Hilary Fannin: I become uneasy as health moves up the agenda

I can’t stand photos of smiley middle-aged enthusiasts with exclamation marks tagged on to their testimonials telling me that the path to enlightenment lies in sprinkling a zinc supplement on my organic granola

Me time: a gap in the schedule when you’re not snorkelling in the laundry basket or using all your fingers and toes to calculate your word count. Photograph: Thinkstock

Me time: a gap in the schedule when you’re not snorkelling in the laundry basket or using all your fingers and toes to calculate your word count. Photograph: Thinkstock

 

I was buying myself a takeaway coffee in a suburban cafe. It’s a pretty funky little establishment actually, one of those places where you drink out of recycled jam jars and study the artily arranged dreamcatchers while they heat up your organic pecan pie over a brace of tea lights.

With 15 minutes or so to spare, I was looking forward to sitting, with the coffee, in my car outside the school gates, watching the lacerating rain. I think it’s what they call “me time”; you know, a gap in the schedule, when you’re not snorkelling in the laundry basket or using all your fingers and toes to calculate your word count.

I was reminded of the concept of me-time recently when, in pursuit of information about a face cream that is, apparently, so freaking efficacious it makes you look like you’ve been to an embalmer, I came across a website offering helpful tips on the subject.

The website, aimed at those of us who think that a smattering of goat’s bladder, suspended in lanolin, is going to make us look like Shirley shagging Temple, was written in a jauntily conspiratorial tone. “It’s all about maintaining a good sense of self,” it said. “If you don’t have ‘me time’, you can get resentful and feel like a dogsbody.”

The word dogsbody hit a nerve. I’ve long believed (well, ever since reading Thurber actually) that people end up looking like their dogs. I don’t have a dog, but if I did, I suspect it would be one of those jowly ones whose many chins fall in slow ripples, like velvet curtains, at the end of the show.

 

Impressionistic digest

Here is an impressionistic digest of the wisdom to be culled from a me-time search:

“Kickboxer, dominatrix, mother-of-seven Prunejuicia Spinachi, says, ‘Me time means I’m a really valuable person, and that I’m worth taking care of’.”

“ ‘Lose yourself in me time. Fascinate yourself,’ urges Hillwalkia O’Retirement, a benign chap renowned for his cushion soles, genial wit and nimble rabbit-skinning.

“ ‘Whatever it is you feel you want to do, do it. It’s your me time!’ insists Slimcea McFriendly.

There are all sorts of MT activities suggested on these sites: yoga, walking, quilting, sushi-making, consensual flogging (oh, all right, that one’s a downright lie).

So anyway, if a lavender bath and and a weekly downward dog works as a kind of sanity popsicle for people who are overstretched and exhausted, that’s cool, I’m all for it. I’m just suspicious of relentless positivity.

I can’t stand photos of smiley middle-aged enthusiasts with lots of exclamation marks tagged on to their testimonials telling me that the path to enlightenment lies in sprinkling a zinc supplement on my organic granola.

 

Health and wellbeing

As health and wellbeing move relentlessly up the agenda, replacing house-price conversations over the carb-lite dinner table, I become increasingly uneasy. Like singalongs and book clubs, it all feels a little too communal for comfort. (And yes, I know how much everyone loves their book clubs. I’d like to be a person who would like that kind of thing. But a plate of devilled eggs and seven other opinions on what you’re reading – one of which just might contain a neatly sewn-in anecdote about a zany trip yurting in Newfoundland – is not my idea of fun.)

Back in the funky cafe, the assistant with the tunnel earring and the hieroglyphics on his fragile neck had obviously flown to Nicaragua for the fair-trade coffee beans that he was now grinding to a pulp underneath his nine-hole Doc Marten’s, because my 15 minutes of me-time had turned into 20 minutes of waiting-for-a-coffee time.

There was a little boy at one of the cafe tables being extremely conversational with his mother, a pleasant-looking woman who was attempting to stay awake in the drowsy afternoon gloom. The boy was loud and straightforward and very busy rearranging the unrefined sugar sachets.

“Is this the past or the future?” he asked, testing the potential velocity of a teaspoon.

“This is the present,” his mother replied gamely.

“Is it?” He seemed genuinely stunned. “I don’t really know the present.”

I don’t really know the present either. I’d just spent 20 minutes fretting about where I wasn’t, how long I had left to get where I was going, what I’d manage to do when I got back, mentally juggling dinner-making and deadlines and all the endless domestic/professional rest of it, dully familiar to so many of us.

So the me-time got eaten up, but the pecan pie was worth the wait.

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