For most of my life, there has been a man to disapprove of me. A man to not be quite good enough for. For a long time, this yawning niche in the ecology of the Self was filled by my husband; the fact that he became my ex-husband changed nothing, because I was able to construct a working facsimile of the man from my memories. But now he is fading a little, and something must be done.
It turns out that I have already seen to it. I have replaced my ex-husband with Tim Noakes.
It struck me this morning, as I was eating breakfast: scrambled eggs and salmon. Tim Noakes would approve, I thought. He would not approve of all the fruit, though, or the yoghurt with its added sugar, although I did stay away from the toast. And then I thought: why do I care what Tim Noakes thinks? Why do I think about Tim Noakes as often as I do?
I am, I have come to realize, obsessed with Tim Noakes. If What Would Tim Noakes Do bracelets were available, I’d wear one. WWTND.
I have never met him. I don’t know him, and he does not know me. I have only seen him on Carte Blanche and Twitter, where I’ve seen lots of others. And yet I think of him constantly. I have a mini version of Tim seated on my shoulder, a tut-tutting homunculus who takes notes and wags his finger when my muffin top extrudes gently over the waistline of my jeans, magma from some ghastly molten core of moral lassitude.
I know he is right. I know he has my best interests at heart. I also know I can never be good enough for him. This makes him the perfect imaginary husband-lecturer-headmaster-figure, that disapproving man I can’t live without.
I have long since internalized my ex-husband to the point that whenever I do something stupid, like losing a parking ticket or being lured into the dubious embrace of a much younger man, or giving too much money to my latest pet cause (sometimes the latter two are one and the same), there he is, stridently listing my shortcomings and asking me to explain why. Tell me Sarah, why do you do this? Tell me. I want to understand your thought processes. I want to understand your logic.
Oh, how I wished he’d just call me a stupid fucking cow and be over and done with, instead of guiding me through a two hour lecture, instead of trying to lead me to the promised land of self-awareness by being understanding.
But the problem is that the memories are becoming motheaten, and I need something new. Tim is always out there, in my timeline and on my TV, so he fits the bill. Tim does not want to understand my thought processes. Tim tells me what I should eat to be healthy and happy, and I choose to ignore him anyway. Tim can do nothing with me and doesn’t try. Tim knows that I am my own worst enemy and until I decide to be better, I won’t be.
Tim disapproves, and that’s what counts. To not be good enough, ever. If I didn’t have Tim in my life, I’d have to invent him.