My mind is always full of a quiet but fixed purpose. To maintain the body and face of an athlete. This is my inflexible goal. Life can get can get in the way of every objective: one has to accept that. But my failsafe rule, my emergency procedure, for maintaining self-esteem, “Avoid Mirrors” normally sees me through any crisis involving the state of my figure.
I was reflecting on this recently,as I munched through a well-chosen slice of carrot cake. Deliciously sweet and creamy as always, but I find some comfort in the use of the word “carrot”. Possibly each slice is helping me get one of my “five a day”. Ok, to be honest, I’m possibly get somewhere nearer thirty a day, or maybe more, but as long as you undress away from the bearer of truth you can cling to optimism: I do anyway.
I am lucky in many ways. I can still walk around with ease. All arms and legs report for duty each morning, and perform the functions required of them. When the music starts, I can dance with the enthusiasm of a drug crazed epileptic. I can walk up hills for fun and lift tea-bags without getting out of breath. In short nothing happens to suggest to me that I am anything older than 15. Certainly not my behaviour.
That being said, I have recently come across a difficulty which threatens to unsettle my normally sanguine powers of self deception. Family members can try to Skype me early in the morning, while I am still lying in bed, ticking off the list of calorie burning exercises I might undertake later in the day: letter opening, egg frying and TV watching can often be found on this checklist.
I pick up my phone. One of those apple things which has more functions than a space shuttle , and look into the screen. Before I get connected, I can see my face, peering out proudly from a sea of chins. I move my head vaguely but as one chin vanishes another wobbles into view. Desperate measures are called for and I sit up. Good idea, but the chin fest is now in full swing, if you follow me, and the neck is largely lost to view. “Facing the facts” is something we like to suggest about any other life but our own, but now those “facts” are staring at me out of my phone. Those chins indicate that my ruthless sense of purpose might need an overhall.
Light dimming is considered but, even I can sense that I am giving way to some level of hysteria. Finally the call is connected and I can do nothing more than smile weakly at the camera. In the end, all you can be is yourself, and the passing years are little comfort to those small crumbs of vanity you hide around your waistline. My trouser size has not altered for some years, but the pain of getting them on has. . Even that last sentence suggests the grumpy bewilderment of an ageing brain. Is there such a thing as too much self-knowledge. We’d better not ask.