I met a girl today who’s had to have her wedding dress let out because she has entered the second puberty.

No? As it happens, I hadn’t heard of it either. Which is strange, given that its a condition in which I am firmly ensconced. Now, just to define terms here: there is no additional lady-business, nor are there any extra mood swings or other chemical insanity in attendance. This is much more irritating.

The strangest thing is that I have seen the effects of achieving thirty-some status on my friends, I have witnessed it in myself, but it never occurred to me that it was something about the age.

I suppose if I’d had to explain it, I would have put it down to stress, or too much cheese, or whatever it is that has filled out the beards of boys with whom I went to school, and added diabolical ballast to every Class of ‘98 hip.

We’re not talking about a pound or two: easily forgiven, if not ignored completely. This is a good couple of stone. From nowhere. It’s not water weight. It’s not something any of us got from our poor blessed mothers. What this is, in fact, is the sudden inability to shake off pizza.

And I heard about it all from a girl working in a local supermarket.

I’m sure her big day will still be magical (although, for the sake of sensitivity, the word ‘Big’ should probably be avoided), and the weight gain can be put down to anxiety over seating plans and buttonholes.

For the rest of us, we can can pretend not to notice that our feet are no longer visible, and marvel at how readily a thirty-something shop girl will tell us about the important events in her life.

When I was working in the local not-exactly-super market, we had a young man burst through the double-hinged doors like a man on a mission early in the year.

It was February and quite honestly, he was pushing it. He rushed from aisle to aisle, searching the shelves for something, anything even halfway romantic. It was the fourteenth.

Eventually, he arrived at the till point, where I was standing, a look of madman on his face.

“Do you have strawberries?” he asked, desperately.

I explained that it wasn’t yet the season for strawberries. We had apples, oranges, bananas, and our garlic came from China. None of this – expert knowledge gleaned from examination of the fruit and vegetable delivery note – was especially pertinent to his enquiry.

“What about champagne?” he went on.

I indicated our shelf of fizz. The cheapest bottle was somewhere around the twenty pound mark. He noticed this and shook his head.

“We have steak,” our butcher offered, passing by with a pig over his shoulder.
The young man blanched. “Do women like steak?”

“I’m not really your audience,” I explained, and nodded across to a rather more hetero member of staff.

“I like steak,” she asserted, “but I can’t really manage a whole one.”

The man was flustered. “So.. not steak then?”

The other shop girl and I exchanged a glance, wondering how the chap thought we must know his girlfriend better than he did.

“Flowers!” he exclaimed. “I suppose flowers would do.”

I showed him to our generously-titled floral display, across the shop floor.

More carnation than rose, the flowers looked rather sad and seemed destined for dispiriting memorial displays rather than an evening of amoré.

“DVDs, do you have any romcoms?”

You’ve got to know you’re short on time when you use the diminutive in general conversation. As it happened, we didn’t have a DVD section.

“Never mind,” he said, losing patience. “Where are your condoms?”

I nearly died. Blundering past the card display with its multitudinous Valentine’s offerings as well as a heaping helping of cutesy little teddy bears and embarrassing socks, I showed him to the prophylactics and wondered how he would précis his present.

The shelf of painkillers, bandages and condoms was behind the till, next to the cigarette lighters and cold and flu medication.

There were three types. He couldn’t read them from his side of the till, so I acted as awkward translator.

“Ultra, Featherlite or (dear God) Ribbed For Her Pleasure?”

I’ll admit, I was struggling.

“Which one’s cheapest?”

I never found out how his evening went. However, it doesn’t begin to surprise me that we never saw him again.