Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Adulthood audit

So I have been forty two for a while now. The big stuff is as ever: I have nothing you could realistically call a career and not a whisper of a pension, except whatever it is I pay €360 a quarter to some emanation of the Belgian state for (unknown, but it says "pension" on it, I can't see this translating into regular aperitifs with a small dog on my lap in the bar of my choice in 30 years, but I live in hope).

I had a book published which in some secret part of my soul I thought would change my life, but it did not do so in any way other than to make me even more grateful for my kind friends who bought it and reassured me it wasn't totally shit and pointless. Also, it didn't change my life for the worse which might have been the case, so I'm basically ok with it all.

I have played some role in ensuring my children are still alive and in possession of a full complement of limbs, though apparently not the ability to leave their socks anywhere other than on the table. Hillary the Hen has escaped from every prison I have devised for her and the dog still hates me. Bilan mitigé, as they say in French.

What, then, of the small stuff?

Adult behaviour

I think I now have a “signature style”, of sorts. Basically, it involves dressing like a 40+ heterosexual man. Shirt, usually. Jumper, always (today I received my newest purchase which is an actual man's jumper, black, fine gauge cashmere and it is the plainest, most perfect thing in the world). Jeans/plain comfortable trousers. Trainers/flat shoes. The end. I also have a 40+ heterosexual man’s grooming regime, ie. no grooming whatsoever, beyond basic hygiene necessities. My skin looks exactly the same as it did when caressed lovingly with snake oil unguents 2 x daily. I don’t really know what to think of this.

Also (this cannot be included under "style") I own a high performance, expensive waterproof garment and wear it with pride in appropriate circumstances, which are numerous in Belgium.

Exception to grooming, above: I also have a "signature scent": Frédéric Malle Portrait of Lady (crème de corps, not actual scent) in winter, Terre d'Hermès Eau Très Fraîche in summer.

I indulge in regular non-disastrous baking, including with yeast. For instance, I made salted caramel brownies yesterday. God knows why, I have an exam on Thursday and a limited grasp of how to use passive sentence forms in Dutch, there were clearly better things I could have been doing. The recipe was stupid but they tasted ok. You can’t really go wrong with that much fat and sugar.

I always have the following in the house: scissors (5 pairs, 3 large, 2 small), envelopes of three different sizes, a selection of greetings cards, both European and Belgian stamps (my stamp profligacy is legendary), packets of tissues, dog shit bags, nail clippers.

I know where all the important paperwork (passports, birth certificates, health insurance docs) is and I’m not telling anyone else in case they move it.

I go to the dentist regularly (only because of a recurrent stain on one of my front teeth that needs to be removed at least once a year to avoid descent into Shane McGowan territory, but nevertheless, I'm adding it to the positives list).

Haven't lost a mobile phone for 2.5 years and a wallet for 4.

Learnt how to darn properly.

Non-adult behaviour

Have not applied darning skills to any of my mothbastard eaten jumpers since learning, instead preferring to just put them in the freezer and hope for the best, removing as required to wear,  avec holes.

There is something in a small dish covered with silver foil in the door of our fridge that has been there for, ooh, at least six months and I am too scared to look inside. I will probably end up just throwing the dish out without taking the tinfoil off.

This post-it note has been on the landing for months:

(isn't that wallpaper good though. It wasn't even very dear)

These are the Christmas decorations in the corner of the sitting room and I have lost the will to do anything about them. Whatever. *limp shrug*

We still eat off robot motif melamine plates dating from our gigantic children’s infancy.

House still smells of fish, from the time I accidentally melted a fish oil capsule on our toaster approx a month ago.

Home first aid kit/pharmacy consists of following: 800000 Nurofen, 18 long-expired French remedies for long-forgotten gastric ailments, some dried up worming syrup, my tiny, beloved, extremely well-hidden stash of Xanax dating from my summer 2015 mental health crisis and a bottle of Reptoboost (tortoise vitamins).

Still only cook 6 things (pasta with peas, spring onions and lardons, pork fillet with mustard and pilau rice, dhal, pasta with béchamel and spinach, pasta bolognese, old el paso). 3 takeaways a week, every week.

I would still far rather my life partner intuit my needs and desires from tiny body language cues, passive aggression and talking to him inside my head rather than actually expressing said needs/desires out loud. Obviously.

3 years late getting a mammogram.

Repeatedly overdrawn. Only consult online banking in extremis. All non-interesting post still sits in pile at bottom of attic stairs until I get angry or anxious and hide it in my desk drawer.

Signed up for some kind of stupid heating insurance thing last month because the woman kept calling and I couldn't work out how to say no.

Still using the same towels that were pensioned out of my dad’s holiday cottage business as too worn in 1997.

Found out I was paying for a safe deposit box (don’t ask) unused since 2008 last week.

How are you doing, adulthood-wise? What do you consider your greatest adulting achievements and failures? 


Robin said...

I read your book over the holiday and loved it! Congrats on a job well done.

Adulting for me goes well in some respects and miserably in others; I manage to keep alive three small kids and make from-scratch meals without recipes for dinner every night; but I have no career to speak of besides a PhD that sometimes feels more like a liability than an asset. I can't keep my house clean and put off stupid tasks for no reason, but I have a few useful hobbies. It all seems like things sort of cancel each other out, but that's not how life works, now is it.

Unknown said...

I have no career and despite proclaiming myself a feminist, am dependent on husband. Not done much about applying for British citizenship, so might be deported to country of birth, which I left 13 years ago, to live with ageing parents in their one bedroom flat in the sticks, or join the homeless currently freezing in -20C.
On the plus side, son alive and very tall, both dogs adore me, but that's to do with their breeds. Started volunteering and it is pretty rewarding. Learnt to use a fancy Italian coffee machine. Still unable to master 'latte art'.

O/T - very pleased you like Home Cooking so much you reread it.

Anonymous said...

I moved a pile of papers relating to a potential tax rebate from 2015 and my old work pension earlier today, from the top of a chest of drawers in the living room where they have been sitting for at least five months, to a clear plastic wallet inside one of the drawers. I still haven't done anything to try to obtain the tax rebate or do whatever the hell I'm supposed to do about the pension fund, yet I'm still counting this as a victory in terms of doing paperwork.

CJ said...

Are you SURE there's nothing in the safe deposit box? Forgotten diamond tiara or a brick of fifty pounds notes? You would think there would be something. You can count all the baking as cooking as well I think. I dream of a day where I just eat six puddings instead of a tedious nutritionally balanced evening meal. Well done on keeping the children going. No small triumph in my experience. Anything interesting on that Post-It?

Anonymous said...

Well, I went for my smear last week (all clear) and am now pretending to attend to my tax self-assessment while my fella does some genuine work in the other room (he is doing actual work if the tears and swearing are to be believed). (Wait, is pretending to do my tax a grownup thing or the actual opposite?)

On the other hand I have completely handed over the task of walking the dogs to a dog walker because I have given in to anxiety/agoraphobia and am having a massive swoon about it. I have at last count three, maybe four, huge baskets of clean washing that need to be put away and I have been unbudging on this matter for at least two months so am dressing myself out of the baskets. I've shaved a bit of the side of my head too, just to jumpstart some kind of youthful energy and/or not-giving-a-fuckness. Oh, and a friend of 35+ years has unfriended me on Facebook. All pretty juvenile stuff.

For what it's worth I *loved* the book and read it three times in a row, turning right back to the front as soon as I finished. It is moving and beautifully written and I hope one day you can be very proud of how outstanding it is.

Anonymous said...

Ive never commented on a blog before, but I've read your blog faithfully for awhile, so asked for your book for Christmas and loved it. I adore how honest and transparent you are, and your opening up about problems makes me feel better, somehow, with mine. Life IS hard at times... well, usually. That's why a sense of humor is critical, and yours is infectious. I hate it when you take days and days between posts. And most importantly... WHAT is on that post-it note?!

Anonymous said...

Achievement: When I see a half-dried holly berry from Christmas on the carpet I kick it onto the wood floor so as not to leave a stain when I inevitably step on it.

Not-achievement: I already can't remember what you called this category and I feel a grown-up probably would have seen this project through with a bit more diligence.

Anonymous said...

I do adult quite well on the outside, that is, keep three not-so-young kids, some dogs and some chickens (all named Hillary too) alive and well (mostly), ..go to a job I like where I do a good work except in one area which I hate and do poorly, so try to hide that from co-workers. I live in dread of being found out.

I try to make decent home cooked meals but it is a struggle, I try to do the right thing, I try to be open to ppl with different views (this has been v difficult, lately), I try to be good to the planet, I try not to drive too fast, I try not to curse too much...however, my best adulting is found in my ability to let our house go to shit while spending every last dollar have traveling the world! !!!!

I'm not ur friend and loved ur book so take that

Anonymous said...

Reading this post & comments, suddenly realised 'oh fuck tax!'. Due to be filed by end October 2016, forgot all about it... But I'm only 39, so guess I have a few years to go before peak non-adult-ness? In other words, right there with you.

Anonymous said...

Dear Waffle,
Yesterday was about the worst day in the last year, I think. Having been too busy to issue invoices in several weeks and with the tax deadline looming, I had to make time to do several invoices (the nature of my work means this a very slow and monotonous task), while at the same time fielding e-mails from my accountant, who was (impatiently) waiting to file the tax returns I pay him to do, and the bank manager, who was (also impatiently) trying to set up a loan to cover said taxes until the invoices are actually paid without my going bankrupt in the meantime. This was interspersed with urgent work requests from various clients, who seemed to have agreed that yesterday would be a good idea for all of them to need the impossible at the same time. After about seven hours of sheer hell, I managed to get a figure for the taxes, so eye-wateringly high that it made me question why I even bother to stay in business or what the point is any more. All this pressure and stress meant I wasn't a very nice person to be around and ended up snapping like a rabid dog every time my partner dared to say anything at all, basically. Throw in a little bit of probably well-meant mansplaining about improving time management, a raging row ensued and it was not good. Shortly after that we got a call from a close relative abroad, who was in the midst of - yet another very worrying - mental health episode and needed urgent care. That put the petty row into perspective very quickly and we had to rally and arrange support and care from afar. I then proceeded to spend the remainder of the day on the phone waiting for the storm to pass, so to speak, while trying to offer some semblance of comfort and reassurance, fighting back tears and putting on a brave voice. This meant I missed several work deadlines in the evening and received several e-mails demanding to know when I would be able to deliver. I'm going to have to chase after all of that backlog today. Of course my kid also came home from school in the middle of all of this, needing to be fed (yet another plate of 4-minute ravioli, I'm sorry, darling, it's been a very stressful day and I haven't been able to cook a proper meal) and cared for and to offload her own - very legitimate - worries about exams that haven't gone so well, etc. More putting on a brave voice, reassuring her that she is so much more than her exam scores, that I know she is trying hard, pretending to be OK and in control and to shelter her from the shitstorm of the day so that she could unwind from her own pressures.
All in all, it was a day straight out of hell. I am praying that today is somewhat better. The e-mails will start up again soon and I will be expected to deliver the impossible under pressure. I will probably soldier on through and get shit done, but I'm completely and utterly exhausted and running on empty at this point. Sometimes life is very hard. I'm sorry to be so miserable. Mundane things like making the bed, putting dishes for washing and rounding up stray socks and clothes for washing have helped a bit so far. I might put on some music and have another cup of tea. Might be a good place to start.
To everyone out there struggling: let's just keep going, one step at a time. Better times have to be up ahead.

Rosie said...

I am expanding my cooking repertoire (not a stretch from chips, eggs and peas and things on toast) and have thus far successfully made shepherd's pie and chilli. I plan to tackle a moussaka on Saturday. I am very aware that all of these recipes are pretty much the same: Quorn mince, onions, complementary herbs and spices - but am nonetheless feeling smug.

just curious said...

I too have had books published with anticlimactic results, although I do get occasional small checks from the publisher; they're translated into Spanish or put into an electronic format and I'm only told afterwards. I am so offended by the Trump presidency, i'm applying for Hungarian citizenship, for which i am eligible, but I have to speak intermediate Hungarian. Like you learning Dutch, it is a challenging language (but very beautiful), and my daughter and i will have EU passports when I get over all the hurdles. But it's easy to find other things to do when faced with conjugating irregular verbs . . . We have also left the box of Christmas decorations in a corner of the room until July or so. Why put then away when we'll just have to take them back out again? Time goes fast when you get older.

carolinefo said...


everything you write delights me, but - and this is a Very Big But - I was most distressed
so see that you have put off having a mammogram for three years.

I did that, too, and you will remember how that worked out for me.

If I'd had the mammogram, they would have found the lump before it was big enough for me to find it myself.
And before it was big enough to send one tiny, tiny micro-metastasis into my
sentinel lymph node, which meant that I had to have chemo as well as a lumpectomy and radiotherapy.

Chemo is TORTURE.

I still have nightmares about chemo, three years after it finished. And my whole body goes into a kind of reflexive giant retch whenever I hear chemo mentioned, or see a picture
of someone wearing the pink hair-freezing helmet, or sitting there with a tube in their arm as they pump the poison in.

I'm not sure this will ever go away - it's a very strong physical reaction over which I have no control.

Now they give me a mammogram every year - it's next week, as it happens.
It's not much fun having your tits clamped inside a giant vertical sandwich toaster, but it's a great deal more fun than having chemo.

Sorry to sound like the spectre at the feast, but I cannot urge you strongly enough to go for your mammograms, Emma and everyone who reads this.

I can't be a Good Example, but let me be a Terrible Warning..

Waffle said...

Cfo - Oh lord, you are of course right. I'm not even scared or worried about it, just disorganised/admin fearful. They just don't tell you what to DO here, the gyne gives you a slip of paper and says "get a mammogram" and doesn't tell you where to go or what to do, but I WILL DO IT. Consider me shamed into action.

Anonymous said...

Call Cavell and ask for the mamo department and make an appointment. Only requirement is pink slip from the gyne which I think has to be no older than 6 months but I could be wrong on that.

Maisie Middleton said...

Waffle, I salute you and offer up for your delight and delectation:

- expenses logging still outstanding for the whole of this financial year to date

- 7 Christmas cards written in Dec but still unposted

- Reception age daughter's school shoes polished today for the first time since October half term hols

- personal paperwork tubs (multiple, large laundry basket sized) awaiting sorting and filing, dating back to 2012 (when aforementioned daughter was born)

- large Sack of Things to take to the charity shop, gathered together in a whirl after watching the Minimalism documentary. Still in the hallway three weeks on. The charity shop is 60sec walk from my daughter's school

However, I have recently discovered that I can in fact organise a piss up in a brewery and I made myself a bullet journal in November which I still use with great joy. I also got my smear done and booked dental appointments for the whole family. Daughter is still alive, very huggy and revels in my ability to make poo and fart jokes (my assessment) and really quite smart/thriving (according to school).

I think I'm doing okay on balance. As are you. Let us eat cheese and flan and rejoice!

Maisie Middleton said...

The cheese and flan must be eaten separately. OBVIOUSLY.

Maisie Middleton said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one with the washing basket wardrobe habit. We should make it a thing on Pinterest... anyone any good at cutesy graphics for photos?

frau antje said...

Yeah, get the mammogram. My 47 year old wife was diagnosed with breast cancer last Spring. One of my best friends is an oncology nurse who grew up in Cheshire, she said, "You're in it for the long haul." It has been like a destination wedding compared to a lot of cancer treatments, though chemo, surgery and radiation are all there. Just dumb luck. And of course, all in time to perhaps not even survive as a species much longer. Sorry, but I sit in front of a lot of books that detail what happens when shit goes awry. As for my adulthood? Spent with a lot of people who believe in equal rights, so, an utter total waste. Maturity? Won't lie to you, at one point I did lean out the window and respond to the typical gratuitous noise (of adults) with, "It's just chemo. You're more important!"

Also, if you want to meet some intelligent people who give you precisely zero bullshit in this neck of the advice? Get cancer.

To change the subject entirely, here's a dutch word: doodsreutel. Where I come from, it's a form of government.

Anonymous said...

As any fule kno, bilan mitigie is aktual French, and being able to sa clever things in Foreign is very grown up indeed. Molesworth 2 sa you are a swot, tho.

Anonymous said...

By all means do get the mammo - not going to argue with the sense being spoken in the comments - but my mum had both a mammo and a physical breast examination only two or three months before finding a large (8cm) tumour in her breast. (She is fine now but had to have two surgeries, radio and chemo.)

We were shocked to find out that screening didn't catch it though of course things grow, so I guess it's logical the a screen could miss stuff. Anyway, as great as it is to have screening, a clear mammo doesn't 100% exclude the presence of cancer.

Not sure why I feel the need to say this here - ? - except it was so shocking at the time I sometimes feel like it might help someone who has symptoms but might be thinking they don't need to follow up because they've recently had a clear mammo.

Tom Rayner said...

Great post, I really enjoyed reading this. Very well written

Unknown said...

I always feel very grown up driving to the airport to meet friends flying in. (Please have your mammogram.) Cx

Anonymous said...

If you want to feel better about the mammograms...

Anonymous said...

Dear Waffle, if you haven't seen this video yet, please do. Now I want to learn Dutch!

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Dear Waffle, not sure where to leave this missive...
for the first time that I have seen, Brian Joyeux, the patissier in rue du Congrès, had a flan in his window. I am not a flan connoisseur so I can't vouch for it, but thought you might be interested.

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