It’s the 31st August 1971 & the genetic future of one family is about to be changed forever.
Today is the day of my parent’s wedding, you see.
They had a lovely day, by all accounts; a simple ceremony at the church my grandparents attended, with my grandpa looking very proud as he gave my mum away & my dad looking like the cat that got the cream as he received her (is that the right terminology – sounds a bit seedy?!) & then they moved on to a local hotel for the wedding breakfast. I’ve seen the photos of the cake, the flowers, the bridesmaids & the guests & it all looked beautiful.
As was customary is those days, mum & dad left their wedding reception early to go on honeymoon. Mum had made herself a new trouser suit as her going away outfit, as per the current trend, started a few months earlier by Bianca Jagger (my mum was very high fashion at this time, darling) & dad had gone a bit ‘out there’ with his flared safari suit. They were waved off in grandpa’s car (the story being that he didn’t trust the mechanics of the one dad was doing up & thought this would be safer) after the guests had made an arch with the linked hands & clapped & cheered. This is where is all went wrong.
After the bride & groom were waved off, legend has it that what followed was the best party Ashby-de-la-Zouch has ever known. There was the 1971 version of Jäger bombs & Gangnam style galore, I imagine. They partied until well into the wee small hours & then went off to continue the party at one of the best men’s house.
When my parents returned from their honeymoon & news that they had missed such a monumental party reached my dad, it bought on such regret that he had not been part of it, that he was instantly struck down with FOMO (or to use it’s medicinal name, Fear Of Missing Out) & his entire human genome altered in that split second. Now, he carries this burden of FOMO with him & has unwittingly passed it to both of his children. There is no known cure.
As a family, we have to live with this on a day-to-day basis & no one understands how much suffering it causes. We are unable to turn down an invitation. To anywhere. The thought that it might turn out to be something amazing & we would miss it is always at the forefront of our minds.
Because of FOMO, I travelled thousands of miles in one weekend whilst at University, to attend 21st birthday parties on consecutive nights in Bristol & Aberdeen, just in case one of them was incredible & because I wanted to be involved in the post-party banter that followed both events. Another time, I arrived back from the University skiing trip & – rather than go straight to bed for a month after 2 weeks of not missing a night out because of FOMO – I immediately got glammed up to attend the Athletics Union ball that evening. On this occasion, the FOMO served me well, as we saw Jonny Wilkinson & Ant & Dec out that evening (not together; that would be wierd). Imagine the heartache & disappointment if I had missed them.
There have also been occasions where I have forced Mr Teapot to go out, even if he didn’t want to (Mr Teapot does not have FOMO & – frustratingly – is perfectly fine missing things. I don’t think he’s even a carrier) or raided Little Teapot’s coin jar to go on a night out we couldn’t really afford.
The added dimension to FOMO is that the nights out which often start out as impromptu drinks after work/lectures are also quite often the ones that end with you staggering in at 4am, kebab in hand after THE BEST NIGHT EVER. Because of this, it is important that sufferers do not turn down any invite. The one they do may be the one that is talked about forever & – even worse – may coin a regular phrase, or an in joke, which it is physically painful not to be a part of. Even at 64, my dad still has a fully-stocked cocktail bar & ice in the freezer at all times, ready for an impromptu night, should the opportunity present itself.
As I get older & the opportunity for nights out lessens, it just adds pressure to those that do happen. It also means that you can put good money on me being the last one at any event – be it a birthday party, a work night out or a wedding. I have been known to outstay my welcome on more than a few occasions.
In line with Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, the gene responsible for FOMO has also altered over time. This means that as well as wanting to be a part of the best nights/parties/events taking place, people struggling with FOMO also want to create these events. Because of this, every party or gathering they hold has to be planned with military precision & go off without a hitch.
A random (& totally fictional) example of this could be their son’s second birthday party. Just thinking of entirely non-real life situations, a FOMO sufferer could spend 3 entire days making a cake for a 2 year old who actually doesn’t event grasp the concept of parties yet. It is quite possible that planning such an event could cause so much stress, that a FOMO sufferer could spontaneously combust with the mixture of anticipation, excitement & dread at things going wrong.
My mum says she was able to diagnose FOMO early in both my brother & I, as we both refused to sleep in the daytime as toddlers because we seemed frightened of missing something (FMS). FMS is the known pre-cursor to FOMO, but even with early detection, there is little that can be done for sufferers. When I lamented the fact that Little Teapot had started to fight his afternoon nap, my mum simply replied with ‘Isn’t karma a bitch. He has FOMO too’ – which I found incredibly supportive at the time.
As I watch Little Teapot argue most days that he doesn’t want to go to sleep, he’s busy playing & is not tired, whilst simultaneously rubbing his eyes & yawning, it strikes me that I may be witnessing the early symptoms of FMS in him too. I know that calmly explaining to him that he won’t miss anything is futile, as his FOMO brain just doesn’t think like this. I was hoping he’d inherit his fathers laid-back attitude, but this isn’t the case. I already mentally fast-forward to a future of arguments along the lines of ‘but I have to go, mum – I just can’t miss it’ & think I will be powerless to resist; understanding the urge all too well.
It goes without saying that Mr Teapot & I were the last ones at our wedding reception. The idea of us leaving was mentioned at one point in the planning process & Mr Teapot had to explain that it was a medical impossibility, which just confirmed that he’s the one for me.
Spare a thought for those you know who suffer with, are married to, or are friends with a sufferer of FOMO. It’s tough for them. I hope this has given you an insight into the mind of a sufferer & will help to raise awareness. It’s quite possible that scientists will never find a cure, probably because they’re not looking for one, but perhaps if they realised the severity of the symptoms they would.
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