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Suzanne Power: Don't waste your time chasing a moody man

I have a secret I really don't want to share. But if you can't laugh at yourself, you need surgery.

As a teenager, I read Mills and Boon. With my first boyfriend, I did a lot of swooning. This confused him. He only wanted guitar lessons from me. Not melodrama. I also picked up that the hero was unattainable and it made me very attracted to moody men.

I got over it when I went on holiday with a compulsive fisherman who insisted we spend five freezing hours by a lake while he cast for fictitious fish. He never caught a thing, but I swallowed the salmon of knowledge and knew he would always be more interested in worms than me.

After that I decided no more moody magnetics. No matter how difficult it was, I put up a degree of resistance and found myself protected from the charms of silent types.

Mills and Boon were fellas. Gerald Mills and Charles Boon knew the one way to make a woman accept the unacceptable was to invent the dark and dangerous hero, or the blond sophisticate offering urbanity at a premium, or the reclusive ginger laird offering bloodlines and posh castles. The only trouble with these guys was they were all hard to handle. The heroines were all weak and broke, with only one good dress and a scuffed pair of shoes. The male hero was all rotten, but she got his good side to come out in the end. And she got lovely clothes and the chance to live happily ever after.

It was a massive con, invented by moody men to get women to marry them and then find there was no magic key to snap them out of it, no way to break down the intense desire to be intense. Romantic novels have nothing to do with reality, but one good friend, now a leading academic, also acknowledges her Mills and Boon past.

"The books built up heroes to be strangely distant. I have found myself going for unattainable men all my life. I even dated a man who lived in Siberia working oil rigs."

One of the great pulls of the unattainable man is the chase. He's never around, even when he's with you, so you're dreaming about him 24-7 and the fantasy is more real than flesh and blood. But be careful, ladies. The fact you never know what he's thinking does not mean he's deep. It may mean, my partner says, he's not thinking: "Men really don't need to think as much as women. Since we can't do two things at once, we do things like our jobs.

"And if a man knows a moody man, he tells him to f**k off home if he's not saying anything. And if he gets all dangerous and angry, he tells him he's going home. I don't need friends with complexes. I see my friends for socialising, not therapy. A man with problems that go on and on is like chewing gum on your clothes. Hard to get rid of and always there. That's why he needs women; they'll try and sort him out. He gets to be centre of attention."

I suspect he's right. While we're sorting out Mr Problem's problems, he is happy. But when we show we have needs, too, there's no lovely dress and shoes and a trip on his private jet by page 183.

Another single male friend agrees: "I don't know why women assume that silent types, who avoid you, are strong types. They avoid you means they don't actually want to go out with you. They don't talk to you . . . means they don't actually want to go out with you.

"Men know if she's not talking to you or answering your calls, you're not going to get her. You can hone your hunting skills by sending her the odd test text. But she's out to lunch. Probably chasing the moody men you're talking about."

Men move on, women wonder where it all went wrong.