Here’s the winner of this week’s incongruous comment competition: “Take your clothes off: I want you topless in the room next-door in five minutes”.
Anyone who thinks this post is going to be about middle-aged bedroom antics is going to be sorely disappointed. There’ll be no necking for me for a while, even if P.F appears in the kitchen dressed in leopard-skin undies with a glass of bubbly in each hand and a red rose clenched between his teeth. My neck is stiffer than the legendary British upper lip, due to two badly-behaved cervical vertebrae that have hatched a dastardly plan to transform me into a pathetically rigid excuse for a human being sporting bags under the eyes that could double up as post office sacks.
You know you’re getting old when the order to undress comes from a lady in a white lab coat. I felt ridiculously self-conscious as I tried to keep my balance on a platform that wiggled and slid around beneath my feet. The machinery clunked and shuddered its way around me taking clichés of my innards as the technician barked instructions at me. I sternly reminded myself that I had already given birth in front of complete strangers and had not given a damn about who was watching, but still felt as embarrassed as a teenager in the school shower room.
If I was in this situation, it was because I had finally given up pretending it didn’t hurt. For nights on end I had gritted my teeth in the dark and pondered over the irony of the great idiom “to be a pain in the neck”. It didn’t take the linguist in me long to start thinking up all the expressions using the names of body parts in the English language, and more particularly, the neck. When you’re stranded on your back in bed like a beached whale, incapable of moving and condemned to hearing the rest of the planet happily snoring around you, there’s nothing better to do than exercise your neurones, encouraging them to do something other than scream that you have passed your maximum pain threshold.
“Neck and neck”, “in this neck of the woods”, “to neck”, “to stick your neck out”, “to put your neck on the line”, “to risk your neck”…. when I had exhausted all the available linguistic options ten days later, I gave up and practically crawled to the doctor’s surgery. I pooh-poohed the idea of structural problems with a brave grin, informing her that everything in there was made in Great Britain: stainless, gleaming, top-notch bone merchandise strengthened by decades of cheddar consumption and reinforced by the little bottles of milk with silver tops and straws that were served daily throughout my stint in primary school. Every time I think of that period of my life, I feel like humming the Hovis bread advert and developing a broad Geordie accent.
However, I was wrong, and the doctor was right. As we left the building, I opened the envelope and peered at the results. Medical vocabulary is fun – I think that one day I’ll write the alternative medical dictionary. My results were clearly printed, short and to the point. “Conclusion: Discopathy”. I joked to Emmamuse that if I’d been asked what it was on the previous day, I would have guessed it was a severe allergy to nightclubs. But despite this attempt at humour, my legendary and indestructible flagship, HMS Optimism, had taken a fatal blow and was listing dangerously in the oily, black waters of self-pity.
I poignantly remembered a character from a favourite childhood musical sadly saying, “the mere mention of the unmentionable makes me immeasurably morose and melancholy”. Yup, seeing the first signs of getting old sucks. Any hope to become a contortionist or a pole dancer could henceforth be shelved along with other unattainables like having a bath without one of my offspring asking if I’ve finished yet, toting a tidy handbag and being woman enough to wax my bikini line without having downed three G&T’s beforehand.
We turned right, walked for two minutes and raided our favourite charity shop before heading home. This necessary therapy cost the princely sum of two euros and was both immediate and painless: the purchase of two warm, brightly-coloured scarves and sharing a refreshing dose of laughter. In the car, I asked Emmamuse whether one day we’d have to change our name from “The Emmamuses” (see “The charity shop hop” for more details) to “The Arthritis Sisters”. We decided that whatever curses Mother Nature thows our way, we will always be the Emmamuses. And in the mean time, I’ll happily kiss any ground walked on by the inventor of the anti-inflammatory.