Hilary Fannin: This brave new world makes it damn hard to be slovenly

I'm envious of our youth. Envious and scared

“I found myself grinding my way through a superfood salad, trying to convince myself I could eat my way out of exhaustion.” Photograph: iStock

“I found myself grinding my way through a superfood salad, trying to convince myself I could eat my way out of exhaustion.” Photograph: iStock

 

I’m about to celebrate my 54th birthday, although “celebrate” might be pushing it a bit. At this juncture, I’m planning to stagger through the event like a tired, varicosed and stout little pony at the end of a long and particularly tedious gymkhana.

The obstacles this year were challenging. I found myself, as many of us do on this tender stretch of life’s gridlocked highway, dicing myself up like a particularly unappetising turnip in order to facilitate disparate generational needs.

This would probably be fine if I was a nicer person and had the maturity and calm to accept the things I cannot change, and change the things I cannot accept, oh, and the wisdom not to get sucked back into dieting websites.

Recently I found myself grinding my way through a superfood salad in a moodily lit vegan cafe, trying to convince myself that I could eat my way out of exhaustion via a couple of crunchy avocados and some small, dark, boomerang-shaped pulses that looked like tiny dolly droppings.

I also wondered (as I masticated my way through what felt like the entire produce of someone’s allotment) what all the beautiful young women in the restaurant, wearing worry beads around their slender ankles and gravely debating the amount of cacao in their Mexican mole sauce and the origin of their julienned radishes, would do for kicks when they got to my age.

When I was young and foolish and thought cellulite was a brand of wallpaper paste, I didn’t give a damn about health, or longevity, or the environmental tally of a Kenyan runner bean. I don’t think my generation (or at least the ones I was sharing my disco shorts with), gave a second thought to blocked arteries or the, like, really stressed honeybees.

The poise of the young

On the subject of disco shorts, where do our serene and much- better-looking-than-we-were youth get their poise? Their confidence to negotiate a raw falafel? Their technological fluency and their interesting eyebrows? And what drives these elegantly lovely young people – who, let’s face it, have their whole lives ahead of them – to pick at a plate of green rice, to eschew the burger bar and rush headlong into the arms of an aduki bean?

I was part of a theatre company when I was in my 20s. We lived on beer and hope and a stipend that the government bequeathed us instead of the dole. On Fridays – payday, apparently – we staggered back to rehearsal for the afternoon like gout-happy kings, stamping out our fags on Baggot Street Bridge after platefuls of liver’n’chips’n’mushy peas in a cafe with nicotine-yellow walls and windows running with condensation, whose peroxide- perfumed air sealed in our heady dreams of instant fame and indiscriminate fortune.

Back at the vegan cafe, halfway through a head of cauliflower, I was thinking that this brave new world we have now makes it damn hard to be slovenly, to be interestingly seedy. It makes it hard to realise the kind of swaggering boardwalk glamour and indolence I aspired to back in the day when eyeliner was made of asbestos and boyfriends were made of sweat and stones.

World on our shoulders
And yes, they were muddled, self- conscious, awkward days, nervous times of yearning when we carried our tiny, terrifying worlds of haphazard sex and smoke rings, of mad love that burned like lava, around on our very small shoulders inside of our very big shoulder pads. But at least we weren’t doing it carb free.

Now you would practically need to remortgage to buy a packet a fags. We educate our children, the fruit of our molten loins, to get jobs in laboratories and market gardens and glass arks adrift on information clouds. And they come home, in raincoats made of recycled plastic milk bottles, heralding their pescetarianism and the unwelcome news that one innocent little glass of plonk has the same calorific value as a fatted calf.

I’m envious of them, I suppose. Envious and scared. But I do hope, for all our children, that the ribbon of their clear-eyed lives unravels gloriously.

Meanwhile, back in fiftysomething land, the Government wants us to run around like a bunch of bleached-out Teletubbies until our national weight is reduced by 5 per cent. Time, then, to get ready for yet another summer of mashed-potato-coloured Irish legs sheathed in puce and black German supermarket Lycra clashing with the country’s hedgerows.

No wonder the corncrake is facing extinction.

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