Sometimes you think “if I only had (whatever it is) I’d be fine.” I spent years wishing for a waist. I managed perfectly well without one but every so often, some style or garment would come up that didn’t work if there wasn’t a marked pause in the middle of the body. Mind you, you can conceal the lack of a waist but the lack of ankles is unarguable. While men’s clothes are easier to wear, men too get stuck with incontrovertible figure problems (short neck, big bottom). There are people who try to enhance their good points but others who have what you might call Rhetbutleritis (as in “frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”). Sometimes this appeals, sometimes it doesn’t but the eye of the beholder works on aesthetics, not comfort.
We have all wished to look like this one or that one, get that wonderful job or have a million pounds though sadly dreams too suffer from inflation. Nowadays it might be better described as several million pounds – though when you have a windfall, it’s wonderful how it makes the heart sing, if only for a little while.
And we long to come back as something else, not just a new and improved human model.
My father believed in reincarnation because “I can’t see that the Good God would ask you to get it all right in one go”. There are friends who say no, it’s the grave and goodbye. Others again who probably believe in it, rather like they believe in the possibility of winning the lottery. It doesn’t cost much and it makes them feel marginally more cheerful when the weather gets them down. I know one professing Buddhist, she likes the notion of the Wheel of Life, you know – what goes around, comes around – but I can’t remember her spelling out the details. When my son drove me mad (not often) I used to say that next time round, I’d have puppies – they can’t answer back and they think you’re wonderful. And I remember my mother saying she would like to come back as a dog in an appreciative home. When you think of doing it all over again, you want things to be simpler.
If you come back as an animal, your shape isn’t as variable as a human’s is, and you’ll have the feathers, the fur, the skin of your particular species which will take the burden of any kind of fashion sense or lack of it from your shoulders. Interestingly, though we might label a friend or a peer as some kind of animal, I am sure it is psychologically revealing if you extend the game to your parents. It’s quite different if you’re talking in terms of domestic animals or even the smaller relatively familiar wild ones. You could classify the whole of my family as dogs immediately – mother fox terrier, father English bull terrier, my sister as a Dutch barge dog and me as a Staffie cross, equal parts lollop and bite. While if we looked in the temperate countryside in which we live – you could cast pa as a badger (very strong, great digger),
mother as an owl (devoted to home and a great provider), my sister as a vole (quiet and shy, a proscribed life) and me as a – I’ve stalled… I’d like to be a pine marten but I suspect I am a rabbit.
If you drew from the wider world of mammals, my father would be a bear, my mother an elephant (their herds are matrilineal structures – perfect for her – slightly bossy, very patient, good humoured, all for the tribe – HER tribe), my sister would be a genet, deeply private, hardly known and I would be a honey badger. Look them up, I’m not going to tell you.
Though the other morning I had a real epiphany. There are two buy to let flats up the road, clearly marked “don’t care” – mucky bins, unswept fronts, rotten curtains. Every so often the owner descends to sweep and garnish, her efforts unrewarded – but this time she installed a pot of long stemmed daisies, greenery and honeysuckle. It won’t last because nobody will water it but it decided me once and for all. Next time round, I want to be honeysuckle, those most particular curved petals, pink, yellow and white, sweetsmelling, bee popular, shortlived, harmless and a delight.