I HAVE just under four minutes to write this. Kids are in the bath and for the first time in 16 hours there are no minors talking at me or requesting tea and sandwiches. In fact, I've wasted a minute of the allotted four stretching my self-identity muscles: the ones not labelled "Mooooooommy!" or "I'm staaaarving".
It's ironic that the topic I've been tackling, in my head, for several days, is romance. If I were the subject of a smash-hit reality programme, they'd probably title it Romance is Dead. No red roses and fluffy teddy bears floating around our lounge anymore; and if there were, the cat would eat the bear and the toddler wouldn't heed warnings about thorns that prick.
I've become so used to cramming my creativity into minute-long slots – and snatching conversations with the Hub during a Barney episode or between deadlines – that I truly had to think hard about it when an old school friend asked if the romance (ours, she meant) was still alive.
As though romance were a living, breathing thing – a third mate in our relationship, or a pet that must be fed?
For all the studies encouraging date nights, spontaneous trips and such-like, I just don't agree that romance dies when you stop buying chocolates, giving shoulder rubs or travelling to distant koppies with coffee to watch the sun rise.
If I tried to travel to a koppie this week, effort would outweigh reward. Have you ever woken sleeping children in winter? And they don't drink coffee or accept it as a snack, either. I'm not going to pack a small suitcase of spare clothes, juice and bananas just to cuddle with the Hub.
There's an argument that couples who have kids and demanding careers are probably the ones suffering severely from lack of romanticism – an opinion offered by my school friend, who is basing an academic paper on this, in the hopes that she'll help millions of miserable marriages everywhere.
Also, there's the idea that apart from one or two very special elderly couples – the ones who feature on Youtube videos or are held up as examples of what we could be, if we tried – most of us are destined to breed contempt from familiarity.
Bless her for trying, but it's a time-waster. We're not neglecting romance – we've just hot-wired the definition.
As a teenager, I thrilled to my first teddy and Cadbury slab; not because the bear or the chocolate were special, but because they symbolised, in our heart-shaped society, my ability to attract a mate.
When the Hub was first wooing me, he organised a champagne-shaded weekend to Hogsback, replete with a local fynbos bouquet, organic veggies picked from the lodge garden and background music, with a fire in the hearth.
The flowers made me sneeze, the wood was wet and we ran out of gas, so couldn't stir-fry the veg. He also forgot to fill up on departure and we were stranded on a hairpin bend just outside Grahamstown. The thing I remember most from that trip was the empty petrol tank.
The romantic tradition is not dead, my friends – it merely shapes itself to circumstance; and the worst you can do is force a lover to shower you with that which makes him uncomfortable (as Hollywood rom-com shlock does mine).
My close girlfriends have similar views. Jen rates being able to talk, uninterrupted, with glass of wine in hand, as tropical-island romantic as ever these days.
And for Rox, just knowing that her man Brad "gets" her is more than enough. He'll wake up to pop outside for a smoke with her after she's watched a scary movie, and didn't wait to propose until he'd saved enough cash for a ring.
Instead, being a chef, he made a plan.
"That first proposal was with a deep-fried onion ring," Rox says. "It was the best damn thing I've ever eaten."
Romance can't be copyrighted. Sometimes it's as sexy and simple as eating your engagement ring for supper.