Mum had another health scare last week, but thankfully performs another Lazarus, laughing that at least this latest episode furnishes her with a day trip to the hospital and gifts me a legitimate reason to go and visit. ( I am bubbled Boris, honestly).
Admittedly my mother has been a bit gung-ho since getting her vaccine some weeks back and has been a bit impatient that the rest of us have been slow to catch up. She wants more people to play with and doesn’t take kindly to Matt Hancock’s reminder to the over 80’s to, ‘play by the rules’ . ‘I bet that Hancock wouldn’t be so rule abiding if he was 94 and sitting in God’s waiting room,’ she mutters as she dunks a shortbread biscuit in a mug of gin.
Before I can gloat that some of us are too young to hit the criteria for Covid vaccination, she is on to a related topic. ‘Everyone is is looking so old since the last Lockdown started, people are looking years older.’ I say that this is probably how people appear to look on Zoom because it is difficult to apply a soft focus filter. She is not hearing very well, so she doesn’t hear my attempt at an explanation and continues, ‘people are also looking so much fatter’. I pull my stomach in and wonder whether to try and offer an explanation for this as well. Mum is stlll going so I do not bother.
‘You just have to look at people’s faces, they are rounder, greyer and much, much more wrinkly; the people I see when I am out for my daily walk just seem to have let themselves go’. I look down at my joggers and realise that she may have a point.
At school we have been talking about this – not just because colleagues are desperate for hairdressers to open and tired of boot polishing their roots, but because students are slowly trickling back into school and smart casual for staff will soon be replaced by business attire. We have started to wonder if our former work clothes will fit. I had a try on the other night and everything seems to have shrunk in the wash. Even my kitten heel foot seems to have morphed into an Ugg shaped hoof during Lockdown.
It must be the same for the students – not only are many dealing with the effects of epic gaming sessions and a glut of comfort eating, they also have to contend with a hormonal surge that will have seen many of them sprout out of a uniform that would normally have seen them through to the end of their school life. You can not imagine a Year 11 parent wanting to buy their 16 year old a new pair of school trousers to get them through to the end of the school year – whenever that may be. It is hard enough being a teenager without wondering if your trousers will split in front of your peers.
I take refuge in the weekend newspapers, only to read the headline: ‘One year on, how much have you aged?’ in the Saturday Times. There is no escape, the editorial team have clearly been speaking to my mother. I had assured myself that I was doing ok but now I feel defensive as a read through a litany of pitfalls I have fallen into: pandemic wrinkles; take aways; sitting too much; poor sleeping patterns and too much isolation. Apparently I am looking and feeling five years older than I did last March. Mum could have written this article.
Worry is not our friend when it comes to skin care. Apparently chronic anxiety prompts inflammation, clobbering the skin’s ability to repair itself because the stress hormone cortisol has taken our natural skin plumper – collagen – hostage. Our telomeres have also been under attack, but as I haven’t been sleeping well, I wouldn’t rely on this blog to explain what this means – something to do with the irony of our cell generation going on a speed overdrive in the wrong direction, while we have slowed right down and sat on our expanding behinds.
Now I aim to be a glass half full person, and grateful though I am to have mum back at home and sharing her wisdom freely, I find it difficult to take positives from either her maternal reflections or the Times article. There are some takeaways, but frankly they are all seem quite worthy and I am not sure I can find the energy to be this disciplined. Now that I am looking five years older, will I find the mojo to take vitamin A, get off my backside, cut out the junk food, get outside and stop drinking alcohol but drink more water? It is enough to turn my hair grey – at least I have dad’s genes to thank for this being the one pandemic ager I have not have to face. I put this down to dad slathering us with his Brylcream when we were kids and my teenage addiction to ‘Sun In’. (Thinking about it, I am fortunate to still have my own hair follicles, whatever shade).
I am heartened by a call from mum. She still can’t hear on the phone, but she can relay her message to me:’When I said everyone was looking much older the other day, I didn’t necessarily mean you. I must have sounded quite rude, especially when you had made the effort to visit. I have not even seen you on Zoom. You looked the same when I saw you, ‘ ‘Thanks mum’, I go to reply, but she can’t hear me, and she is still talking, ‘ let’s face it, you do your best and you’ll soon be 60 and it is all downhill from there so there is no point worrying’.
I tell myself that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that my lines just show my adventures, not necessarily my stress. I am excited to see students back in their classrooms next week so I am going to crease my laughter lines in expectation of some banter with Year 10.
I scrutinise my face in the mirror and tell myself that meeting people off screen will be a much kinder experience than meeting on Zoom – at least I can keep my mask on if the years become too much. I wonder if I can adapt the strings on my mask to offer the effect of a make-shift face lift – surely those strings could hold my sagging skin in place?
I am distracted from my musings by some whooping coming from downstairs . The noise is so loud that I feel even mum will hear this racket some 100 miles away. I rush downstairs to find Favourite Man dancing around the kitchen with a bemused cat. ‘Over 55’s can book their jab!’ he shouts as he hits the NHS app with the enthusiasm of someone queuing for Glastonbury tickets. Sod the advice in the Times, I have reason to raise my glass and embrace my years gratefully at last. At least a little dance around the kitchen will increase my step count and get me off my arse.