Harriet Walker: 'I log on to Facebook and see nothing but new houses, weddings, dogs and babies'


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The Independent Online

I had an existential crisis last week. I know I did, because my infinitely patient boyfriend pointed out that that was the problem.

I was On Holiday, you see, which is a very specific time of year and a part of life during which you realise you can't have everything you want, that life will never be exactly as you hoped it might be, and that the everyday makes up far more of the waking hours until you die than you'd like it to.

With the emotional pressures of actually being On Holiday taken on board, combined with the downright anxiety and stress of having drunk slightly too much the night before thrown into the mix, I'm sure you'll be able to appreciate how easily I found myself crying de profundis before I'd even gotten out of bed for an Alka-Seltzer.

The main crux of my crisis was this: that I couldn't figure out the point of myself. That's generally the gist of most crises, although I'll readily admit to having also applied the phrase to occasions when I haven't been able to decide what to wear, or when I've been separating an egg and the yolk refuses to come out whole.

Being On Holiday had made me realise I was caught very much between two stools – and yes, before you ask me to check both my stools and my privilege, let me assert that I know the rock and the hard place I'm about to describe are not so much uncomfortable or like falling down a fatal ravine, but more like the difference between sitting in an armchair or on a beanbag shaped liked a burger.

The thing is, I can't figure out how old I'm supposed to be. On the one hand, I've bought a flat, I have a job, I pay things to companies that always seem to want a bit more from me, and I make money doing something that someone once told me I was good at. On the other, I spend most of my time wishing I didn't have to do any of that and hankering after the days when I had little to no responsibility in my life, and money in even scarcer amounts.

"I'm not ready to not go out and be pissed all the time," I wailed to my boyfriend, who wasn't experiencing a crisis himself because he had sensibly stopped drinking well before I had. "It's not fair. I'd much rather talk about Baileys and TV rather than house prices and when I think I might have a kid."

"What would be nice, too," I mused, "is if those conversations sometimes even started with a question as to whether I would in fact like a kid at all." (I've decided I do, because I will need someone to pick things up for me when I am too old to bend over, and because I don't want to die alone.)

"You just don't understand," I finished grandly, with all the self-important élan of one who believes they have an argument for gross self-indulgence all stitched up, "because you are not a woman."

My logic here is that, while I log on to Facebook and see nothing but new houses, weddings, dogs and babies, he logs on and his mate Kev's taken another picture of his own genitals with a face drawn on them. That while I desperately try to hide the fact that I haven't worked out as a proper female grown-up (can't cook, can't add up, bored by babies), he is able to spend his spare time being utterly, utterly himself, talking about things he really likes, such as football, news and public transport.

"It's a fair cop, pal," he admitted. "You're just having a crisis. But it'll be fine, you know."

Within two hours, it was much better, actually, but for the dull settling in of a raging headache and a strange feeling in my stomach. Within four hours, the crisis had gone almost entirely because I was able to do nothing but focus on how absolutely dreadful I was feeling. "I didn't even drink that much," I thought. "What could be the matter?"

Then I remembered, just a few weeks earlier, how everyone had told me on my birthday that this was the time when hangovers stopped acting like an annoying kid brother refusing to relinquish the remote control, and turned into axe-wielding psychopaths that hunted you down remorselessly, often for days on end.

So I realised that my crisis had been answered. I don't want to be young or go out any more, because I have no desire or motivation ever to drink again.

"I am perfectly fine with being old and even technically 'boring'," I thought, as I coughed up clear bile for the fourth time that day, "if it means I never have to go through this again."

So I settled down to an evening on the sofa, watching films about people getting married and having babies. And by the time my boyfriend came home from work, I was fine.