It’s part of growing up and becoming an adult female that you find your mother physically repellent in every imaginable respect. I remember this from my own adolescence, when my mother had a lemon yellow terry towelling playsuit that made me want to put out my eyes.
My 11-year-old daughter (not pictured above) is extremely advanced in this respect, and has been picking over my physical flaws in a dispassionate but detailed way since she learned to talk. “You’re red here, here and here,” she said once, aged about three, gesticulating across the zones of my face, “and that’s because you’re old.”
Consequently, I find it beyond fascinating that mother-daughter dance and fitness challenges are so popular on TikTok. This is, as they say, A Thing. On TikTok, where you can upload short videos lasting from 15 seconds to a minute, the creativity is often astonishing, but those are not workout lengths. The mother-daughter challenges are more about two people perfecting a specific move. There are outliers who are actually good at things: one mum with a daughter of about eight, both doing aerial silks to the most beautiful standard, was a spectacle rather than an aspiration. Double yoga is a nidus of intergenerational feats of balance. But there’s no way I’m trying that: we’re not circus animals.
There are lots of plank and sit-up routines, in which the joke is generally the fat mum puffing in the background, and a lot of dance-offs. A few problems with that: I’m explicitly not allowed to dance, hum, sing or make any gesture during music that indicates I may have heard it. That’s been true since about 2015.
So we started with a synchronised abs workout. We lie on our backs, next to each other, heads at opposite ends, then do a sequence of core exercises: stomach crunches, bicycle crunches, frog crunches, one incredibly difficult move called the dragon flag sit-up, where you get your entire butt off the ground, then bring your legs down very slowly.
Fair play, it was quite hard for her to concentrate while delivering a running commentary on everything I was doing wrong. “Why are you making that noise?” “Can’t you get your legs any higher?” Ironically, we moved on to the dance move because she was tired, even though – I think we’ve been quite clear on this point – I am substantially older. Technically, according to the gods of TikTok, we should have been dressed in the same outfit, but why meet trouble halfway?
I am familiar with some of the 1980s aerobic repertoire, but the modern basics are beyond me. There’s a lot going on that’s essentially a cross between a haka and a traffic officer having a panic attack, interspersed with highly technical hip-grooving. According to my daughter, it’s not funny at all to try to learn even 15 seconds of a dance with someone so uncoordinated. It transpires this is the most annoying thing ever to have happened. I tried this so you don’t have to. For God’s sake, save yourselves.
What I learned
It’s much easier to do a workout together if your offspring thinks it’s their idea.