I got a very rude shock the other day. I was sitting on the train and someone had left one of those crappy, rough-papered catalogues aimed at the over sixties that are slipped into “Take 5” type magazines on the seat beside me.
I actually really like reading those things. I flick through the pages, sniggering to myself about the sheer weirdness of people paying large parts of their meagre pensions to buy one giant slipper that plugs into the wall and heats up, or a print of the Last Supper on a nifty velour blanket to decorate the sofa which has been covered with a (previously purchased) elasticated, one-size-fits-all sofa-sock in a vibrant shade of paisley. There’s always a picture of an elderly woman thoughtfully rubbing her neck with what is clearly a dildo – a flesh-coloured, tubular vibrator with three speed settings – while the blurb enthusiastically spruiks the relaxing properties of its signature ‘back massager’. You can practically HEAR the wink.
It’s always been a world that’s comfortably removed from my own. A world of bifocals and dressing gowns, chairs that lean forward at the touch of a button to tip you staggering kitchenwards to top up on tea and biscuits, phones with super large buttons and no confusing internet connections.
And it’s always reinforced quite how far away I am from all of that. I’m in my thirties, dammit (and will continue to shout about that until next April happens and I turn forty. That day is blocked out for me rocking in a corner and whimpering about how I still haven’t decided what to do when I grow up). Yeah, ok, life hasn’t quite gone according to plan so far, what with the whole marital breakup/single parenting/string of disastrous internet dating stories, but at least I have time. I haven’t got to the point where I’m turning a page with a moistened finger and thinking, “Gosh, look at that. A talking alarm clock. Now THAT sounds handy.”
Until I got to page 32. There was a whole little section on gardening and in between the gnomes, and resin Labradors, and the wipe-clean, horse-patterned tablecloths, there was a doohickey that doubled as a stool to sit on and, turned upside down, a thing to kneel on that had two handles for pushing yourself up to standing again.
I looked at it, and I thought, “Hmm.”
I’ve been on a gardening kick recently, because it’s Australian spring and the weather isn’t ferally hot yet, and every so often I get this idyllic image of the children and I skipping around plucking salad leaves from our veggie patch while I chat knowledgeably about the health benefits and fiscal rewards of growing your own produce. It NEVER works out. I always spend a gazillion dollars at the local garden centre and succeed in growing three types of herbs which are promptly gnawn to stubs by the local possum population and fourteen tons of kale, which nobody on earth actually wants to eat, including the possums. But hey, I’m an impractical romantic in all sorts of ways, so for the last few weekends I’ve been grubbing about with fertiliser and mulch and spent a lot of time on my knees in a hunt and destroy mission against weeds.
So I looked, and I thought, “That might actually be quite handy. Last time I got up from weeding, my knees made a creaky noise and I groaned like an elephant having an enema. It would be quite nice to have something comfy that also helped me get up.”
Instantly, I was HORRIFIED at myself. I flicked the catalogue away like it was on fire, and it (naturally) landed open on the vibrator page, earning me a judgemental side-eye glance from the businessman opposite me. Look, I wanted to shout at him, if I planned to indulge in sex toys I would be frequenting the trendy internet sites that my fellow thirty-somethings are on. I can use the internet, because I’M YOUNG and WITH IT!
I flung myself off the train, and walked home, glum and muttering, swearing to book myself in for Botox and get a funky haircut, possibly with a touch of green and asymmetrical spikes.
The next week, I bought myself one of the kneeler things from Aldi. Aldi doesn’t count. But I still couldn’t look the checkout girl in the eye as I swiped my card and carried off my secret shame.