Elizabeth Day: Why I’m getting younger this year

Over the past year, many of our key life events have been overshadowed by the pandemic. Like millions of others, I celebrated my birthday in lockdown. I got engaged as cases were spiking again after the brief summer break. We tried to plan a Covid-secure wedding, then had to delay it anyway. I zoomed for birthday celebrations and farewell parties.

Dan Kennedy

Christmas was spent apart from my parents, who I haven’t seen for almost a year. My friends have had babies I haven’t even met. Many of you will have experienced the unimaginable loss of loved ones to whom you were unable to say goodbye.

This will be a familiar list for many. It seems surreal to think our lives have been on hiatus for a whole year. As with any anniversary, the approach of the specific date on which everything changed (in this case, the first lockdown on 23 March 2020) triggers conflicting emotions. It feels both hugely significant and also something we don’t want to mark. It makes us reflect on what we’ve done in the interim. Or what we haven’t.

When we lose a person, our grief sneaks up on us around the date they died. But in this
case, we haven’t lost a person, we’ve lost time. It’s a strange loss to come to terms with as we’re not mourning something that existed; we’re mourning the things we didn’t get a chance to do – the parties we didn’t have, the people we didn’t see and the moments we couldn’t share. We’re mourning the hypothetical.

This is why I’d like to propose the introduction of a new measure of time: the Pandemic Calendar. Unlike other traditional calendars such as the Gregorian or the Lunar, this calendar allows us to decide what age best reflects our experiences. So that when we finally emerge from lockdown, we can do so feeling in sync with our internal selves.

I, for one, am intending to shave a year off my actual age so that I can do all the things I wanted to do at 41 including, but not limited to: having a hen do, throwing a book launch party, seeing films at the cinema, catching up with my mother for lunch and going on a mini-break with my best friend to mark our joint 40th birthdays, which we’ve been meaning to do for ages.

If you’ve had a significant birthday during lockdown you can also avail yourself of the same opportunity to delay your celebrations. Similarly, anyone who feels they have wasted a year of their 20s not getting up to the usual antics can simply decide to be 19 once more. A GCSE student who has missed out on crucial schooling can make themselves 14 again.

Or, if you feel home-schooling and job stress has been prematurely ageing, I suggest you simply add on five or ten years. Perhaps you want to take early retirement after the anxiety of the preceding 12 months? No problem: simply age up in order to accurately reflect how decrepit you feel on the inside.

The only way this doesn’t work is if, like me, you’re trying to have a child. Fertility – and
other biological functions – sadly do not pay attention to our Pandemic Calendar. Although there’s part of me that wonders if we just start thinking of ourselves as younger, and treating ourselves as though we’re still in the first flush of youth, then perhaps our ovaries will also relax and follow suit? (Please note: this theory has absolutely no basis in medical research.)

But for everyone else, I highly recommend choosing your own age in the same way as those children’s books used to allow us to choose our own adventure. In all official documentation, our age can henceforth be annotated by the initials ‘PC’ to denote the use of the widely accepted Pandemic Calendar. And I’ll see you in 2022 for the mother of all birthday parties.

This week I’m…


yooni moon milk glow bar

Glow Bar’s Yoni Moon Milk. It’s a bit like a hot chocolate but… much healthier!


Irene Forte’s Pistachio Face Mask

With Irene Forte’s Pistachio Face Mask: rich, moisturising and good enough to eat (don’t, though).


empireland book

Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera: informed, informative and eloquent.