As most of you that read this regularly know, I am slap bang in between my mid and late thirties, aka 37. I’m not going through a mid life crisis, but I am looking within a little more nowadays. I guess writing has that effect on you, but I think this new found introspective is definitely linked to the age bracket(s) I find myself inhabiting.
When at school, as a runny nosed, slightly dopey teenager, I thought that by now I’d have everything pretty much figured out. I was going to be an architect (I’m not an architect). I’d be happily married with 2, perhaps 3 children. (I am happily married, but have only one child, a daughter.) And according to the science books of the day, I thought I’d be travelling to work in a floating, auto-driven/navigated car. (I drive a petrol Audi, that I hope will never float; at least not whilst I’m in it.) To cut a long meandering story short, I’m still finding myself.
That term, ‘finding myself’ is so broad and covers so many aspects of my journey as a man trying to become a better man. Currently my ever changing list of self-improvement includes:
- Fixing the way my right foot leans outwards as I walk. I only noticed it a few weeks back. I think it’s either as a result of my late teen swagger; trying to walk with a slight limp, not too exaggerated as to cause fellow London Bus passengers to give up their seats for me, but enough to look ‘cool’…allegedly. Don’t judge me, we all did it back then. I even went through a period where the right half of my upper lip would curl up during speech, creating a small pubescent haired trough. Cool again, allegedly. Or it could be because of my 4hr a day commute and more specifically the way I use my accelerator and brake pedals, but anyway.
- The way I pronounce ‘th’. I pronounce ‘th’ in almost exactly the same way that I pronounce ‘f’. I blame the school system!
- Getting fitter and eating better. Perhaps this is one of the more traditional actions of man getting closer to the big 40, but in my defense, I’ve been more health conscious for about the last 4 years now.
The other is an extension of my long suffered ‘Sympathetic Accent’ syndrome. I find myself not only adjusting my accent, but also the vocabulary. This is usually tolerable, but becomes a problem when two people to whom I’ve assigned different lexicons, happen to speak with me at the same time. Do I go for slightly dumbed down or the high-brow, almost pedantic lexicon-set. Whichever I choose, one of the two persons will see me as a fraud, and to be honest I guess I am.
My wife does the same thing. She grew up in a mixed background. She was raised in Denmark, and had Turkish, Danish, German, Norwegian and Swedish roots. The result is a well rounded woman who can speak six languages, but also finds herself (to her annoyance) morphing into different versions of Mrs Rankine. Now my family tree isn’t as elaborate. I grew up in a two parent home, to two Jamaican parents. My mother was and still is quite English in her speech and her attitudes. My father is just as he was the first day he set foot in the UK. We took regular trips to Jamaica, where I had to adopt another me, to fit in; or at least to appear less different. At school I was Londoner, but more than that, I was a young black Londoner. At home, it was akin to blasphemy to use the E-word. ‘You’re not English!’ My father would protest. Not that he was xenophobic. I think it was just a reaction to the England he faced on arrival. It wasn’t uncommon in sixties London to see signs outside rental accommodation that read, “No Irish. No dogs. No blacks.” Another me had to be created to please the old man. You can see where this is going. I’ve been doing this for many years, and as they say ‘Old habits…’
My wife tells me that I’m the most self-confident person she knows. And to be honest I do feel comfortable in my skin; not because I think I’m hot. No, more because the creative and healthy me I see in the mirror, is so far removed from the skinny, shy, eczema covered, asthmatically hindered me I lived in as a child. But when I’m faced with the absurdity of my need to be accepted or to fit in, I can only conclude that I am not as comfortable as I might appear.
I have a new found respect for those who speak and carry themselves in a manner that they’re comfortable in, regardless of who they’re with. Integrity I guess. I’m still working at it.