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My 10 dating lessons for life

1 When you're a teen, the whole dating malarkey is just all so eeeee-easy.

A complete and utter doddle. For starters, you're well able to fit into skinny jeans, while cellulite cream means nothing more to you than this weird gloopy-looking stuff you once caught a glimpse of on your elderly aunt's dressing table.

You've all the time in the world to date whomever you feel like, barring the pesky distractions of Junior and Leaving Certs, of course.

Which in spite of your fresh-faced skin and your enviable silky smooth unlined faces, is the main reason why the rest of us still wouldn't trade places with you for anything.

2 By your late teens, you can afford to be experimental. To shock your parents even, by bringing home blokes with names such as Skag-head; guys with blast-furnace personalities who strut around with prison-landing swaggers, and sporting tatoos similar to Ashley Cole's.

But, sure, what do you care? You've years of dating ahead of you, plenty of time to find the nice Skoda-driving, teacher-training school graduate your mammy fantasises about for you, later on.

3 By now, you're hitting 20, and the chances are you've fallen in love; in big, proper, astonishing, movie love with a guy whose eyes look like they belong in an oil painting and who'd generally make Robert Pattinson look like he'd come round to do the hedges. This is love's Golden Age.

You may not think it now, but trust me; at 20, you'll happily abandon everything you have and follow the man you love to the ends of the earth and back again.

Whereas at 40, hell will freeze over if he as much as thinks you're driving him into town on a Friday night, so he can go out on the piss with his mates.

4 An important life-lesson in your twenties: beware the Neo-Victorian. They're absolutely everywhere and they're out to get that fella off your arm, at whatever cost.

Allow me to elaborate; the Neo-Victorian is a whole new breed of glossy, gorgeous predators, who are groomed like stormtroopers and with their eye on one single glittering holy grail; an engagement ring on their immaculately French manicured finger.

These are the women for whom the whole feminist movement was just something that happened to other people; if your average Neo-Victorian even saw 1960s' TV footage of the Germaine Greer school of protest marchers, she'd shudder that there was a time when such lax grooming could ever have been allowed.

The Neo-Victorian is out to catch a suitable husband and while you're getting plastered on your student grant in the uni bar, she's plastering on fake tan, as she gets ready to date all round her.

5 The career years are tricky if you're earning more than him and he's in any way sensitive about it.

But on the plus side, you're still young and hot and in a buyer's market. So, therefore, you can afford to be choosy and reject baldies the size of a block of flats with flabby beer bellies. But enjoy this phase while you can because, believe me, it's fleeting.

6 Suddenly 30 is looming, bringing with it yet another mammoth dating-life lesson.

Namely that try as you might, you're not 22 any more and you can't force people to fancy you. Not unless you're Donald Trump. And not even then, many would argue.

However, chances are by now that you're a homeowner and so the biggest life lesson you'll learn this decade is this; when you're young you think love can break your heart. When you get older, you realise . . . no, it's actually builders.

7 If you're lucky enough to have a job, it's probably fair to say that you're working all the hours God sends.

And long hours are not conducive to partying five nights a week. So chances are you might turn to internet dating and try giving that a whirl.

Ahh, you think innocently, the dating website. It's to 21st-century society what the 1950s parish dance hall was to our grannies' generation.

The advantage of internet dating is that you can socialise from the comfort and privacy of your home with three-day old hair and no make-up on. The disadvantage is that people lie on these sites. Shamelessly.

In fact, as a general rule, you can take 'has a good sense of humour' to be a euphemism for 'annoying'.

Similarly, 'chubby' means 'dangerously obese', and 'likes a few drinks' means 'would basically suck the alcohol out of a used deodorant bottle'. But you'll learn.

8 Forgot to mention a final rule; on any internet site, if a guy claims he'd love to meet you, but specifies that it must be during the day and never at weekends . . . then take my advice; switch off your computer and run, run, run a mile. Because he's married.

9 And so to the forties...otherwise known as the decade when you look back over your dating career and find yourself saying things like 'did I really reject that perfectly nice Mr X just because he was getting a bit thin on top?'

Suddenly your mum's vision for you of a nice sensible boyfriend with a Skoda and a pension plan is starting to look a helluva lot more appealing. Because you slowly come to realise that everyone around you has settled, while you're still alone. Which initially can be S.C.A.R.Y.

But then just think about Dorothy Parker's words of wisdom when she proudly declared, "being an old maid is a little bit like drowning . . . a really delightful sensation once you cease to struggle".

10 Which brings me to the biggest dating lesson of all; namely that the greatest romance you'll ultimately really have is with yourself.

And after all, it is a far, far better thing to be single than to end up with some messer who treats you badly . . . and all because of what? Fear of being alone? Come on. Are you kidding me? At the end of the day, everyone's alone . . . plus there's the big advantage of no man wrestling the remote control out of your hands in front of The Late Late Show.

Claudia has also joined forces with Lyons Gold Blend Tea in a search for Ireland's top storyteller -- so if you think you have a rich and original two-minute tale to tell, you could be in with a chance to win €10,000! Budding storytellers who want to enter should visit www.lyonstea.ie/tellusyourstory.