This is the Life: Romance isn't dead

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The Independent Online

Do you love anyone enough to give them your last Rolo? It's an excellent question and I have always given it the serious consideration it deserves, although, to be honest, the scenario more often involves some other form of confectionery. The dilemma crops up nearly every morning on the train to King's Cross as I waver over whether to give my husband my last stick of KitKat. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the last stick has more chocolate on its wafer than the inner sticks, making it harder to yield. But if I am in a sentimental mood I find myself wallowing in a tiny gesture of self-sacrifice, and fondly remembering the days when I would have gladly turned over an entire chocolate factory for just one touch of his hand. So I was dismayed to learn some weeks back that Rolo is axing the famous slogan after 23 years because "research shows that romance is not the most important thing in a modern relationship. It's time to move on".

Do you love anyone enough to give them your last Rolo? It's an excellent question and I have always given it the serious consideration it deserves, although, to be honest, the scenario more often involves some other form of confectionery. The dilemma crops up nearly every morning on the train to King's Cross as I waver over whether to give my husband my last stick of KitKat. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the last stick has more chocolate on its wafer than the inner sticks, making it harder to yield. But if I am in a sentimental mood I find myself wallowing in a tiny gesture of self-sacrifice, and fondly remembering the days when I would have gladly turned over an entire chocolate factory for just one touch of his hand. So I was dismayed to learn some weeks back that Rolo is axing the famous slogan after 23 years because "research shows that romance is not the most important thing in a modern relationship. It's time to move on".

Research on whom precisely? No honest woman I have ever come across. But let's assume for a moment that I only know pulsating Mary Shelley types who pine for the days of Byron and crinolines (are there other types of female?). The other important question here is: if romance isn't the motor driving "modern relationships", what is? I can see a Nestlé spokesman smirking at the back of the class with one hand raised and the other buried in his groin as he leers at the girls, "Giv us yer last Rolo and I'll shag ya."

Well, this should certainly go down well with teenage boys, but since when have teenage boys had relationships? The closest most teenagers get to going steady is a five-hour snog at a party. And if young women rated sex above romance they wouldn't spend hours moaning to their friends that "he never talks to me – all he wants to do is get his end away." Everyone rates sex (except Cliff Richard and the Pope) but if it were the key force in relationships, quantity of orgasms would be more important than quality of emotions and we wouldn't have relationships because we'd all be too busy doing too many people. The world would just be one big, happy-slappy, orgiastic, Bagwaan commune.

But maybe Nestlé believes money to be the key element of modern relationships: "An ISA for your Rolo." Or status: "If you give me your last Rolo, I'll make you Secretary of State for International Development." But relationships based on wealth and power are about as "modern" as the feudal system. Perhaps we shouldn't wonder that Nestlé is confused when even the Church of England has started encouraging engaged couples to take a multiple-choice exam to try to ensure they share the same priorities. Once upon a time a declaration of undying love was a good enough reason to tie the knot, but the C of E quiz probes into 11 problem areas including money, sex, children, faith, pastimes and power dynamics ("the man as head of the house and decision-maker"). Romance is relegated to something that needs maintenance, as though it were a privet hedge. But in an age of adultery and divorce, marriage is the triumph of wild optimism over experience and therefore the last true province of the terminal romantic.

But the C of E is run by men and I suspect the same is true of Nestlé. Women place the highest premium on romance, from kindergarten to the grave, and hothouse their beliefs with intense re-readings of Austen and the Brontës. Men come to the notion slowly, in their forties, as they do with fishing and The Archers. It's not that men lack romance but their ability to prioritise according to the day's needs means that their systems don't short-circuit, as women's tend to, because of one overriding emotional need. This difference between the sexes is vividly illustrated by the news that demand for Viagra halved during the last World Cup. But women are like heroin addicts in their urgent need for romance: no other fix will do. They can live without money for a year or two, they can even live without sex, but they cannot endure a life without romance. They want to hold hands in the street and slow-dance round the kitchen.

Seventy per cent of divorces are initiated by women and in most cases another person is not cited: they would simply rather live without a man than without magic. Novels and Hollywood weepies are better substitutes for the narcotic elixir than a man who never kisses you and thinks a yearly bunch of daffs is sufficient token of his devotion. And the new singleton lives in hope: she will do anything, say anything to market researchers, to hook her man. Bachelors who wish to stay that way should remain cautious of any female who offers them their last Rolo.

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