how long is a ‘fleeting affair’?

How long is a ‘fleeting affair’?
John Crace

Congratulations to Hugh Grant who has become a father after a “fleeting affair” (his spokesman’s words) with a woman believed to be actor Tinglan Hong. But what exactly is a “fleeting affair”? It’s certainly not something ordinary people have. We have “one-night stands” and “disastrous flings”.

And how fleeting is fleeting? Grant is reported to have gone out with Hong for a few months. Yet that’s a lifetime compared with Boris Becker who described his fleeting affair by the bathroom of a London restaurant, which also resulted in fatherhood, as “a moment”. Unplanned pregnancy seems to be a key feature of fleeting affairs. At least from the male perspective. Mick Jagger fathered a son during his fleeting affair with Brazilian model Luciana Morad. It lasted three months.

Winnie Mandela’s definition of fleeting is more exacting. She has described her relationship with Nelson Mandela as a fleeting affair, though this seems to be stretching the concept somewhat as she was married to him for more than 30 years. Curiously, it’s in politics where we find some kind of middle ground. US pundits are describing America’s four-year love affair with Obama as “fleeting”; God knows how they would describe ours with Nick Clegg.

But all this does help us to reach a more accurate definition of fleeting. It has nothing whatsoever to do with time. What fleeting really means is embarrassing.

The Guardian, 2 November 2011


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