Husband moan you’re always late? Here’s why it’s NOT your fault
POSING for her wedding photos, Claire Cox suddenly became aware of a chill breeze blowing up her back. Shivering, she reached round to check what was going on, only to discover that her dress was gaping open to the elements. She’d been running so late for her wedding last month, she’d literally run out of time to fasten her dress properly. Now the zip had worked its way undone and her strapless gown was threatening to burst open.
‘I was mortified,’ says Claire, 40. ‘I made my excuses then dashed back inside the hotel where my auntie managed to zip me again. But even securely fastened, I’d become so flustered that I felt clammy and stressed.
‘Worst of all. I had no excuse and no one to blame but myself. My husband Johnathan and I had married in a local hotel and the registrar had drummed it into me for months that I needed to be on time, as she had other weddings.
‘I promised myself I’d glide serenely up the aisle. Instead, I arrived half-dressed, stressed, sweaty and riddled with guilt because I’d let everyone down — again.’
Sadly, Claire’s appearance wasn’t the only thing that suffered on her wedding day. She arrived ten minutes late to find her poor fiance biting his lip in nervous dread that she’d changed her mind.
The video photographer — a family friend — spent the ceremony twiddling his thumbs unable to capture a single precious moment. In her blind panic as she’d rushed to get ready, Claire had forgotten to bring the vital video card he needed to film the proceedings.
Of course, as a busy mother to three children — the youngest of whom is just four months old — Claire’s not unusual in finding punctuality a problem. But is there more to her pathological lousy time-keeping than that?
Some experts are going as far as to suggest that, if you’re someone who can’t be on time however hard you try, you may have a deep-seated psychological problem. Chronic tardiness, they suggest, may actually be a mental illness.
Sufferers are late so predictably and so spectacularly, wreaking havoc on their own lives and those around them, it’s almost a form of self- sabotage. These women arrive everywhere late and in a flurry of excuses. Yet, however guilty they feel, they find it impossible to change.
‘When you can’t even be on time for an important event like your wedding, it suggests a problem,’ says consultant psychiatrist Dr Lars Davidsson, of the Anglo european Clinic in London. ‘ We all occasionally do things that aren’t in our best interests. But being chronically late and beating yourself up about it suggests a neurosis — or mild mental illness.
‘For example, if your father was a stickler for punctuality, you may have been so desperate to please him that it left you panicking about being late and consequently incapable of being on time. Or his obsession may have driven you to rebel.
‘The result is a deep- seated pattern of behaviour and for which you may need psychotherapy.’
It’s a scenario which rings true for Claire, from Pontypridd, South Wales, who is currently on maternity leave from her job as an office administrator.
Herlate father, Cliff, was obsessive about timekeeping. Add to that Claire’s inability to delegate — she was up until 1am on her wedding day finishing off table decorations — and it’s a recipe for tardiness.
‘Whenever we were going out as a family, Dad would be pacing up and down like a caged lion, threatening all sorts if we were late,’ says Claire. ‘It made me flustered and so frightened of being late that I would panic.
‘Mum was the opposite. She was a chronically bad timekeeper, too. I still cringe when I remember the humiliation of arriving for school assembly late. The double doors would swing open and Mum would push me inside, while the teachers looked daggers at me.’
Yet as much as Claire has been determined never to inflict the same pain on her children, she just can’t help herself. As she runs from one task to the next — as well as caring for a new baby, she looks after her mother, June, 82, who suffers from dementia — she gets increasingly flustered.
‘I panic that I’m late. Then I go into headless-chicken mode,’ says Clare. ‘I am always late to collect the children from school. We even arrived 30 minutes late for my daughter’s 18th birthday party dinner. She had to ring the angry restaurant manager and beg him to hold the table.’
And even though Johnathan, a 42-year- old logistics manager, is driven almost to the brink of despair by her incorrigible tardiness, she still can’t change.
‘I was 25 minutes late for our first date,’ recalls Claire. ‘Johnathan was smiling through gritted teeth. Six months in he said he loved me, but he couldn’t abide my being late.
‘I’ve promised to try to change. He’s bought me an old-fashioned diary so I can write down appointments. But the truth is as much as I hate myself, the habit’s so deep- seated I always underestimate how long things are going to take.’
Claire’s predicament is so typical of the chronically tardy that U.S. science writer Tim Urban has even coined a term: CLIP (Chronically Late Insane People.) Tim, who suffers from poor timekeeping himself, believes that lateness is so destructive, it’s a mental illness.
He explains: ‘CLIPs have a bizarre compulsion to defeat themselves — some deep inner drive to inexplicably miss the beginning of movies, endure psychotic stress running to catch the train, crush their reputation at work etc. As much as they hurt others, they hurt themselves more.’
raised by a mother who always arrived late, Tim can’t stop himself repeating the same pattern. ‘I’ve been a CLIP my whole life,’ he admits. ‘I’ve made friends mad at me. I’ve embarrassed myself again and again, and I’ve run cumulative marathons through airport terminals.’
According to Tim, although CLIPs are ‘insane’, sufferers often have trouble understanding how time works and underestimate how long tasks take.
Psychologists suspect that this inability to keep track of time originates in the same part of the brain that affects sufferers from ADHD ( Attention- Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.)
Dr Davidsson says ‘Time is an abstract concept. So if you struggle to gauge how long a task will take or how much time it takes to get somewhere, you may want to look into whether you have ADHD.’
The sensation of time disappearing on her is all too familiar to Kirstin Bell. She has been known to miss flights because she was still packing her suitcase as the taxi driver arrived.
Kirstin, 41, a university administrator, who lives in Bradford with her husband, Michael, 50, an engineer and their son, Thomas, eight, says: ‘I’ve recently been diagnosed with mild dyslexia. One reason why I suspected I might have a problem is that I’m so very bad at timekeeping,’ she says.
Luckily, Kirstin works flexi-time, which means her timekeeping doesn’t inconvenience her employers. ‘But I see Thomas’s little face when he’s the last one in the playground and my heart breaks. How often can I keep telling him that I’ve been kept at work when the truth is that I make myself late?’
In fact, Kirstin is convinced that, beyond her hazy concept of time, this is the fundamental reason why she’s always late.
Irrational as it may sound, she admits getting a kick out of being late. ‘I’m addicted to the adrenalin rush,’ she says.
HOW TO TACKLE YOUR TARDY HABIT
Be HONeST about how long things take. Latecomers tend to remember only the time it took them five minutes to reach the supermarket and forget the 99 times it took twice as long. Write down your daily habits. estimate how long you think you spend on them then how long they actually take.
reMeMBer, being early doesn’t have to be a waste of time. early birds can be much more productive as they don’t waste energy in panic.
GeT out of the mindset of thinking your time is better spent racing around rather than arriving early, cool and calm. List all the useful tasks you can do as you’re waiting.
rOUND up, not down. Timely people tend to round up how long things take. So they will allow 30 minutes for a 23- minute car journey. Late people calculate to the split- second, making for hair-raising journeys.
PUT yourself on alert for events. Programme your phone to alert you to forthcoming appointments, say with a countdown from 60 minutes, so you have time to prepare. Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures For The Punctually Challenged by Diana Delonzor, £7.60,