Henry James Foy

“Is romance dead?” A’s mother shatters my Sunday morning fuzziness with this bolt from the blue. I reach for my coffee and attempt to hide myself in the Sunday Times Style Magazine. A’s answer isn’t forthcoming either. Perhaps this is a family ritual – a hangover punishment, say. Or perhaps she’s just being flippant. I mean, we did get in at 3am from a gay club, and I’m not entirely sure she believes us that we’re just best friends from high school.

“The way I see it, the only way people meet each other nowadays is getting drunk and having sex” – Oh god, we actually are in deep and meaningful territory, and my coffee is cold. I attempt to look like I’m seriously pondering this poignant question but my poor Shiraz-beaten brain is instead trying to remember whether I’d answered lamb or chicken to the Kebab guy on Shoreditch High Street. My mouth tastes like lamb.

“A lot of women I’ve spoken to are quite worried about it,” A’s mother continues, as she cuts up the butternut squash. By this point, A and her two 15-year old twin sisters have scarpered. It’s just me and the deep and meaningful one now. “You can be my resident male expert.”

Oh dear. I don’t consider myself something of a relationship expert. If I’m honest, I’m not much of an expert at anything. That said, I hasten an answer.

“Well, I think that perhaps nowadays we’re all a bit flippant about things like that, you know… youth culture is all a bit ‘What’s next…?’” I’m stabbing wildly in the dark, and she knows it.

The thing is, I’m not entirely sure. I look back to the Sunday Times glossy to see that awful Gok Wan chap grinning at me in his “You think you’re ugly, the world thinks your ugly, hell, I think you’re a monster, but hey ho, put this slap on your face and squeeze into this purple bra and we’ll all give you a cheer” way.

I saw an advert that claimed 250 people get married every day in the US after meeting on eHarmony. That’s a shitload of divorces just waiting to happen

That said, I do have to commend the audacity of his producers for lowering the TV bar to deplorable levels with their barrel-scraping idea of inflicting his patronising tone upon disabled people. I wait with glee for Ant and Dec to present ‘I’m a Paraplegic, Get Me Out of Here’. I bet Peter Andre would saw off an arm to take part.

“Perhaps I’m just being old.” I am jolted back to the philosophical debate, which to my dismay shows no sign of abating. A tray of stuffed olives is placed next to me. I hate olives. They are my idea of an upper-middle-class culinary nightmare.

My answer is overdue. I consider the evidence. At the moment, I seem to be surrounded by – paradoxically – a surfeit of marriage rumours and a long list of break-ups. And whichever way you look at it, there’s romance right there.

I was at an engagement party on Friday, and while the couple-to-be spent most of their evening looking after inebriated relations, I sensed a tangible feeling of insecurity amongst the singletons. If funerals remind us all of our transience, then engagement parties and weddings are society’s way of telling us we should be on the prowl.

Personally, I’m not a massive fan of getting hitched. I mean, some people have told me they find it amazing that 45% of marriages end in divorce. I find it utterly incredible that 55% don’t.

I guess it comes down to your definition of romance. I can quite confidently say that the days of lovers chasing down a departing train waving a white handkerchief are dead and buried, but on the other hand, I saw on the tube an advert that claimed 250 people get married every day in the US after meeting on eHarmony.

Now that’s a shitload of divorces just waiting to happen. Fifty-six, in fact.

The way I see it, if romance is dead, we’re all doomed to a lonely life of sadness and pornography. And a serious shortage of first-time-buyer housing, as I tell any left-leaning friend that doesn’t believe in tax breaks for married couples. No – romance hasn’t disappeared, it’s just hiding somewhere.

Romance, I conclude, has just morphed from the world of ‘Casablanca’ into that of BlackBerry Messenger and 2-for-1 deals at restaurants.

There’s the ­­­­­same amount of love going around, it just gets shown in different ways.

We say ‘I love you’ to our friends, we ‘totally adore’ our favourite pyjamas. But we still feel great when the special people make us smile. I offer this titbit to A’s mother who shrugs. The s-oup is done. Enough discussion already.

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