I lie awake at night pondering life’s bigger questions: How will they resolve conflict in Syria? Will Abbey Clancey win Strictly? And….. could all Homo Sapiens maybe have a tail for Christmas?
There are many enviable tails. Chameleon tails are best: they curl up, grip objects and change colour. Ring-tailed-lemur tails are the epitomy of style and act as a counterweight to help their owners swing through trees. Parrot tails are stunning, most usefully to other parrots. Black rat snakes can rattle theirs to repel attackers. When rabbits run away from foxes, the tails flicker so confusing the fox as to their direction. Gerbils’ tails fall off to help them escape when they are caught. Scorpion tails sting. Hippopotamaus tails are great for spreading shit around. If humans had tails the potential could be huge!
Imagine being a plate-spinner with a tail. A hula-artist; a dancer. Imagine what a tail would do for your climbing grade! Imagine using yours to keep control of your Toddler, leaving both hands to carry shopping-bags through the Christmas rush. Santa must already be inundated with requests: forget the X-box, give us a tail!
Would we grow pointy ones or curly ones or ones that swept the floor behind us when we walked? Would they be hairy? – would nordic people have beautiful blonde ones and Japaneese people inky black? Whatever colour our tail, it’s guarenteed that we wouldn’t all be satisfied. We would dye them, tatoo them, plait them and even peirce them top to bottom with little hoops.
Of course whatever our tails were like, we would open Heat magazine and check out the celebrities. Victoria Beckham: fifty years old and you can see the outline of every vertebra. Michelle Obama: What a fat pad! Would you look at that super-coccygeal crease. ‘Thigh Gap‘ might disappear from our vocabularies: ‘Tail Chunk’ would be what it’s all about. Teenagers would measure theirs in their bedrooms and post pictures on social networks. Models might worry about loosing contracts if theirs became too wide.
Talking of models, what would happen to clothes? Women’s clothes are a nightmare already. The concepts of hips and waists are too much for clothing designers: adding a tail-hole in there would turn a bad situation worse. Poorly-fitting bottoms would be commonplace.
I’ve been assuming here that we would be showing off our new appendages, but then again perhaps not. Perhaps the base of it would be a little risque, like cleavages or thighs. This would make clothing design even more confusing (well-fitting clothes for very rich people only, now) and generations would probably tut at one another’s attitudes to tail-lines. Different cultures could fail to comprehend one another completely. Perhaps there would be Arabs who would require the tail to be hidden under robes. Would France try to ban the Tail Veil too? Would British Judges refuse to allow them in their courtrooms, on grounds that you need to see them for good communication?
Because tails are important in communication. In the animal kingdom at least, tails make communication easier. With tails it should be obvious who is pleased to see us and who is a bit put out. That woman who always runs towards you in public and kisses you on both cheeks, even though you know she secretly can’t stand you? Who makes comments like
‘Toddler looks as though she’s been having fun!’
in a tone of voice that means
‘WHY have you let your child get covered in paint / glue / mud again?’
Well, it would be harder for her to get away with it if she had a tail: it would be held a little bit too stiffly when she spoke.
But then on second thoughts, humans are expert two-facers: perhaps she would just learn to wag convincingly. There’d be pages in magazines and courses at business school called How to Mind Your Tail Language. We’d moderate our tails instinctively, just as we force a smile: it’s only dogs who wear their hearts on their sleeves.
Tails would be one more thing to get injured. They would get trodden on or trapped in lift doors; they’d get abcesses and maybe even cancers. Life would be far more interesting for orthopaedic surgeons with a few more vertebrae to worry about. Dermatologists would have a lovely time finding interesting infections in the skin-folds.
As a diabetic, I’m sure I’d be pleased to be the owner of a nice tail-vein to help with blood sampling. But while was I celebrating the sparing of my much-punctured finger-tips, what would other people loose? Druggies would have a new convenient place to shoot up. New Heroin users might need to be a little less deterimined to get their first hit. Would self-harmers be more likely to bleed out?
Tail-Docking, which we used to do to dogs, wouldn’t happen to people. Definitely not. This side of Auswich people wouldn’t cut tails off other people purely because of their breed (humans call it ‘race’). They particularly wouldn’t do this to babies immediately after birth without an anaesthetic. They wouldn’t go into Professional’s consulting rooms and cite reasons like: ‘but that’s what (e.g. Russian people) are supposed to look like. They’re supposed to have them chopped off!’
Or would they? We come from a species – indeed, a society – where Female Genital Mutilation is practised: people who do it say that they believe it to be ‘necessary’ and give ‘logical’ justifications. People who don’t do it often turn a blind eye. So do you honestly think we could leave each other’s tails alone? I don’t. I have a horrible image of people in refugee camps having rings put around theirs, to make them slowly fall off. I can hear them now:
‘It’s for their own health. To stop them getting maggot-infested, trailing in the mud.’
Like lambs. How would I ever explain to them that it would be better to improve conditions in the camps?
One person can’t change the human condition. A tail wouldn’t either. Sure, it would change the shape of our body and could be a whole lot of fun, but it wouldn’t change the attitudes underneath. Attitudes are slow to change: it takes at least a generation.
So you see, Christmas Tails would have their dark side. Santa, stick to X-boxes please.