Coming soon: a timeless tale of a forbidden love

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Excuse me if I seem a little distracted this week but I've had a brilliant idea. I've already been on the phone to my agent, working out the book deal and a multi-million dollar film contract - we're thinking Sigourney Weaver, possibly Julia Roberts, though I'd have to be sure they can manage an English accent. It's a tender love story (we might use the word elegiac) about a thirtysomething woman who just happens to fall in love with the wrong - well, person.

They run off together, staying at a series of motels, and the book will explore - sympathetically, of course - their forbidden relationship. If a few prudish people throw up their hands and talk about exploitation, so what? Given the subject matter, ecstatic reviews from Martin Amis and John Updike are more or less guaranteed.

Naturally there'll be a clause in the movie contract threatening that, if the film doesn't get a distributor in Britain, I will lead the entire cast in a walk-out. There are places where people understand the integrity of the artist - almost anyone you meet in Los Angeles, I'm told. A love story is a love story, even if it breaks taboos - sorry, what was I saying? Oh yes, the title. Housewife runs off with teenage boy: it just has to be Lolito. The Nobel prize for Literature is in the bag.

NAMES have been exercising the minds of judges this week, after a 34- year-old man from Somerset went to the Court of Appeal in pursuit of his inalienable right to pass his surname on to his son. After losing the case, he said he was devastated because there is no one else to carry on the family name.

Which is, by the way, Dawson. Not exactly an uncommon name, Dawson (if this seems a little harsh, bear in mind that I am called Smith). The case is complicated by the fact that the boy's mother has given him not her own original surname but that of her ex-husband; Dawn Wearmouth still uses the name of her former spouse and wants all three of her children to share it. The court thought this "perfectly logical and natural" and found in her favour.

Mr Dawson, however, is considering an appeal to the House of Lords. "This was a chance for the law to catch up with modern life, but it has been wasted," he complained, getting things completely the wrong way round. What the decision means is that the law has rumbled the nonsensical assumption that children should bear their father's surname in all circumstances. The only argument in its favour, as far as I can see, is men's sentimental attachment to patronymics.

I've never understood why women give up their names so easily on marriage. Even the ones who don't, of which there are a growing number, tend to bow to their partner's wishes when it comes to naming their kids. When women protest about either practice, as they occasionally do, they're assured that names don't really matter. On Thursday, that lie was nailed when we witnessed the reaction of a man who'd just been told he would have to put up with something women have tolerated for centuries.

WHAT I've failed to understand, of course, is that it's part of a man's genetic make-up to need to pass his name on to his children. Biological determinism is back in fashion, in a slightly more sophisticated guise, and people are discovering genes for this, that and the other, all over the place.

I'm on the side of the Darwinians when it comes to God, but they can't be trusted on gender. Take, for example, an article by Helena Cronin of the LSE in the latest issue of Red Pepper. "Evolution," she announces, "made men's and women's minds as unalike as it made our bodies. And it's time feminists and leftists" - that's me, guilty on both counts - "started taking the implications seriously".

Men are "more persistent than females, more disposed to take risks and more promiscuous". We know this, Cronin says, from the results of the "largest, most wide-ranging survey ever made of male-female psychological differences, covering 37 cultures on six continents, totalling over 10,000 people". What this shows is that "universally ... women desire older husbands; nowhere do men desire older wives. Universally, men value female virginity more than women value men's." And so forth. Cronin admits to cultural differences but concludes that "everywhere there was a male-female difference and always in the same direction".

In fact, if you do the sums, the survey relies on a sample of fewer than 300 respondents in each culture. Would you trust interviews with 275 people to give a representative picture of British culture? As usual, the results ignore the vast range of human experience: women who want older husbands, women who are looking for younger men with lots of energy, women who don't want husbands at all. (Boyfriends, in my experience, are infinitely preferable.) There are also women called lesbians, who don't want sex with men of any description. This is the problem with the neo-Darwinians. They don't seem to notice how people really live.

IT'S BEEN a good week for parties, even if you were left off the list for Wednesday night's bash in Downing Street. On Tuesday, Bloomsbury threw a party in Soho for three of its authors - a generous gesture given that, of the three, one was anonymous and another died last year. (The third, Mary Flanagan, was very much alive but seemed a bit bemused at finding herself in such company.)

The following night someone took me to the Met Bar in Park Lane where I found myself trying to work out the difference between a party and a lot of people standing about with drinks, which is what we seemed to be doing. "The difference," another guest explained, "is that at a party everyone has a common purpose." Yes, but what was it?

Things got no clearer when a woman appeared dressed as Princess Xena from the children's TV show with a cult lesbian following - I am not making his up - on Channel Five. She was followed by a man who looked like Chris Evans. This, I discovered, was because he was Chris Evans. Fearing that someone might assume I had a common purpose with the former DJ, I dodged past Princess Xena and went home.

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