Claudius: …nor th’ exterior nor the inward man/ Resembles that it was. (Hamlet, II.i)
Nothing like a literary epigraph to kick a blog-posting off. I can’t help thinking of this line from Hamlet when I look down at my expanding girth (besides which, we quote Hamlet all the time round the house, since my wife’s seen it at least a hundred times. It is her fetish, just as mine might be said to be The Magnificent Seven. I picked up one of those film compendia last week, and it gave TMS only two stars and said it was a bit ‘pretentious’! What? Lines like ‘We deal in lead, friend,’ pretentious? I sulked a bit.)
My point is that, although, obviously, I must be eating and drinking too much for a 56-year-old, and can see the exterior signs (I have always had a propensity to gain weight in one region, the belly), I haven’t a clue, really, not an inkling what my body looks like inside. It’s because I am from the fag-end of the generation that didn’t do Science at school. No Physics, one term of Chemistry, and no Biology at all, since the ‘Biology’ lessons were a cover for general chat about world population, i.e. sex education. I never cut a rat up, or a frog (my hands are clean in that respect), and, although of course I have seen diagrams, I don’t really know what’s inside that slightly, and I use the word ‘slightly’ in its broadest sense, distended stomach.
In fact, I realise that I am still clinging to a view of my insides developed when I was about five or six. In theory, I know that the stomach consists of several miles – think that’s right – of tubing, viz. intestine, but in practice, i think of it as a cavernous space, the sort of image you might find in a cartoon strip in say, Beano, Dandy or Topper. I am only one step up from thinking that there are tiny elves in there, shovelling the food away in the seconds after my shovelling it down my throat. Just as I admitted to not being able to locate US states a few days ago, so also I am profoundly ignorant about my innards, my ‘inward man’, as he of the inky cloak describes it (not really, I know he’s talking about feelings). I know there are two kidneys (I hope), one liver, and also a heart, and that somewhere in that mess of slippery stuff, there is a pancreas, and (since it hasn’t to my knowledge been removed) an appendix. I do not know what the pancreas does, and no amount of looking in Wikipedia is going to make the info stick. Nor do I know how they line up, or how they are connected.
This means I have weird wish-fulfilment dreams, none of which, I admit, involve cutting down the consumption of food or drink – that’s not a wish-fulfilment, is it? I’m not Victoria Beckham – but which entail a small tap being inserted through my stomach, and all the spare air being released. Deep down (possibly a poor phrase in this context) I imagine I would then deflate and be able to hit the Twiglets with extra vim.
This is not an eating disorder. This is plain, old-fashioned, crass, utter, total, non-biological (and what’s that about, in a washing-powder sense?), pure and complete ignorance.
I wouldn’t make a very good Obesity Czar. I can spell oesophagus, but I’m hanged if I can picture one.