‘Get through your 50s in good shape and you could well live to be 90’

Hilary Fannin: What age are you, the nurse asks. ‘59? You’ve almost made it through sniper alley’

‘I sat for a long time in the waiting room of a city-centre hospital recently.’ Photograph: iStock

‘I sat for a long time in the waiting room of a city-centre hospital recently.’ Photograph: iStock

 

I sat for a long time in the waiting room of a Dublin hospital recently, watching the comings and goings of post(ish)-pandemic outpatients as they dealt cautiously with health issues that may have been put on the long finger over the past 16 months or so.  

Finding it tough to concentrate on my book (an introspective novel exploring the jagged shoreline of contemporary sexuality), I alternated instead between scrolling on my phone and watching a parade of frail elderly women in thick cardigans as they were pushed up and down the corridors. 

Listing slightly in her metallic vehicle, one of the women was pushed into the waiting room, where she looked doggedly into the distance, with watery blue eyes, at a future yet to be revealed, it seemed to me, to those of us who still confidently expect to exert some control over the days to come. 

‘Ten days to being your Best Possible You!’ the article on my phone proclaimed. I scrolled down, wading through hyperbole, quasi-science and social-media witch-doctoring, until my head spun

“Ten days to being your Best Possible You!” the article on my phone proclaimed. I scrolled down, wading through hyperbole, quasi-science and social-media witch-doctoring, until my head spun.   

Looking up, I saw the elderly woman, moored in her chair at the requisite social distance, glancing from her appointment card to the clock on the wall and back again. In deference to her already palpable anxiety, I desisted from hurling my phone against the wall. 

Yep, I mused, sitting back in my plastic chair and looking at the ceiling, I’m a long long way from claiming my “BPY” certificate. “Your what?” I hear you growl through your rapid-action teeth-whitening strips. One’s Best Possible You is a manufactured state of grace, presumably invented by a marketing department somewhere, probably in order to shift a backlog of unscented depilatory creams. 

An illusory physical, cosmetic and emotional nirvana, your Best Possible You is a spot on the personal-perfection map that masquerades as happiness. It is a destination sold largely, it seems to me, to women of a certain age toiling in the menopausal trenches and already dodging merchandising cannonballs for super-absorbent slimming knickers and health and beauty therapies.

It’s easy to tell if you’re currently being your Best Possible You. Are you, for example, as light as a feather with energy to burn? 

No, I… 

Have you eliminated your “belly bulge”, conquered your annoying cravings, become clear-thinking and self-confident? 

Ehhh, I… 

Are you in possession of a libido that out-sparkles Liberace’s candlesticks? 

I, em… 

Are you carefree, happy and feeling and looking younger than you have in years? 

Not dead sure, I…

And finally, can you honestly, wholeheartedly tell me that you are “rocking your smoking hot self down the catwalk of life”? 

Eh, that would be a no, actually.

Slip into a calming bath of goat’s milk generously infused with merman effluvium to check on the progress of your cryptocurrency investments. Then phone your mother (if you have one)

Here, then, roughly, are some of the conclusions I garnered on how to become your BPY, while waiting for my blood-test results in a room full of silent people staring at the slow progression of the clock hands on the wall.

Hop out of bed, knock back a handful of goji berries and some liquidised greenery, run fast around the park telling yourself you’re a winner, then jog home and practise a bit of gratitude while gargling with newt juice in the accommodating arms of a three-nippled vestal virgin. And meanwhile, don’t forget to send positive affirmations to the people in your life who’ve thwarted you. 

That done, slip into a calming bath of goat’s milk generously infused with merman effluvium to check on the progress of your cryptocurrency investments. Then phone your mother (if you have one). After that, it’s time to get down to the serious work of assembling a “feel-good crew”, a support base of key cheerleaders who are “major and credible validators of you!”. These positive, life-affirming folk are the ones you know who see the you in you that you alone can be – you know?

“What age are you?” the nurse who took my bloods had asked.

“Fifty-nine.”

“Great. You’ve almost made it through sniper alley.”

“Is that a thing?”

“Maybe,” she said. “Get through your 50s in good shape and you could well live to be 90.”

Back in the waiting room, the receptionist, a beautiful young woman with startling white teeth, long pearly fingernails, mathematically precise eyebrows and jet-black eyelashes caterpillaring her lovely brown eyes, came out from behind her desk to assist the elegant elderly patient, shrouded in a pink cardigan, through to the doctor’s office. 

“Thank you,” the older woman whispered, her veined hand reaching out to touch the receptionist’s sun-kissed skin, a fleeting moment of actual physical connection that probably counts as a small misdemeanour in these relentless times.

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