The Daily Telegraph - The Telegraph Magazine
Uber men (and other anxieties)
YOU’D THINK BY NOW, seasoned as we are, that we would have grown out of nerves. That we’d be all polished and tooled-up enough to give ourselves a talking to. Well, we had to give a speech yesterday and, as we stood in the wings of the lecture theatre, we developed a perfectly pathetic array of symptoms.
Emilie acquired a sore throat and a swollen gland – just the one. Annabel’s shoulder rose and rose and rose until it felt as though it was attached to her earlobe. And we both started cartoon sweating in our smart, new polyester frocks. Once we got on stage, Emilie began to compulsively rock – we can only suppose as a kind of unsubtle gesture towards self-soothing – while Annabel became wild-eyed. Glary. As soon as it was over, Emilie developed comedy shakes and Annabel went all floppy.
All in all it went rather well, and the audience claimed not to notice the nervous theatrics, but next time we’ll be banging the beta blockers. Because nerves, in themselves, are an ordeal. Sure we need a few to get the adrenalin pumping and optimise performance, but they hurt. They make your heart sore and your solar plexus tight. They make you doubt and twitch and itch and they do something very weird to your voice: all reedy and thin. So you try to counteract that and it goes all growly and monotone. Public speaking is always a Petri dish for nerves, but everyday life serves up its own doses of tension, day by day by day…
He’ll hit a nerve, yes he will. Your body is aflame with anticipation of the total surrendering of all power, the prospect of terrible pain and a vast bill. Every instinct is to run and never, ever return. Perhaps get on a plane and go into hiding and assume a new identity so that the dentist can never find you. But you don’t. You just go limp and a bit teary and he doesn’t hit a nerve. Probably not.
The unchanging departures board is fine as long as you never rip your eyeballs from it, lest it display ‘cancelled’ or ‘boarding’. You must be the first to know or you might die. The shrieking of the take-off is fine; that howling, screaming sound means that everything is OK. The rumbling and crashing of the wheels is fine. The jolting turbulence is fine. The storm is also absolutely fine. It is only when the engine is turned off at the end of the f ight that you realise you have been clenching for hours.
You will probably not be murdered. You will probably get home in a timely fashion and also alive. You sit bolt upright and track the route while sending texts to people with the registration number and driver description. Not that those will help you once you… good lord… is that a box of latex gloves on the passenger seat? Oh, actually, it’s tissues. Could you have one please? You seem to have developed nervous sniffles.
NO LOCK ON THE LOO DOOR
Pee, pee, pee, pee, pee faster. God forbid you should be wearing a jumpsuit because then you’re fully naked and can you just balance one heel against the door without… oh. Turns out that, no. You can’t. Oops. But the moment when you’re done and washing your hands and it no longer matters if someone barges in, is really rather floaty.
ARRIVING SOMEWHERE YOU KNOW YOUR EX WILL BE
You’re over them. No one has ever been more over anyone. But how will you be and how do you look and do you look old and how will they be and should you be nice or should you be glacial and this is appalling but what if they’re not there? After all this? What then?
HOLDING A BABY
It’s going to see into my soul, isn’t it? It’s going to see the rot and the horror – the savage on the inside – and then it will cry and cry and cry and it will hate me and everyone will know.
ANSWERING THE PHONE
Who rings nowadays? It must be death calling… themidult.com
Is that a box of latex gloves on the passenger seat? Oh, actually, it’s tissues