There's always a frisson of tension about Sunday lunch. You know the kind of thing. You are all tucking steadily into our chicken. Then from nowhere ... "So how many gay friends do you have?" asked my sister accusingly. My mother choked. My father went puce. My brothers looked puzzled. Another usual Sunday dinner.

"I mean we can't be homophobic in this day and age," she pursued. "Why don't you have gay friends? Do you have a problem? Are you being prejudiced?"

Oh God, I thought. Any minute we'll have to produce a list for her to scrutinise to check our friends and acquaintances for political correctness. My mother started to speak and failed.

I giggled. She turned around gimlet-eyed. "It's not funny," she said.

"Well have you got any gay friends?" I asked her. "Yes." she said. "One of my best friends is gay. Why, don't you?" "Yes I do, " I replied. "Usually I get to know them by chatting them up."

Whereas most girls go for married men or the boss if they want to lust over someone unavailable, I went one better. I spent much time in my college days being attracted to those who would never want to be with me. If there was one boy who slowdanced with me, friends would take me aside at the end of the evening. It got to the stage that if a man was nice, civil and polite and generally looked like a good bet to be with, he was gay. I ended up being rude to nice, well-brought-up boys and heading for the token bastard under the impression that he might use me and abuse me and then go back to his former girlfriend with whom he was secretly in love all the time but at least I'd stand a fighting chance.

All this changed when I fell hopelessly in love with Jon. Went out to lunch with him on Valentine's day (lunch? I suppose it did seem a bit odd), sent him cute notes about Marvell poems, engineered it so we had coffee after lectures. He liked me. I knew he did. Our eyes met, we danced together.

And then one Sunday lunch ... "I'm sorry I've met someone else." Pain pierced my heart, and although I couldn't bring myself to acknowledge it, I felt some sort of joy in being a tragic rejected heroine, full of doomed love (look, I was only 19).

"What's her name?" I whispered sorrowfully. "Peter".

It shut my sister up anyway. Well, until pudding.