I'm having an affair with my friend Larry - the kind that involves lots of flirting, gushingly sincere mutual appreciation and absolutely no sex.  In fact it's the exact opposite of almost every other relationship I've had in my life.  You can usually presume by the panting that they're attracted to you.  Whether or not they want to talk afterwards, or even remember your name, is another thing altogether.

 

Larry is the answer to a fortysomething woman's prayers - funny, attractive, tall, with all his own teeth - and not gay.  He's absolutely ideal as long as you're content with eye contact over anything more physical, because relationship wise, he comes with a toxic male, Government health warning stamped across his genial forehead.

 

He's morbidly afraid of committing to anything more definite than lunch.  You have to wear a blindfold before you visit him at home, and I have a sneaking suspicion he has gone through every single A-Z in London and torn out page 72 just in case you memorise his co-ordinates.  He makes a fabulous friend, and I'm told a wonderful lover, but first you have to handcuff him to the bed to stop him running away.

 

It's not that I don't want to have a long-term relationship, he says mournfully.  I'd love to have the kids, the shared history and someone to share significant moments with, like birthdays and Christmas - I just don't want it all the time.  What I would really like, he admits sheepishly, is to be divorced.

 

Me too, I respond - the words jumping out my mouth unbidden.  But it's true.  Harry may be suffering from commitment phobia but I've got a very bad case of PMS - prolonged marriage syndrome.

 

I mean, come on, my husband and I have been married for decades.  It's unnatural - surely we're supposed to be divorced by now.  We've done the whole deal - the kids, the mortgage, the small rodents, the goldfish, the bucket and spade holidays and the Volvo.  We've quarrelled, sulked, had lovers, and marriage guidance - but even that didn't work.  We had to give it up when we realised we were coming out of Relate and walking down the road to Habitat to buy things for the house.  Three lamps, a dinner service and a new set of bed-linen later we realised it just wasn't cost effective.

 

Everyone keeps telling you that marriage isn't easy, so it almost comes as a surprise to discover that you've managed to hold it together for so long that, just like in the fairy stories, you have indeed lived happily ever after.  So then what?  Then you're lost in the wilderness years of post-parental bliss, without a map or a compass and with no clear idea of where the picnic spots are.  And if anyone needs to stop for a break, it's me.

 

What I'd like is a sabbatical.  Time off for bad behaviour. Or parole.  Marriage isn't a jail sentence but with maybe half my adult life stretching ahead of me, if I'm lucky, it feels as though I've still got a long stretch left to serve.  What's a woman to do?  Have another baby - god forbid.  Cherie Blair is welcome to that particular mid-life crisis. Do a degree in counselling?  Garden?  Join a gym?  They say you can always tell those men who've been in prison by how much weight they've lost and the size of their muscles.  Maybe that's why Holmes Place chain of health clubs are targeting women like me - they know we long-married ones need to do something with our surplus energy:  Show me a wife with thin thighs and I'll show you a shut-in whose working out her frustrations.

 

But that's not me.  I did become a member if the local gym, but then I had to rest.  Warming-up I think they call it.

 

I'm just bored.  I want a lover.  I want to kiss a man who's taller than me, and dance with a man who doesn't think rhythm is an unreliable Catholic method of birth control.  I want peak-time electricity instead of Economy 7 and a long soak, hand wash, and fast spin cycle instead of something drip dry.  However, it's just not going to happen.

 

For a start, I don't have the courage to take all my clothes off at the changing room, let alone in front of a man who isn't legally joined to my pension fund.  My naked, sex-kitten days are behind me - and there are certain dividends to be had from curling up, tabby-like, with the security of a long-term investment.     

 

But 'what's love got to do with it?' as the Tina Turner song goes?  Well, it's here, it's queer - get used to it.  Nobody told me that it was like money - having it, even  loads of it fully reciprocated, just doesn't make you happy.

 

Meanwhile I'm back with the gorgeous Larry in a restaurant at an undisclosed location, indulging in our chaste little love fest.  I'm in uniform - black dress, black shoes, black cardigan, and harry, whilst trying to  look down the front of said dress, is worried that my husband might think that we're really having an affair.

 

Poor Larry - have no fears. I'm also wearing 300 denier matte black lycra tights that come up to my chest, and are more efficient than any chastity belt with stronger suction than a wet suit.  It would need Prince Charming and a chainsaw to get through these babies.  Husbands know the only thing safer than these are pop socks. 

 

It's obviously been a while since Larry got lucky.  Pre-tights even.