Have you ever seen Franco Zeffirelli’s film version of Romeo and Juliet? I have, several times. I also have the DVD (see above) Olivia Hussey played the part of Juliet and I thought she was gorgeous. She still is.

My own search for an Irish Juliet was a long despairing one. I can only blame myself because I was the one putting obstacles in the way. I kept making excuses for failing to find a girlfriend, all of them coming back to the one thing – my face. Ah yes, what a perfectly genuine excuse. Of course all girls took one look at me and ran a mile. That’s true – in my imagination. They probably also had other reasons in that I was too awkward and shy and not great fun to be with. I was all too prepared to put myself down and not give girls a chance to get to know me better.

In conversation I tended to talk too much, to overcompensate for my face, when by sharing the chat we might have got to know one another better. I had a caring side, but I doubt that was too obvious to others. If I doubted myself surely others sensed it. I stopped hanging out with my friends once I finished secondary school and that was fatal to my chances of meeting other girls. You can’t date people you don’t meet. Simple.

And the passage of time meant there was less opportunity, not more. I withdrew more and more, lost the enthusiasm for engaging with members of the opposite sex, and firmly believed what I wanted to believe – which was that I was a loser. Not true, Tom. You gave up on yourself, that was the problem.

Before I knew it I wasn’t a teenager any more, I wasn’t even 20, 22, 24, 26. The years were rolling by rapidly and nothing was happening because I was unable to make a decisive first step.

I always tell others now not to waste their lives obsessing about obstacles in life. Just go for it and get on with living. Too often we allow setbacks to control or dominate our lives, when what we should be doing is treating them as temporary setbacks that we can overcome. And I mean temporary, not years.

I was 29 when I finally had my first girlfriend. She was very pretty and great company and I was like a 13-year-old learning to date for the first time. I’ll tell you about the experience another time, but for now the message is not to let the grass grow under your feet. It doesn’t matter whether your face is different to others, that your ears or nose aren’t quite ‘right’ – whatever that is. Whether you are too tall, too small, too skinny or on the large size, you need to enjoy life. And you won’t enjoy it by hiding yourself away like I did. Trust others.

I eventually found my Juliet. You can too. Just don’t expect her (or Romeo) to come to you. Go out and you’ll be surprised at how wonderful the world and people are.