You know you’re getting older when you go to a restaurant and the first thing you comment on is how dim the lighting is.
“It’s so dark in here! How am I supposed to read the menu?” Amanda demanded the other night.
Right on cue, a waiter emerged out of the gloom. “Would you like a torchlight, ma’am?” he asked and was rewarded with the Look of Death.
“How dare you?” Saffy hissed on behalf of Amanda who had been rendered speechless by the waiter’s appalling lack of discretion. “You can’t go around calling people ‘ma’am’! What is this, the Victorian age? Listen, we’re young enough to be your sister!”
By the time everyone had calmed down and a new waiter was found to take our order, Saffy was soon complaining that even with the torchlight, she couldn’t read the menu.
“Seriously, could this font be any smaller? What am I, an ant?”
I sighed. Clearly, this was going to be an evening of rhetorical questions.
The next morning at breakfast, it was all the girls could talk about.
“My God, the acoustics in that restaurant were vile!” Saffy exclaimed, her bosom inflating with effort beneath her super tight tube top. “I’m still deaf from having to shout the whole evening!”
“Tell it! And can I just say how much I hate all that fiddly food that’s been touched by a hundred hands? Next time, we’re eating in a cze char joint. I’ve had it with these fancy schmancy dumps.”
“Speaking of which…” Saffy began.
“Shut up, Saffy!” Amanda interrupted. From bitter experience, it’s never a good thing to get Saffy started on anything to do with gastro-intestinal topics. But our flatmate was made of sterner stuff because she ploughed on.
“No, really, it’s important. Sharyn’s got hemo-whatsits!” she said in a triumphant rush before anyone could stop her.
Amanda paused, her spoonful of cereal halfway to her open mouth.
I looked up from my Blackberry.
“It’s that thing when your bum hurts! You know, hemo-whatsit!” Saffy said, as if the sheer act of repetition would make things clearer. She looked expectantly between Amanda and me.
Amanda looked at me. “I’m afraid to ask.”
“I’m not even going to,” I said.
After a lot of gruesome graphic explanations, all of it patently unsuitable to listen to while eating breakfast, it turned out that Sharyn had a severe case of hemorrhoids.
Amanda’s nose wrinkled. “Oh my God, I thought that sort of thing only happened to grandmothers!”
“She’s going to have an operation to remove it!” Saffy said helpfully, but it was clear from her expression that she had no idea what ‘it’ actually was.
“So what exactly is a hemorrhoid?” Amanda asked. “And, more importantly, how do we not get it?”
“I thought it’s when you cut yourself and then bleed to death,” Saffy said. “Or am I thinking of a hemogoblin?”
“Phil-liac!” Amanda said.
“Who’s Phil?” Saffy asked.
That afternoon, we showed up at the hospital to visit Sharyn just before she went in for her operation.
“Aiyoh, you, ah!” she sighed. She was wearing an ugly shower-cap and an even uglier blue hospital gown that Amanda later said did nothing for her figure. “A hammer-roid is when the vein in your bot-bot swell up so it’s hard for you to bang-sai!”
A fat silence walked into the room and made itself comfortable. Amanda blinked, while Saffy frowned. I looked up at the ceiling and stared hard at the light fixtures.
“I did not understand a word you just said,” Amanda said eventually.
Sharyn sighed again. She reached for the pen and paper beside her bed and started sketching. Saffy and Amanda leaned in. Both started screaming round about the same time.
Later, back in the flat, Saffy said that she’d not seen anything so horrific since ‘Alien v Predator’.
“Really, talk about gross!” she said, her breasts heaving pneumatically.
Amanda shivered delicately. “The idea of someone anywhere near my thingy with a scalpel…I’m not going to be able to poo for days.”
“Can you imagine what this is going to do for my constipation?” Saffy wondered to the world at large.
As the girls hyperventilated, it occurred to me that if you wanted clear evidence that you’re getting older, it’s when you start visiting your friends in hospital just before they get their hemorrhoids removed. From there, it’s a slow slippery slope towards cataracts, face-lifts and hip replacements. And from there, it’s just a short shuffle to bedpans and respirators.
That evening, when I called my mother to say hello, she said she and my father were getting ready to go skiing in Aspen. “You only die once, darling!”