Some of you will remember getting a Tamagotchi or, like me, your children pleading to have one. For the uninitiated, these were small devices that needed electronic tending – “feeding” “changing”, “playing with” etc. If their owner looked after them meticulously, they thrived. If not, they emitted increasingly plaintive beeps, gradually dwindled over a period of days and eventually died, provoking loss or relief, depending on the owner’s sensitivities. Perhaps they were designed to teach children that having a pet wasn’t just for Christmas? Or were they like the flour babies in Ann Fine’s dark teenage novel and meant to represent a newborn human baby?
Whichever it was, like the real live guinea pigs out in our shed, my children’s Tamagotchies caused me serious guilt. I would hear them piteously bleeping from underneath a sofa cushion where they had been cruelly discarded, and try to make it up to them by nurturing them myself. And I would lecture the children in Tamagotchi husbandry, likening them to hamsters and didn’t we all agree that it was very mean to leave them with all alone in a dirty cage with no food or water. With below mediocre results, it has to be said. Those Tamagotchies were a nine day wonder. If that. And most of us were glad to see the back of the little creatures.
This Christmas, my daughter got her own back and bought me a modern day Tamagotchi. And I was delighted. Some people call them Fitbits, but mine is so much more than a fitness device. Because I know it really loves me.
Ostensibly the new models are more mature and less needy than the original Tamagotchies. They seem only to be interested in you, waking you with cheery news on how you’ve slept (7hrs 38 mins, with 4 minutes awake and 15 mins of restlessness, in case you are interested.) They send you encouraging little messages like Let’s Go! or Nearly There! And they seem to have an unlimited supply of rewards….at the beginning. But after a while, you begin to realise that, just like their 1990s predecessors, they are the boss of you and NOT the other way round.
I’ve reached an uneasy truce with mine for the time being. I’m wearing it strapped tightly to my wrist as recommended so that it records every heartbeat and doesn’t miss any steps or flights of stairs. Because that way you use up more calories, right? And I take it out for its beloved 10,000 steps a day, about which it seems a little obsessed, plus do at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise daily as it demands, like a good girl. Sometimes it even teases me and calls me an Overachiever!
Unlike my husband or any of my friends, my Fitbit knows how much I weigh. But so far, I’ve managed to resist its admonishments to set a challenge with my Fitbit chums. Because I’ve only got one and she is half my age, three inches taller and MUCH fitter and thinner than me. Plus she remembers that first Tamagotchi I got her. And I’m not sure she has forgiven me yet.
Josh, my fitness trainer, is unimpressed. He has pointed out that the pulse monitor in my Fitbit is less accurate than my trusty old heart monitor, that the step count may be incorrect, and the mileage and calorie reports are estimates only. And he’s also reminded me that I’m booked to do a big bike ride this summer and that taking my Fitbit out for a nice walk every day is not exactly the training regime we’d planned.
I don’t want to upset either of them. So I’m doing both their programmes. And given how much I usually hate January, all this exercise seems to be helping my physical AND mental health.
When you next see me, I may be a serene shadow of my former self. Or on a waiting list for a hip replacement.
Do I recommend that you get a Fitbit? Of course I do. Oh, and I’ve just downloaded the latest thing, Cat Care Tamagotchi. I’m sure my new Tamagotchi kitten won’t be needy at all…