As a secret introvert, I’ve been wondering for weeks if it’s just me dreading the reappearance of a social life.
The pressure of getting dolled up. The time-keeping. Being around (whisper it) other people. I’m just not ready.
As millions of people flocked to pubs and restaurants on Saturday night, I curled up on my sofa and watched the Broadway musical Hamilton on TV.
You see, after all this time stuck at home in the evenings, I’ve forgotten the art of socialising. The weekend before last, I went to my first dinner party in months in the beautiful garden of friends — just a handful of us.
Susanna Reid (pictured) revealed lockdown has made her fear of going out much worse, admitting she has always had to drag herself to fancy parties
Shortly after accepting the invitation, I experienced a wholly unfamiliar feeling. What on earth was I going to wear? Being the first time in four months I was going ‘out, out’, I felt I should make an effort. But being dressy to eat in the garden? That felt over the top.
I became mired in overthinking and trying on outfits with bags, even considering heels for a moment. In the end, pragmatism won and I just opted for a sundress, accessorised with a bottle of hand sanitiser. Once there, the conversation went the same way all conversations now do — the people we knew who had spent lockdown breaking the rules; the way our plans had been thwarted by Covid. I have forgotten what we used to talk about at parties.
Frankly, a week later I wasn’t ready to go out again. So my social contact on ‘super’ Saturday consisted of going round to Mum’s flat for a cup of tea and a catch-up over the kitchen table.
Lockdown has made my FOGO — fear of going out –—much worse. I’ve always had to drag myself to fancy parties and steel myself to walk into a crowded room. The pop of the red carpet camera bulbs might look like fun, but I make a swift dash up that celebrity catwalk, worrying about whether the photographers have caught an unflattering angle or a gust of wind will whisk away my fake ponytail.
Once, outside the National Television Awards, I turned into a windswept mess as my hairpieces and secret clips were exposed —not the polished picture you want to appear in the papers the next morning. Once inside, I’ll just find a familiar face and cling to them like a limpet. My GMB colleagues know that once I spy them, they are stuck with me.
Susanna said the photographs of hundreds of people crammed together in Soho last Saturday made her skin crawl (file image)
But now it has been an age since my make-up artist turned up on my doorstep before a big night out, wheeling her roller-suitcase of lotions, potions, hair pieces, fake eyelashes and spray tan. The last star-studded event I got dolled up for was on Tuesday, March 10, at the TRIC (Television and Radio Industries) awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel. Artfully tousled hair? Check. Painted face? Check. Fitted red satin dress? Check.
It feels like 100 years ago, but the pictures are still online with their flattering captions: ‘The form-fitting dress showcased her slender curves and highlighted her toned and tanned pins’. It’s a description that makes me laugh out loud right now, since I’ve piled on the Covid 10lb and my weekly spray tans are a distant memory.
Gary Barlow told GMB Take That’s first movie will be out next year. But I was distracted by the background of his Zoom call. Noted for his teen idol uniform of denim and dungarees, I was disappointed to note his wardrobe now contains only suits and shirts. He reminded me even teen heartthrobs grow up.
Honestly though? I’m happier like this. My work means that a dressy outfit and full face of make-up is everyday wear, even in lockdown. But it’s such a relief to take it all off after the show and know there’s no prospect of having to find a second wind at the other end of the day, putting the armour back on again.
I’ve always gone to work in my pyjamas or baggy sweatpants. Now I change back into them once I’m done with work at 9am, and barely move till bedtime.
Clearly I’ve become allergic to other people — those pictures of hundreds crammed together in Soho last Saturday made my flesh crawl. Yes, I would love to see Hamilton for real again one day and I was relieved to hear of the Goverment’s emergency support package for the arts.
But I don’t want to be anywhere near theatre-goers and their rustling sweet papers.
Thankfully I’m not the only celebrity recluse. I was lucky enough once to attend a dinner alongside the world’s most glamorous chef, Nigella Lawson. Flawless in appearance, sparkling in conversation, she was utterly captivating.
So I was amused to see that she too finds the prospect of returning to life as we once knew it daunting and is planning to go on a 5:2 diet ‘with people, rather than food’. She’ll spend five days in splendid isolation and only see other faces for two days a week.
I’m taking it one further and selfishly aiming for the 6:1 social diet — with just one day a week when I steel myself to face the social whirl.
Even if it’s for nothing more than a cup of tea with Mum.
Ding dong, the witch hair is gone!
Susanna who hadn’t cut her hair since November, overhauled her look after visiting Richard Ward, hairdresser to the Duchess of Cambridge. Pictured left: Before. Pictured right: After
Finally my long, straggly dry ends have gone — whipped away by the genius of Richard Ward, hairdresser to the Duchess of Cambridge. What’s good enough for royalty is good enough for me!
While many had waited almost four months for a trim, checking my diary I realised I hadn’t had a cut since November and was looking positively witchy. He sliced away enough split ends to take pounds from the extra lockdown weight on the bathroom scales — I feel so much lighter.
I briefly toyed with the idea of sticking with my new longer locks, but when they’re dry, split and desperately out of condition, a good haircut nearly makes you feel like you’ve had a holiday.
How I long to give my dear friend Kate a hug now she’s back at work
Susanna said she wanted to wrap her arms around Kate Garraway (pictured) when she walked back into the GMB studio, but instead smiled from a safe distance
When Kate Garraway walked back into the GMB studio yesterday, it was pure joy seeing my old friend.
She greeted the crew warmly, clearly happy to be back in the workplace where she thrives, but her return was tinged with sadness for all of us. With her husband Derek still in hospital critically ill from the after-effects of Covid-19, I wanted to wrap my arms around her. Instead we had to smile at each other from a safe distance. More cruelly, she told us that because of safety guidelines she still can’t go into hospital to cuddle Derek. Kate has been such an inspiration — at every stage acknowledging how lucky she is to have her husband alive when so many have lost loved ones. But it is a long road.
Derek would be so proud of everything she has done to get him the best care, for coping in his absence and trying to create a new normal for their children. She will sit at her desk on Monday and I’ll be so proud to see her back in the job we both love.
A life in Pret takeaways
Susanna said she’s glad that Pret and it’s healthy choices are still with us, even if the chain is having to slim down
Sad news of Pret closures. I can map my eating habits via its menu. Early on, I was enticed by lemon drizzle cake and a latte for a morning snack. As the calorie count appeared, my health kick meant I switched to the dark chocolate rice cakes and a black coffee. Breakfast went from a chocolate croissant to porridge then the coconut and quinoa option. Lunch was an avocado and crayfish sandwich bursting with mayonnaise, but cutting calories meant replacing it with its no-bread sandwich. I’m glad Pret and its healthy choices are still with us, even if the chain itself is having to slim down.