It's enough to make me want to rebel and insist that eating takeout saag in a stained and grimy terry robe while hate-watching Emily in Paris (sssshhh!) is my version of self-love. It’s not. But having compassion for the woman who occasionally falls into these pseudo- (or full blown) depressive trappings is a form of self love. When I’m feeling my best, I’m an amazing practitioner of self-love. I’ll linger till I'm wrinkled in a bath scented with essential oils, salted with epsoms, a tiny joint and an ambient classical playlist to aid my deep meditations. I’ll remember to light candles even when I dine alone. I’ll take my collagen supplements and put chlorophyll in my water and light incense and journal my dreams over coffee with heavy whipping cream, because I deserve it. When I feel good in my body I dance my made up Pina Bausch imitation choreography in the kitchen and take artful nudes to send to no one. I’ll brush my hair and put on lipstick just to walk the dog.
I’ve always been a proponent of self-romancing because really, who can seduce you better than yourself? I know exactly what restaurant I’d like to dine at and can eat as slowly and as decadently as I please. I can choose to read a gossipy 19th century novel or pretend to so that I can unabashedly eavesdrop on the next table. On these outings (I’ve always enjoyed a long, possibly wine-soaked lunch for a solo date) I take pleasure in dressing for myself. This can entail opting for something more fanciful than I might normally wear, creating a character in my mind of who I’d like to be, or a more refined version of myself. I indulge in imagining myself from the outside, wondering if I appear mysterious, this woman in kitten heels, a long trench, dark glasses, who has the confidence and leisure to eat steak frites for lunch alone on a Wednesday. I love the playful self-seduction of these fantasies.
But that is romance and not love. I’m the first to confuse the two and sometimes willfully. A day at the spa is certainly self-care but whether or not it is self-love depends on my available feelings toward myself. When my belly is bloated and my skin is dry and red, when my feet are calloused and I haven’t shaved my legs for weeks because winter and who cares, when I haven’t gotten dressed for days and aforementioned robe seems better burned than washed, when I’m not where I think I should be by now, or even where I want to be, this is when I choose to love myself. I say “Hey, little Allison. You are not your body, you are not your career. You are not the sum of others’ love. You are your own special weirdo. Go ahead and cry. I’ll love me anyway. Go ahead and eat a frozen pizza for dinner, honor the small joys you can find in this turbulent world. If you can do better tomorrow, you will. And if you stay in your robe, I’ll love you anyhow.”
Photograph by Wanda Wulz