What you do for yourself

I have a memory of an old episode of Oprah. I think Elle Macpherson was on it. And she said one thing she does for herself is wear beautiful lingerie. The point was simple, compelling: I feel beautiful and “more myself” when I do this thing (nevermind that she had/has her own lingerie brand).

“Do it for yourself” has become a powerful marketing message. Don’t get a boob job for a man, do it for yourself. Wear this push up bra, but for yourself. Cinch your waist, become a domestic goddess, paint your nails and find the right shade of red lipstick. Be house proud. Do pilates. Wax. For yourself.

Quarantine has laid the truth bare. The things we’re doing now… those are the things we really do for ourselves.

Every morning, I still put on perfume. It comforts me when I smell a waft of familiarity on a sweater or on the collar of my coat. Or even, sometimes, on Beau’s fur.

I blow-dry my hair and care for my skin. I enjoy face masks and face massage. I will dab a little blush on my cheeks and comb my brows. But I don’t curl my eyelashes for myself. I don’t conceal for myself.

I can now confidently tell you that I do not ever wear uncomfortable shoes for myself.

I’m sad to say that I do not dress up for myself. I have worn leggings every day of quarantine. I have thought about buying dresses. Flowy dresses which are so impractical on streetcars and rolling office chairs might be perfect for these days. I fancy myself floating about in this one.

I crave flowers and will take the supermarket variety over having nothing. I will even take my shears on a late night dog walk and snip a magnolia branch from a neglected park to have it for myself. To watch it slowly unfurl fed in my window. I daily wish I could grow roses for myself.

I don’t bake for myself but I will buy a bar of dark chocolate and eat a square or two after dinner every night. I remarkably cook the same recipes over and over again, though I could choose to try something new from the many cookbooks I own with the time I have right now

I will roll out my yoga mat for myself but only when  body gives me an extra nudge. A back twinge? That will do it. But, I do meditate every day for myself.

I have friends who bake bread for themselves and friends who wear Hermes scarves for themselves. It’s not a competition. I’m intrigued by this individuality opening up. The usual implied ‘should’ seems trivial now. We always all said “you do you”… But is it just me or does it feel more sweetly indifferent right now?

I dress my bed and clean and tidy and arrange and rearrange my apartment for myself. But we already knew that about me, didn’t we...

But the best thing I do for myself is read. I crave it like putting my hands in earth or making a footprint on fresh snow. My mood, when dark, is mended by this most enduring pleasure of all.

I walk for myself. And for Beau too. At night time especially when I think I can see more stars than usual and I can stand on a quiet street and throw my head back. And it occurs to me that the things I do for myself are very simple things. And I want to remember that when the marketing men light the billboards back up and the influencer bloggers stir to tell me there’s some new thing I should buy or try or apply to become more myself.

That when nobody cared and the catwalk of life was paused, I was content to do simple, beautiful things. For myself.
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