Everyone has words they love, and words they hate. There is however, one phrase that perplexes me. That phrase? Self-care. There are 37 million posts on Instagram right now with the hashtag ‘selfcare’ and almost each one is as banal as the acts self-care generally describes.
Washing my hair #selfcare
Blueberry smoothie #selfcare
So tired. Going to bed #selfcare
In its original context, self-care had meaning – it is about the dignity of looking after yourself. But hijacked like this, it renders the banal smug and removes the pleasure from pampering.
For example, having a bath. Which is what I’m doing right now. You generally have a bath either because you need one or because you want one. And if it’s the latter, and you feel like reading a book in the tub, drinking a glass of wine as you recline, or doing anything unrelated to cleaning yourself, then why should you need to justify it by claiming it is ‘self-care’?
I blame the puritans.
When they set off in ships like the Mayflower 400 years ago, no one expected to hear from them again. But thanks to social media, and several other technological advances between the 17th and 21st centuries, simple pleasures still come with a guilt complex.
I was reading a novel recently which was set in the England of Oliver Cromwell. Charles the First got his head chopped off for disobeying parliament. Women were tried as witches. And Christmas was an ordinary day, with no special food or merriment.
Perhaps the world hasn’t moved on as much as we would have hoped since the 1640s.
The English Civil War is a period of history we don’t delve back into very often. I mean, sometimes it’s hard to walk into a book shop without stumbling over a few Tudors. TV schedules are stuffed with Victorians. And the film world is partial to anything that happened during the reign of Jane Austin.
Civil Wars – battles between King and parliament, Catholics and Protestants, old and new orders – don’t make for light entertainment. But perhaps the real reason, is that some of the issues of the era have been forgotten but never fully resolved.
It’s a subject T can get quite irate about. Historical interpretation that is, not TV schedules. Last night we were having one of those rare conversations over dinner where we were not talking about work, or people we know, or what we’re doing at the weekend. We talked about how Islamic Fundamentalism goes back to the Crusades. To be fair, T has been mainlining some Turkish drama on Netflix with about 500 episodes. However, before we’d even started the apple crumble, we were suddenly ensconced in a debate about whether Islamic Fundamentalism would exist today if the Crusades of the 11th and 12th centuries had not taken place.
I must admit, I was possibly slightly underprepared for the debate, not having encountered the topic since watching Robin Hood Prince of Thieves a few decades ago, which I probably only remember because of the Bryan Adams song.
Anyway, T took the position that acts of the past inevitably lead to acts of the present, while I stood the line that this removed any possibility of redemption, and if we went down that path we may as well bring back capital punishment. And support Donald Trump for good measure. It was one of those sorts of discussions.
I’m not sure how, but we ended up opening a second bottle of wine, something so totally unheard of these days at weekends, let alone mid-week, which prompted looks of disgust from the pugs, and a stonking hangover for both of us this morning.
The beauty of lockdowns is that not going into the office can now be positioned as a virtuous act to save colleagues from your germs, rather than because you’re too hungover to drive, and you don’t want anyone to keel over sniffing your morning after fumes should they stand within two metres of your desk.
Until recently I had considered T and I incredibly lucky to have careers that didn’t involve offices on a regular basis; but now that everyone is hunkering in their bunkers, having jobs that lack the buffer zone of an office, mean we’re now entirely ‘on’ or entirely ‘off’.
As a pilot there’s always been an element of all or nothing to T’s work, but with so many colleagues around the world on furlough or facing redundancy, he’s starting to feel the pressure.
If someone told me I couldn’t be an interior designer any more I’d be sad for a few days, but I could easily find fulfilment in so many other things. It’s different for T though, when you’ve been living the dream, not just working as something, but being it, what do you do when the dream is over?
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead or undead, or actual events is purely coincidental.