At school we were not good at maths, not good at all. ‘It’s not that you’re bad at maths, it’s just that you think you’re bad at maths,’ they said, which we thought was silly at the time. But with age comes an unexpected aptitude for mental arithmetic. Turns out we are boffins when it comes to certain strains of maths; the kinds of equations that relate directly to the mysteries of the Midult universe.
Let’s start with the dark sums: the balancing of mortality figures. The numbers are rarely resolved but constantly recalibrated according to aches, pains, missed smear tests, headaches, moles, sick friends, scaremongering headlines, cigarettes and birthdays. ‘More or less than halfway through?’ becomes the question as we throw our minds towards the big balance sheet in the sky.
The little getting-ready sharpener must be included in the evening’s full mathematical reckoning as it may be the drink that tips the equation into something non-computable. The booze formula can only hold true if the number of units is equal to the number of waters and if the units are crossbred then there is likely to be extreme malfunction. If cigarettes are introduced then the figures will not add up. Repeat, will not add up. Also, see death maths.
This theorem operates around a system of constantly shifting risk analysis. For the mathematician mid-heartbreak, the calculation revolves around the scientific probability of actual survival. Once recovery is established as a viable option then the advanced numericist may be able to work towards an anti-bitterness formula. The single mathematician, embarking on an untested unknown, may or may not notice their subconscious performing an is-this-going-to-be-another-fucking-disaster computation. We become the romantic hadron collider seeking the perfect partner particle.
Remember a time before smartphones, when your battery would last three days? And you only panicked at 6 per cent. Nowadays it must not be less than 92 per cent charged upon leaving the house in the morning and all windows must be closed except for the one in use. If we are out all day then there will be NO listening to music or podcasts (I mean, are you insane? That takes us to 66 per cent in 7 minutes) and easy on the Insta scroll. Ration it to one per hour. If the battery is lower than 50 per cent by midday (it always is) then activate humble charger-begging to ensure that it is over 70 per cent by early afternoon. Rookie error to think that anything less will see you through to home time. A frugal early afternoon opens a window for some Amazon action around the 4pm slump and full-on texting frenzy during the commute home. If you are the type who carries around one of those portable chargers, then you are not our people. (But can we borrow it, please?)
If it’s 9:30 now and you’re on the main course, then you should be away by 10:30, which means home by 11, bed by 11:20 and lights off at 11:30 (as long as you don’t decide to read the entire internet before you attempt to drift off), which means you might make it through to 5:30 and that’s not a disaster. This is the crazy world of sleep maths. Forget the mysteries of the universe, sleep maths is the constant calculation ticking through our brains. Let’s put Brian Cox on it and see if he can do something squiggly to time – is it linear? Is it quantum? We are far, far, far too tired to care. And, for a laugh, let’s chuck jet lag into the equation to really mess with the equations.
So let’s imagine a hot date happens. And you might decide to go in guns blazing and take what you want or you might decide to wait. ‘Let’s just wait…’ We do not judge. That is the point of us. But, hang on, the next hot date is ten days away (he’s travelling…or something) by which time the ‘area’ is all lumpy and bumpy and itchy and ragged but not yet ready for a re-wax no matter how much you exfoliate. The same, by the way (just to de-perv for a mo), is true of a two-week holiday. Day one = immaculate. Day 13 = slightly grizzled = sarong time.
This calculation is an exact science aiming to hit the perfect equilibrium between corpse and fiend. The baseline must be a comprehensive understanding of the subject’s individual reaction to coffee at all times of the day and with and without other sustenance. We all know that three single shot coffees and no breakfast makes for a dynamically productive morning during which people will hide behind any available object – or even each other – to avoid contact with us.
It’s the problem you wrestle with, for example, when you are making a cup of tea: do you wait for the kettle to boil and then pour the water or do you quickly run to the loo? But that’s just the tip of the pee-berg. You will have probably bought a jumpsuit over the last couple of years. Now you have to throw that into the equation. (Especially if the jumpsuit unzips at the back.) Time spent undoing jumpsuit + urgency + distance to the bathroom = possible disaster. And the cut-off point for fluids at night. That’s a whole Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind situation of its own: should I have this sleepy tea while watching the news? How about water? Just a sip. It’s 9pm. Arrrgghhh. If I have this now, will I wake up at 2am? 3am? Or push right through until 4am?
Okay. So. I really feel like wearing that shirt but I have to save it for that thing in two days’ time so that leaves this shirt, which means I have to take off this skirt (as the colours are all wrong) and change my bra so there is no gaping and wear those trousers except the boots that go with those trousers are too high for the shlep I need to this afternoon so it’s the other black trousers but that means I have to change my knickers and actually this shirt doesn’t go with them so I’ll wear my Old Faithful dress with a different bra and Adidas Superstars and I’ve got some heels at the office but I’ve just realised that the coat which goes with Old Faithful doesn’t go with the bag that I’ve left by the font door which means…CONTENTS TRANSFER ALERT. And that’s today’s maths done.
I’m Absolutely Fine! The Manual for Imperfect Women is out in paperback now