POPULAR. It’s a word that brings to mind cheerleader films, where the blonde girl is and the brunette isn’t.
Eventually they unite to persecute the even less popular, which used to be vampires, until Twilight came along and thickened the soup.
Six months ago it was a word that flew about far outside my radar.
Like seafood, car maintenance and geography – we left each other alone.
I was neither one nor the other and it didn’t seem to matter.
I’ve never tried to hold house parties or run for student elections or have any kind of influence on anyone so I’ve never needed it.
At the same time, I’ve always been just likeable enough not to have my lunch money stolen.
Case closed. Until six months ago, when I set up home with someone who is very popular indeed.
Particularly with children and animals.
I didn’t notice it at first, and then gradually it dawned on me that wherever we go he ends up with a dog sitting on his knee or a small person tugging his coat.
At first it was just mildly annoying.
My nephew gravitates towards him like a planet to the sun, arms outstretched and beaming.
While I am totally irrelevant, even though we’re from the same gene pool. I am just the grown up obscuring his view of the grown up he wants to play trains with.
The horses are no better.
Cady rests her head in the crook of his arm with her eyes shut, relaxed, in love.
Rodney stands next to him like War Horse, loyal and charmed.
When they see me coming they get the same expression as party-goers who’ve just seen the police pull up.
His own nephews are glued to him too, and constantly wish to spirit him away to a world built just for three.
The other day they popped round for a visit.
We asked them what they thought of his new facial hair – a great big bushy beard.
“Santa!” they shouted happily, “It’s Santa!”
We all laughed, but later, when they’d gone home I started doing the maths.
He’s jolly, tick, he has a hearty laugh, tick, a merry beard, tick, he never gets cross, tick, he wears a lot of red jumpers, tick ...
Am I going out with Santa? Am I?*
All the evidence seems to point that way, but it’s a difficult question to ask your other half.
Do I ask him if he’s working Christmas Eve?
Do I watch out for application forms from Elves coming though the post?
Do I look for reindeer in the garden?
I tried to broach the subject on Sunday night as he sat on the sofa drinking Christmas pudding-flavour hot chocolate, but words failed me.
So I’ve wimped and resorted to using my column instead.
If you’re reading this, bf, then I’m asking – are you him? Blink once for yes and twice for no, your secret is safe with me.
*If I am then that makes me Mary Christmas and we’re really up the creek.