18th November 2019 by
As a sales representative in the pharmaceutical industry, I lived a lonely life. My days swung from intense and purposeful discussion with doctors to sitting in waiting rooms, trying not to make eye contact with the unfortunate patients who knew the doctor was going to see me before them.
The occasional sales meeting or conference provided lighter times. The discussion always turned to cars. Whether the new Ford Cortina was faster or better than the previous model, whether the Vauxhall Cavalier was all it was cracked up to be, and whether the Morris Marina still corkscrewed at speeds above 50 mph. I was intensely proud of my ‘sand glow’ Marina, with its radio and comfortable, mid‑brown velour seats. It was perfect for stocking up on food at the supermarket, and corkscrewing didn’t trouble me: getting up to 30, let alone 50 mph, was difficult on east London’s busy streets.
As I moved into marketing, I kept in touch with some of the people I met on my sales training course. I followed the progress of the high-flyers and shared wine with them whenever our paths crossed. As we married, filled out and lost our hair, we obsessed less about short-term goals. Our conversations became less egotistical, and instead we fretted about our kids’ school performance or the challenge of elderly relatives.
Only in the last 10 years have our discussions really become more personal. Life begins to get serious as we edge closer to our three score years and ten, as we start sensing our mortality on the horizon. Inevitably our conversations now circle warily around chronic illness. We acknowledge that it takes a while before we stop aching on waking, and we begin to reminisce about absent friends. We are challenged for our indulgence in meat and wine, as though we built a health debt through the hedonistic and care-free excess of our youth, and we seek forgiveness or comfort.
My personal epiphany occurred one morning 15 years ago as I bent to clean my teeth. There, reflected in the mirror behind me, were fat rolls above my hips! For a moment, I did not recognise my own back. I was alone in a hotel bedroom, but it occurred to me that this was the sight my wife was getting every evening. This was the jolt I needed – I promised myself that I would lose weight and pay more attention to my health.
Last night, I called my oldest friend. We reminded each other of the importance of taking care of ourselves, if not for ourselves then for the people we love. Plus, despite my advancing age, I’m still a little bit vain – I still want to look suave when I step out of my Alfa’s leather seats at the supermarket.