I appreciate that I am about to hang my dirty – or at least selfish and unreflective – washing out here for all to see but … I’ve only just started to appreciate how terrible the pandemic and lockdowns must have been for extroverts.
Last week, I had to go out two nights in a row and I nearly died from the strain of it, the stresses on my unsociable soul twisting it so far out of alignment it took me eight straight days of going no further than my front door and seeing no one but the delightful ensemble players of Brooklyn Nine-Nine to get myself straightened out again.
But for extroverts – this is what they need. This is what you couldn’t have. Lockdowns were their equivalent of me being forced go out every day for months. It would have broken me. How did you do it? You’re amazing. I just … I dunno … I just want to acknowledge what it is only now dawning on me was a feat of endurance that surely surpasses any paltry efforts to be found in the Guinness Book of Records. I’m overwhelmed by the magnitude of your achievement. I’d throw you all a massive party if I could. As long as I didn’t have to come, of course.
As if I hadn’t suffered enough last week with the endless round of both socialising going on, today I had to do the second worst thing in the world. I had to try on An Outfit. I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience? How it works is – you get an invitation to A Thing (the first worst thing, so you’re already depressed). You look at your wardrobe and realise 99% of it is disgusting and 100% of it no longer fits because you are disgusting too. Plus, for this Thing you have to look smart, and 150% of your wardrobe is not. So you bash your keyboard in rage for a bit, looking at clothes online and selected a possibility and ordering it in seven sizes and wishing your top and bottom halves matched each other quite a lot better than they do or have ever done.
Then it arrives – and you do say a small prayer of gratitude that you live in an age where you can at least try it on in the privacy of your own home and not in a changing room with well-lit, full-length mirrors and other unhelpful innovations – and you put it on. You check portions of yourself out of the corner of your eye in a hand mirror. If you appear to be decently covered, can move your arms and legs freely and don’t throw up at any point, you keep it.
I give my parents their midweek call, without which they would be fine.
“Hi, Dad,” I say.
“Hello, Daughter One,” he says. “What news from the Rialto?”
“Apparently rates of gonorrhoea amongst men over 65 have gone through the roof,” I tell him. “So I thought I’d check you were behaving yourself.”
“Can you catch it from tea or falling asleep while watching Coronation Street?” he says.
“What about shuffling painfully around the house wondering where I left my glasses?”
“Then I should be fine,” he says.
“That’s a relief,” I say. “I don’t want to have to start going to the VD clinic at my time of life. I’m old enough still to be calling it the VD clinic.”
My best friend’s son – an 11-year-old child second only to my own in my affections – has, after a summer holiday of intensely anxious anticipation, unexpectedly taken to his huge secondary school like a duck to water. When she asked him why he was so happy there he replied “Because popularity doesn’t exist! There are too many people to judge!” And then went contentedly about his business while she sat on the sofa for the next four hours, staring into space while she tried to unpack everything he’d just said.
But it was too much. She had to give up in the end. It’s one of those casual knockout blows kids deliver every now and again – a combination of innocence and experience, insight and blindness and all you can do is wait for life to happen to them and let them work it all out themselves.
Cop27 is over today. Thank God. I instituted the policy of never reading about the climate crisis 36 years ago. I had asked a schoolfriend of mine whose parents were very early eco-warriors how I could avoid using these CFC things that were apparently burning holes in the ozone layer and she responded by explaining to me in very clear, accessible and unequivocal terms how and why we were all, in essence, fucked already. I thanked her very much and then shut down the portion of my brain that had heard it forever. I am able write all this to you now without acknowledging even one tiny bit of it myself at all.
I like to think the dark truth has guided me towards a more considered, less wasteful life (in practical terms, I mean – obviously like everyone else I piss away most of my time, mostly on Brooklyn Nine-Nine reruns) but beyond that, it’s denial all the way, baby. You’ll need a force substantially stronger than the UN to stop me.