As I approach the end of my 42nd year on earth it feels important to take a little stock and assess how life has treated me. Or maybe a better angle would be how I’ve treated myself. Given recent events and revelations, as well as accompanying thoughts and conversations of the deepest treacle black, it hasn’t escaped me that as you start drifting through the 40’s the wedding invites begin to dwindle and you’re left thinking about who’s going to go first. And then who’s going to go next. At some point I suppose it’ll be me, so I’d better get a move on. Did you hear about the Dutch girl with inflatable shoes? She popped her clogs.
I don’t like touching feet, including my own. The foot fetish club will never count me as a member. Regardless, my feet have served me well over the years and are by and large still in good shape. The Achilles heel is in fact the Achilles little toe on my left side which started to falter during our proposal holiday in Barbados, several years ago. Tropical heat and dangerous quantities of cheap rum seemed to bind together to turn the toenail into a mangled, mutant alternative and I have long accepted that there is no path back to normality.
My legs can still endure plenty of hot treadmill action though the days of road running are now pretty minimal. Fortunately my pins are lean and muscular, the downside to which is that my upper body will always look less so as a result. The occasional knee wince can be forgiven but less appealing is the abundance of thread veins around my ankles, a hereditary hand-me- down which makes the wearing of shorts in the summer something of a double edged sword. With the exception of my face and hands my skin is a geisha like off-white. But somehow in an unhealthy way. I rarely tan and when I do it is purely accidental. My waist is still a reasonable 32 inches but with short legs this makes finding the perfect pair of jeans nigh impossible. The slings and arrow one must suffer.
Let’s head up a bit. On a good day and with 72 hours of abstinence and exercise behind me my torso, for nearly 42, is really nothing to be ashamed of. My ‘love handles’ are hardly disguised but neither does my upper body resemble a clumsily prepared muffin. My belly looks worse from above than from in front and my belly button is the source of a peculiar brand of pride. They say a good sign that a man is too fat is when he can’t see his own willy in the mirror. I have yet to get to such a stage and my self-conscience would never allow it anyway.
My shoulders are slight and feeble and despite endless effort with weights and other resources my arms always look disproportionately thin. It is the area of my body I would most like to beef up but genetics suggest this will never happen unless I hit the steroids and protein shakes. Which I will not. My arse is also almost non-existent, to the extent that cycling and rowing quickly become too uncomfortable without extra padding, and that would be absurd. My hands, tools of so many vital trades, are perfectly fine but my nails have been bitten to buggery over the years, a nervous outlet from my childhood and one which I suspect I will carry to my burning coffin.
Worse is found within however. Years of being fussy and indulgent and having a limited level of will power have left my innards in a fluctuating state of despair, disrepair and confusion. I’m not one to do half measures so my system is treated to frequent spells of stupidity followed by self-pitying detox. I’m afraid it must be some undiagnosed chemical imbalance in my brain. And stupidity. I hope my liver, kidneys, lungs, stomach and all the rest know that it’s nothing personal.
Moving further up we reach a mouth, the portal for so much rubbish in both directions, which is home to a bottom middle run of crap teeth. The dentist cheerfully told me I could wear a retainer and straighten them out, possibly making me irresistible to women in the process, but then added this would cost roughly £2,500. The conversation stopped. My top lip is frustratingly thin but my nose compensates by being almost perfect (though the increase in protruding hairs may become a serious problem for my vanity). My eyes are my eyes and you can’t have them and my ears are slightly ‘juggy’, but I’m not the BFG just yet. I now appreciate that I will never, ever be able to grow a full Brian Blessed beard and this used to fill me with sorrow. That said these days anyone with a full beard only needs to get splattered with tattoos, put on a vest and hey presto: they look like a prick in the gym.
Male pattern baldness has been most unkind and I am now significantly balder than my father. As a result I have my head clippered roughly once a month on the 0.5 setting. With my contact lenses in and fresh from the barbers I often convince myself that I could almost look a bit ‘hard’. I have yet to encounter anyone who shares this opinion. Also worthy of note is the shape of my skull, which through follicular deficiency is exposed to be bulbous (my hat size is ridiculously big) as if it is a cranial mothership patiently waiting for a much larger brain than the one I currently possess. I could always use the cavernous space for keeping loose change.
So, nearly 42 and things could be worse. They could also be better. The impact of my silly lifestyle choices have always been in hot pursuit but these days they cling to my (veiny) ankles. I feel things I never felt before and they send messages to my head which tell me to be melancholy and fearful. But what is there really to be fearful of? We flop out, grow up, die and turn to dust. We can’t all be game changers and rule makers and we must also remember that the human body can take quite an alarming amount of shit. I was lucky to have been born healthy and raised happy. Even on bad days my life is at least OK. And I bet not everyone can say that.
G B Hewitt. 04.05.2018