make things reaaaaal awkward in real life pretty soon. Why is my brain doing this to me?

Clarissa, via Twitter

Hi Clarissa, 

It obviously sounds like your brain is just reacting to a sudden loss of intimacy – or the potential for improved intimacy – and your subconscious is thrashing about, wondering what to do and where to go for inspiration. 

Under the circumstances, we dare say that lockdown won’t have helped. You can probably be grateful that you’re not fantasising about sexual relations with a pot plant. 

The inappropriateness of these encounters is something it’s evidently latched onto. Now, great, an imaginary office tryst is notionally sexy – but less so when, for example, some old buffer from accounts horns his way into the fantasy. 

Nor can you underestimate the lingering effects of a disturbing dream. We know someone who almost ended their marriage on the basis of an argument she dreamt she had with her husband – and, fair play, he never apologised, either in the dream or real life. 

Fortunately, this will probably wear off after a while – the old brain just needs to stop frothing so much. Give it some space – then slowly reintroduce it back to the world.  

For now, maybe you should be trying to indulge your fantasies a bit more with better subjects for improved sex dreams.

Prior to sleep, make a concerted effort to dwell mentally on these candidates for subconscious shenanigans, particularly someone with a potent yet sensitive eroticism, like the Red Wiggle or Costa Georgiadis. 

It might actually help to watch repeat several episodes of Gardening Australia at bedtime. There’s no way you can have a carnal slumber nestling in Costa’s privet bush and not awaken feeling refreshed.

Sweet dreams!

Experts agree that posing attractively while sleeping supports your circadian rhythm. Image: Claudio_Scott/Pixabay

Hi EE,

This is a weird and gross one. This hasn’t been a problem lately cos we’ve been working from home but we’ll be back in the office next week. Anyhow … one of my work colleagues farts openly in the office. They’re not major league farts, what happens is you hear these little popping sounds, usually barely audible, and then a few seconds later there’s a slight smell. I thought I imagined it the first few times. 

I’m dreading the thought of going back because I have to work closely with her. It didn’t bother me so much before but now I feel really grossed out at the thought of experiencing this again. I feel like I will need to bring it up – but how do you raise something like this at work? I would be so embarrassed! And so would she, I imagine.


Trent, via Twitter

Hi Trent, 

Unfortunately, if it continues to bother you, we can’t see how this situation can be anything but a bit awkward and embarrassing, frankly.

Yeah, it’s gross and unprofessional – not to mention rude – to fluff repeatedly in a workplace. That said, consider maybe she’s got some sort of chronic condition and can’t help it. 

On the other hand, a lot of people have recently become obsessed with libertarianism – and maybe breaking wind in public is an expression of her political freedom. Maybe she’s just feeling repressed and looking for a way to vent.

Whatever the case, if you have any intention to keep working with her, it’s probably best to tread carefully (the “if” being important).

Referring her to HR to mediate the dispute is problematic. These people are, at best, petty bureaucrats and will only escalate things. Still, kicking up a stink may solve the issue by way of forcing one of you to quit.

But it seems like you have a few less dramatic options here.

A classic approach would be to use the “it doesn’t bother me, but some other people have been saying …” tactic. 

When she asks you “who?”, you say, flippantly, “Just some people, I don’t want to gossip – I only wanted to tell you, as a concerned pal, to put a cork in it.” If she doubles-down, keep going with something like, “Hun, is there anything wrong your digestion – ‘cos people are saying you should cut back on the beans and lentils.” The sympathetic tack is less likely to make her feel like a freak.

The other method is adapting your own behaviour. How pressing is the need to tell her? Can you change the physical proximity to her? You say you “have to” work closely with her – what are we talking about here? Are you two halves of a pantomime horse? 

There might be some capacity to avoid her in the office – under some other pretence, of course. You could even lean on the excuse of needing to continue to work in isolation, that lockdown has made you agoraphobic.

If that sounds a bit wishy-washy, it’s all very well for us to say “just have an honest conversation with her about this”. But, as you say, it will be embarrassing for you both and this stuff lingers like, well, a bad smell. Particularly, as is typical, if the air-conditioning in your office ain’t great. 

A panacea for uncertain times, The Existential Expert is a forum where the Sentinel will address the essential questions, you – our readers – have posed. If you have a conundrum, whether it’s spiritual, philosophical or just something that makes you break out in a rash, tweet or DM us @sydney_sentinel. New columns published each Sunday – and you can check out previous ones here!

Disclaimer: The advice provided in this column is not a substitute for professional advice, and should not be treated as such.