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Michael O'Doherty: Spell it out for me

Jedward have got it spot on. The identical twins could force you to guess which is which, point out minor blemishes to trigger the recollection of their correct name, and dig their heels in that you should really be able to tell. But instead, they wear name badges, and stand with John on the left and Edward on the right. Just like Ant and Dec.

So why can't people be as transparent about their relationship status? Why can't they just wear badges revealing one of three states -- 'single', 'taken' or 'married'. And yes, there's a big difference between the last two.

On three separate occasions in the past few months, I've got chatting to a woman. Each time, the conversation has started off in a friendly manner, then developed into a little bit of flirting, and on to that ultimate 21st- century sign that the woman is keen -- she orders a round of shots. Now I've been around the block often enough to know when (a) a woman isn't interested or (b) when a woman is just being friendly. But that wasn't the case here -- and my lack of delusion was confirmed when each of them gave me their phone numbers with a request to call them.

And when I did the following day, guess what news awaited me? "Sorry, I've got a boyfriend." One of them went so far as to arrange to go out to dinner with me the following Friday, and saved her revelation 'til the afternoon of the dinner date.

Now don't get me wrong. It's everywhere, I know, but am I not right to be surprised that this concealment is so rife amongst women, when up 'til now we've all believed it to be the exclusive preserve of men? Two-faced, cheating, horny men, slipping the wedding ring into their inside jacket pocket on their way into the bar; telling their friends under pain of death not to mention anything about the wife/girlfriend; or, if they suddenly feel the need to fess up (or their friends have inadvertently let it slip), telling how they're "going through a rough time", "married only in name". Blah, blah, blah.

But surely women aren't playing this game now? Surely they remember the mantra they've been spouting in magazines for decades when it comes to what constitutes infidelity -- just thinking about it is cheating. Have the goalposts moved? Is it now okay to flirt, to tease and, worst of all, have their friends encourage you to make a move, only then to dash your hopes the next day?

I'd always thought that women were upfront about relationships. They could sense you sniffing around them a mile away, and dropped the words "my boyfriend" in at the first opportunity. But now, it seems, we're going to need Jedward-style badges. 'Single' means they're up for it, and if nothing happens, it's because you're repulsive. 'Taken' means you're wasting your time buddy, but you can still buy me and the girls a round if you like. 'Married'... well, not this time tiger, but I'll keep you on ice 'til I know for sure that my husband is cheating on me.

And men shouldn't be put off by the married woman who's willing to cheat. For men it's a pattern -- once a cheater, always a cheater. But women can be cured of it. The two former girlfriends in my life that I know for a fact cheated on me, both went on to marry the guy they cheated with. So perhaps it wasn't after all their fault -- maybe it was just me? That'd be a first...

Michael O'Doherty is the publisher of the VIP magazine group


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