I heard a brilliant phrase last week – told to me by someone trying to explain the difference between the advancement of Japanese mobile phones compared to the US models. I honestly don’t remember why this conversation took place, there was red wine involved for sure, but I’m glad it did for this little gem: A camel is a horse designed by committee. So the Japanese have got far better phones because they work together and put all their best ideas in one model that’s super useful and fit-for-purpose. Not just pretty.
I knew instantly I heard this analogy that it struck a deep personal chord of recognition, but it took me until last night when I was going through the bath, teeth, story, bed routine to work out why. I am the camel – my kids are the dedicated committee working tirelessly to mold, tweak and manipulate me into a super efficient human machine of provision. Any unnecessary thoroughbred tendencies I might affect (polished fingernails, freedom of thought etc) have been filed down and phased out by a tri-positional assault from my highly effective design team, so the current model of me is perfectly streamlined and efficient for their needs.
If this sounds bitter, it’s not meant to be. I’m delighted to call myself a proper mum, particularly because it’s something even my Granny is a bit surprised I’ve managed to achieve. But becoming perfectly honed for one very specific task might be the reason I’ve started to notice that disappearing thing happening, the thing that grumpy old women claim is worse even than the wolf-whistling of their glorious past.
According to my design instructions, my heart is full only of love, my intentions are only to provide and serve, and any aesthetic concern is a frivolous waste of battery power. At least that’s what the grey hair and, let’s call them laughter lines, would attest to. There’s a growing amount of physical evidence that I am definitely the mother and not the au pair.
It’s not as though I was ever a teenage beauty queen, but neither was I constantly untucked or unironed. It’s hard for a perpetually self-disappointed woman like myself to admit, but I’ve have been generally easy on the eye. I think. Anyway, whatever the past held in promise or photographic evidence, it has really let go. Six months ago I went on holiday feeling like a woman with a surprisingly large family for my tender years. Six months later and I have just spent a morning finally downloading the photos, and deleting any evidence that I was even present when the plane took off.
So is this it, the age when I start to slowly disappear? I feel as though the me I live with is based to a frighteningly large degree on the me that people responded to. If I’m no longer visible, am I still me? And when I meet new people, how will they know who I really am if they can only see a tired, wrinkled and wobbly version of the person inside?
There’s a finer line than I thought between the glamorous excesses of the high-speed gallop around the racecourse on a Saturday afternoon and the long trudge through the desert. But, while I have always had a bit of a phobia about horses’ legs being too skinny for practical use, and I am proud to be fit-for-purpose, I’m not sure there isn’t still room for a few more flashy apps and unnecessary features before I saddle up and head for the sunset.