Apparently, women in relationships are increasingly the ones who decide which wine (as opposed to the men, that is). I thought it was just me. Having been single for years, I am now part of a couple, and my own bossiness when it comes to selecting wine has surprised me. It's not as if I am any better equipped to judge than my boyfriend. We're both aware that my choices are based on random snippets of information, the look of the bottle and, obviously, the price. However, lately, in restaurants, he has taken to handing me the wine list with a raised eyebrow, and I've become worried that, by removing his wine selecting rights, I may have overstepped the mark. In fact, until I read that this state of affairs is now normal, I wondered if it might be one of those symptoms of long-term singleness that are notoriously unappealing to men - and which can roughly be summed up as continuing to live your life as if you were
on your own. Or, to put it another way, being appallingly selfish.
You have to watch yourself when you've been single for a while. You have formed all kinds of habits, like keeping your make-up in the fridge and only ever eating out of one bowl and accumulating lots of scary, chain-smoking, boozy girlfriends - all of which could be relationship deal-breakers. But the one you need to be really careful about is insisting on maintaining total control. Barking out instructions when not actually driving. Breaking out in a sweat when you lose possession of the remote control. Feeling faint when you realise that you might have to compromise on the positioning of a picture or, God forbid, your choice of holiday companions. I just assumed that having a strong opinion about the wine fell into this category of decisions. But, on reflection, I see that this is more about women in general, and our very particular attitude to wine.
Women select wine much the same way we shop for clothes. We're not interested in cheap unless it's good quality (Topshop) and we're not interested in really good, most of the time. Men tend to go for the heavy, dusty-looking reds (peephole bras, satin basques); women are more interested in the soft, easy-drinking varieties (Elle Macpherson Intimates). On the whole, we prefer a sprightly, figure-flattering white to an oily Chardonnay that does nothing for the complexion. And gimmicky branding leaves us cold, even if it's on special offer.
But we are extremely susceptible to a label. And we'll swallow almost anything if it's displayed under "this season's must-have" (with one of those handwritten recommendations). It's crazy, but that's what being a slave to taste is all about.
Shane Watson's Other People's Marriages is published in paperback by Pan (£6.99)