Mamihlapinatapai on my mind

OK, I know what you’re thinking. Mamihla…. what?

Allow me to explain.

Because I’m a bit of a word nerd, I tend to spend quite a bit of time on dictionary.com. (Yeah, I know…) Anyway, I was hanging out there the other day when I found an article about terrifyingly specific words that don’t exist in English … which is where I met mamihlapinatapai.

Apparently, it comes from Yahgan, the language of the indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego, and it describes, “a wordless, meaningful look between two people who want the other to initiate something they both desire, but neither wants to start.”

It’s a pretty specific word, and I’m rather impressed that it exists – and I’m quite sure I’ve suffered from it on more than one occasion in the past.

Nowadays, however, I fear it’s more like hemi-mamihlapinatapai, or whatever it’s called when only one of you is being reticent about making a move and the other is wondering what they’re going to have for dinner tonight.

And, no, I’m not saying which side of that equation refers to me.

If I’m honest, though, I’ve pretty much stopped giving my single status any thought; there doesn’t seem much point. It’s a static condition – an ossified state that’s become so much a part of me that I may as well try to remove my head as try to change it.

On the rare occasions that I do think about it, I realise that of all the roles I play in life – parent, daughter, colleague, friend – my overriding identity is single mum. It’s who I am. It’s how I see myself, and I can’t imagine the day when ‘single’ isn’t part of that equation.

Sometimes, I wonder what will happen when the little guy has left the nest – or worse, entered the twilight zone of his teenage years, where parents become desperately uncool and hugs and kisses are distinctly passé.

At the moment, he’s an affectionate little being and I’m the lucky recipient of endless cuddles and daily drawings of hearts with ‘Mummy’ written on them. But one day, in a not-too-distant future, he’ll be rolling his eyes and sighing when I try to give him a hug … and I’ll be totally bereft.

Of course, it’s a natural progression, and a sign that I’ve done my job well if he leaves me behind with nary a backward glance … but I do wonder how it will feel to face that separation on my own, with no one to hug me in his place.

Still – who knows? – by then I might be married to a handsome prince and living in a thatched cottage with chickens round the door. And, if not, there’s bound to be some study, somewhere, that says single women have more fun, live longer and are more likely to win the lottery.

And anyway, one gorgeous guy in my life is significantly better than none at all – even if he does sometimes sneeze in my face when he sneaks into my room at 6am. At least he puts his socks in the wash basket and cleans the loo after himself.

I mean, really, with a guy like that, who could ask for anything more?

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