The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - REAL LIFE - Anne.gildea@mailonsun­

that brought up vague recall of things un­suit­able for ju­ve­nile story time: the wob­bly gut feel­ing of dis­cov­er­ing an at­trac­tion to some­one, of first kisses, and phys­i­cal de­sire so strong it was like the guy had be­come a big fridge and you were a mag­net pulled to his door, and once stuck on, it felt as though you were made for each other...

Un­til (ac­tu­ally that fridge anal­ogy is per­fect) the door opened and it all went cold. Then you’d see him a while af­ter and won­der what you’d been think­ing. It’d never have worked. And the feel­ing was mu­tual. So you’d go for a chatty pint and he’d

‘Don’t tell us what the boyfriends did – tell us about the feel­ings and emo­tions, de­manded my eight-year-old niece’

talk of his new part­ner and her mood­i­ness with the morn­ing sick­ness. And re­peat, with vari­a­tions.

Then you reach an age when sol­dier­ing forth with the no­tion of kin­dling ro­man­tic at­tach­ment doesn’t seem so tan­ta­lis­ing any­more, not when there’s Gra­ham Nor­ton on the telly and a good Chi­nese take­away round the corner.

I was re­minded of a mar­ried mum I know, same age as me. Last time we met she men­tioned a line I wrote here re­cently, about the hy­po­thet­i­cal man-cri­te­ria I’d put on a dat­ing web­site now: ‘Tall, hand­some, sol­vent, ma­ture, im­po­tent.’

‘I keep re­peat­ing it to other mums I know, and we have such a laugh,’ she said. An in­ter­est­ing insight for me into the re­al­ity of mar­ried life with kids, mort­gage and two mid-for­ties, un-per­fect, tired bod­ies at­tached to two ma­ture heads rad­dled with life’s pres­sures. And in case there was any am­bi­gu­ity I asked, but in a gen­eral way, to be po­lite: ‘Sex?’ ‘Oh sex,’ she said, ‘it’s just an­other…’ and I can’t re­peat the rest of the con­ver­sa­tion, or I’ll be mi­nus a chum. But you get the gist.

Ro­man­tic ‘feel­ings and emo­tions’. For all they’ve in­spired so­phis­ti­cated cul­tural out­pour­ings: mu­sic, art, po­etry, nov­els, rom- coms and what­ever car­toon kiddie-ver­sion eight-year-olds are ex­posed to th­ese days... For all they may be el­e­vated and ex­ploited by me­dia and mar­ke­teers as fonts of all hap­pi­ness; fun­da­men­tally they’re about mother na­ture en­sur­ing repli­ca­tion of the species. En­dov.

You might get ‘ever­last­ing love’ in the process, but it’s nei­ther guar­an­teed nor nat­u­rally nec­es­sary. That’s what I wanted to tell my niece.

In­stead I said there was one ‘boy’ I’d known long ago, and the last time we met I brushed him off be­cause I was more in­ter­ested in my work, and his work and sit­u­a­tion seemed very dif­fer­ent and some­times I won­der what would have happened if I hadn’t…’ We would have cousins!’ she boomed.

‘You know Rosa, you can choose dif­fer­ent things in life,’ I said. ‘Maybe you’ll get mar­ried and have chil­dren; maybe you’ll fill your world with other things. Ei­ther way you can be happy. Re­mem­ber that.’ ‘I want to get mar­ried!’ she said, flop­ping over the du­vet, like the tod­dler she was about five min­utes ago.

In her car­toon sto­ry­land, mer­maid falls for prince, Miss Chip­munk mar­ries Mr and solo women of my vin­tage are witches, or non-ex­is­tent.

She’s fig­ur­ing out my sta­tus, I thought, and all I need to be is a good ex­am­ple. ‘And now it’s time for sleep,’ I said firmly, leav­ing. ‘Can we have some milk?’ two lit­tle voices asked, as I was clos­ing the door. ‘Oh, ok…’

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