Deborah Ross: Our Woman in Crouch End

'Tis the season to lie in bed, dreaming about getting incredibly, phenomenally fit


New Year, New You? Of course. Why not? It has to be done. Everybody says so. The newspapers say so. Women's magazines say so. New Year, New You!, they say. It's what we are all meant to be thinking about, in this hiatus between Christmas and 1 January. There may even be an accompanying photograph of a woman in Lycra running along a beach, abundantly glowing with health and fitness and vitality and the kind of positive attitude that makes it possible to achieve all your goals and a few of other people's, what the hell, and have you drunk your two litres of Evian because I know I have?

This could be the New You. Why not? After all, it's only about tweaking who you already are to become someone entirely different. The Old You will say it wants the New You very much indeed. "Bring it on," the Old You will say. The Old You did go jogging the once, and almost got to the corner, but the Old You's thighs rubbed together so vigorously she nearly set her underpants on fire. The Old You says if she can't be the lady in Lycra running along the beach she wants to be the one in the white waffle dressing-gown eating fruit salad - slice of kiwi speared on fork; hair in bunches - while sitting on a balcony with a terrific view. This would, the Old You figures, obviate any need for Lycra, which is known to be flammable. Don't get the Old You started on chapping.

The Old You, with all its dirty habits, is entirely fed up of itself. The Old You is genuinely looking forward to getting its marching orders from the New You, although it seriously wonders if it is even up to marching. The Old You's current fitness level means it can not even whip cream without having to take small, panting breaks slumped against the fridge. This may then bring on the need to lie down, perhaps for an hour, but possibly for longer if Trisha is on and then Flog It and then Des and Mel, all of which can distract from becoming a better person and achieving personal goals as well as impersonal ones and making more progress at work. The Old You's whipped cream is never as whipped as it could be. The Old You's trifle is more like soup. The Old You has achieved some local fame with her trifle, which is said to be quite unlike anyone else's.

Open target

The Old You prepares for 1 January and the arrival of the New You with a great deal of excitement as well as vast amounts of eating, drinking, smoking and being inert. The Old You knows that the New You is not going to put up with any of that nonsense so it's best to cram in as much of it as possible now. The New You is going to give the Old You a good kick up the arse, which it will not be able to miss. There are goals and goals, and the Old You's arse, most would agree, is an open one and not worth bragging about in the event you are on target, which you will be if you are on the same continent. You may even still be on target if you are not on the same continent. If you are, though, you are welcome to drop in for a nice drink of trifle.

So, the Old You will go to bed on New Year's Eve. The Old You will be quite drunk, as ever, and will have eaten excessively while taking no exercise, unless you count the distance between the fridge and the TV, which can actually mount up. Sometimes, the Old You can be a little too hard on itself. But it's OK, because, come morning, the New You will have arrived and it'll all be fruit salad and balconies and white waffle dressing-gowns and moving yourself forward towards a more satisfying existence, both personally and professionally as recommended by life coaches but rarely by National Express coaches. It's wise to know there is a difference between the two, as you don't want to sign up for a series of confidential sessions exploring what's been holding you back all these years when your only true aim is to get to Brighton, returning on the same day.

Come New Year's Day, the New You will definitely want to go running at 6.30am, so that's what time the alarm is set for. But when it goes off, what happens? What invariably happens is this: the Old You, who has so happily played along until now, has been so optimistic about the possibility of real change, acts like an only child who is presented with a sibling and basically tells it to piss off and mind it's own business and weren't we happy, you and I, in our own little toxic and inert way with no goals to bother us? The Old You, you know, would like to put a pillow over New You's face or, if not, at least pinch it on the arm really, really hard and then say: "It wasn't me!"

Battle is joined

As it is, the Old You sits on the New You, pinning it down, so that you cannot get out of bed to go for that run no matter how hard you try, which may not be very hard at all. Still, the New You doesn't put up much of a fight. It turns out the New You wouldn't say boo to a goose and is rubbish. Ultimately, you have no alternative but to turn over and go directly back to sleep and then, by the time you wake up at, say, noonish? There is no sign of the New You whatsoever; no thought of a run. What a loser, the New You annually turns out to be. Thank God, in fact, for the Old You, which has stuck by you all these years, though thick and thick as, if you are like us, you don't do thin.

You know, in all these years of New Year, New You!, I don't think I've ever even properly seen its face. It's not the Old You that always fails you. It's the New one. As for two litres of Evian a day, and as the Old You will constantly point out, it has its dangers, particularly as it can give you the sort of "full" feeling that can otherwise be achieved with cake. Lots and lots and lots of cake.

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