Magazine article The Spectator

Posthumous Dating

Magazine article The Spectator

Posthumous Dating

Article excerpt

I like a double life - no, hang about, make that a treble one. The more complicated things are the better. Dissemble? Me? As Eliza Doolittle said, not bloody likely (I dissemble, of course). Every girl, you see, should have a Bunbury in the oven.

These days, though, everything is reduced to its quintessence. Yet again, serried sociologists and pig-ignorant psychiatrists have finally woken up to an age-old practice, pretended they've discovered it and lumbered it with a silly name. In this case it's IBS, which apparently stands for Imaginary Boyfriend Syndrome. Come again? Well, the point is you don't, at all.

According to these scientific bozos more and more single women are resorting to `fantasy relationships'. These are imaginary affairs with men who don't exist. Being non-corporeal lovers, they are never boring, manipulative or unkind, nor do they require their smalls to be laundered or their suppers to be cooked. Each day is more rhapsodic than the last. Until, that is, the woman starts believing in this fantasy. Apparently the psychiatrists worry that those who do eventually go off their trolleys.

I am amazed. Between you and me, I've been like that for years. I do not refer to disembarking from my trolley. Rather to imaginary boyfriends. Since the age of 12, I have been running three or four in tandem. I'm not fussy. The only criterion required is that they are no longer alive. Why should women confine themselves to inventing a beau ideal when there are so many ideal beaux to chose from and I'm not suggesting your average 20th-century icon. One might be a serial time-monogamist.

Of course, one has one's favourites, not to mention the odd crise de foie. There was the time I fell out with Frederick the Great. We broke up over the Treaty of Paris. Though it wasn't as bad as parting from Disraeli following the Treaty of San Stefano, I just don't think his Big Bulgaria was big enough.

But then this is one of the points of DHB - the Dead Historical Boyfriend. Out go the trivialities; the fracas over the restaurant bill; the TV remote control; the package holiday. In come the things that really matter, such as whether or not the Emperor Augustus and I should have sent poor General Varus to Germany.

How fondly I remember my assignations - so tender and triste - with William Pitt the Younger. …

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