I think I’m having an affair

It started with one of those online parties favoured by old ravers – the kind where you all tune in on Facebook and watch as someone DJs while everyone fills the screen with comments like CHOOON and TOTAL BANGER and zillions of heart emojis… and er, that’s it really. Great to share the music and feel somehow privileged to be part of a MOMENT but definitely not anything like being at a party. GOD I MISS PARTIES.

But still, bored and tipsy I tuned into one a couple of weeks back while Mark was glued to something on Netflix. Actually the music was great, and, buzzing after a couple of large gins, I commented “Love this one!” And within seconds there it was. A bolt from the blue. Mand, where ya bin? With a jolt I recognised the name immediately. Russell Keeley. MY VERY FIRST LOVE.

I’d met Russell in my clubbing days. A tall, cocky South Londoner, he smoked like James Dean and danced like James Brown. I’d watch, mesmerised, as he spun around the dance floor, those cute buttocks shimmying and hips swivelling in a sexy fug of Aramis. He also flirted like a pro’, promising me the Earth and making me feel like The Chosen One… until the night he Just. Didn’t. Show. Up. It was only when I bumped into a mutual friend that the penny dropped. “What happened between you and Russell?” Nothing as far as I was concerned. But Russell had moved on without telling me. THE UTTER BASTARD.

Readers, he totally broke my heart, but somehow in the months that followed I couldn’t get him out of my system. He’d always get flirty whenever I saw him and (to my shame) I let him. In fact (full disclosure), I sometimes got off with him, even though it only ever led to shame and disappointment. By the time I met Mark I’d learnt to be less gullible and put Russell behind me THANK GOD.

But now, thirty-odd years later, here he was, sending me flirty messages in a public ‘event’. Look at you, Miss Mandy, all sexy in that profile pic. Just the sight of his name made me a bit giddy. Russell Keeley, the Handsome Heartbreaker. I checked out his profile to see if that arrogant face had been ravaged by time, but where there should have been a profile pic there was just a photo of Prince in his Purple Rain pomp (ah yes, he’d always loved the diminutive purple pervstrel). The friend request arrived almost immediately. And being half-cut by this point I didn’t even think about ignoring it. Didn’t even wait five minutes before I clicked ‘accept’. Still a ruddy PUSHOVER for that man.

I sat and waited, almost indecently excited. More excited than I’d felt in a looooong time. Mark is lovely of course, but OH GOD he can be dull. I mean, why be romantic and sexy when you can drone on endlessly about the right way to load a dishwasher? Why hold hands and gaze at the suddenly-incredibly-visible stars when you can watch 12 episodes of Game of Thrones back-to-back instead?

Staring at my screen, I willed Russell back into my life. And suddenly, via Messenger, there he was. Cocky, over-familiar, like he’d never been away. You look amazing, Mand. Better than ever. What’s your secret?

On cloud nine

OK, OK, I KNOW what you’re thinking. This is a horrendously bad idea, right? After all, I’ve been in a fully committed relationship with the father of my children, my lovely solid, dependable Mark, for a trillion years. The problem is, lately I feel like we’re just not connecting. He’s happy to discuss whose turn it is to put the bins out, but if I try and share my worries and fears he just looks a bit annoyed – or worse, bored. His eyes glaze over when I mention the menopause and how anxious and miserable I’ve been feeling lately. How has it come to this?

So a bolt from the blue in the form of probably-still-dangerous Russell Keeley is more than a bit thrilling. His self-assured flirting has reminded me of fun, of the vivacious girl I used to be, of danger and excitement. It’s reminded me of the bliss of being with a man who makes me feel special (ignoring the memory if being made to feel distinctly un-special). It’s also reminded me that I was a sultry brunette when he last saw me. Motivation enough to make a hasty online purchase of Magic Retouch Temporary Instant Root Concealer Spray, if ever I heard one. Greys, be gone! And let’s tweeze that chin while we’re at it.

Russell’s changed. I can tell. I got the whole tale of woe on the phone a few days after his first message, while out with the dog. The divorce. The business that went tits up. The second marriage. The fact that his wife now hates him (I WONDER WHY?) but he has to stay for the sake of the kids. Well quelle surprise, but it must be HELL in lockdown. And clearly life has taught him some difficult lessons the hard way because where once he was cruel and heartless, he’s now non-stop attentive. Annoyingly the only pics in his Facebook account are of his kids (cute, one of each), and cool art and music (WHY SO COY, RUSSELL?) This is not the Pringle jumpered peacock I used to know. He’s made mistakes, he says, bombarding me with links to songs we used to love. Late into the night, while Mark is reading away next to me, oblivious, Russell messages me that he can’t get me out of his head.

But of course this madness has to stop at once. He’s a shit, I’m married to Mark, and until yesterday I was perfectly happy with the status quo. Well, not exactly thrilled TBH, but STILL…

A romantic walk

“Come on Mark, let’s do something exciting today,”. I’m standing at the foot of our bed, grinning hopefully at my other half and dreading his reply. “Like what?” he says suspiciously. Ever the pragmatist, Mark doesn’t DO exciting when there are patios to power wash. I get that lockdown is challenging, but there are surely more important things to do than reorganise our spice rack… A swim in the sea… A stroll hand-in-hand through fields of buttercups… Heck even a Government-approved jog around the park a deux.

But Mark hasn’t moved. “I don’t know, Mandy. Tell me. What could be more exciting than spending all day on Facebook?” he says staring straight at me.

Does Mark know why Mandy’s spending so much time glued to her phone? Has Russell still got pert buttocks? Does online flirting count as infidelity? Can her marriage survive? Find out in the next instalment of The Midlife Diaries of Amanda M.

By Amanda M.