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…’