BYOH (Be Your Own Husband)

(BE your own husband, not bring your own husband, although you can do that too, obvs.)

My memory is terrible, so the other night, I wrote my sleepy future self a reminder:

note-to-self

Then I groaned inwardly at the Cheesy Domestic Bliss vibe, like I was June Cleavering some nonexistent spouse. It felt good, though–in that tiny act, I was doing something nice for myself (saving myself from annoyance and a $13 salad, in this case).

When my overworked friend said her husband suggested she treat herself to a pedicure, I had a similar thought. Hmm, interesting…I don’t need a dude, though. I can do that for myself! Admittedly, I don’t have a kid or family, so self-care is easier*–I’ve gotten two pedicures already this summer just for the hell of it. A theme was starting to congeal like the gummy brown fat oozing off a sizzlin’ chicken leg. (WHO’S HUNGRY?!)

The last straw (slash blobby chicken fat globule, EWW) was when my sister told me she’d taken a few weeks to “date” herself. Former me would’ve rolled my eyes, but now it makes sense: Why sit at home binge-watching Netflix for the tenth night in a row, soaked in self-pity, when you can take yourself to a play/movie/concert/dinner? (Or even do something free like a little picnic for the park, or a long walk.) I don’t need a partner to treat myself well, and I shouldn’t wait for someone else to encourage my own self-care. Take a second to think about what you wish a husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/whatever would do for you, and then do it yer dang self!

It’s like Agent Cooper said:

twin peaks give yourself a present agent cooper quote

Or, if you prefer, Audre Lorde:

audre lorde self-care quote
Photo: K. Kendall

I tried it last weekend: I took myself clubbing. Yep, it was awkward (at least til the second shot of whiskey). Yep, it was kinda lonely, and I kicked myself for not inviting one of my single friends until I realized that was the whole point: to do something alone I wished a partner would do with me.

Obviously you can’t be your own husband (BYOH) in every case. It’s not a cure for loneliness. My vibrator sucks at sweet nothings, spooning with a pillow just ain’t the same, and surprising yourself with flowers is inherently anticlimactic. But I can take care of myself in other ways, and not just in a “survive the next 24 hours” way, but in a “make life a little nicer and maybe easier” way.

A few ideas to be your own husband (or wife, or non-spousy life partner, or non-binary non-heteronormative life figure, or whatever):

  • Schedule a massage
  • Write a cute little love note to yourself and hide it somewhere
  • The next time you’re on a trip, mail yourself a pretty postcard
  • Mend that piece of clothing you never wear because it’s missing a button
  • Pack yourself an extra-nice lunch (ideally, including some dark chocolate)
  • Get on your imaginary spouse’s insurance (j/k, sorry)

Self-care can seem cutesy, meaningless, and indulgent (see Audre above!), at least according to the smart Laurie Penny:

“Radical self-love” [is] the insistence that, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, we can achieve a meaningful existence by maintaining a positive outlook, following our bliss, and doing a few hamstring stretches as the planet burns…

Obsessive ritualization of self-care comes at the expense of collective engagement.

Make no mistake, I don’t think going to Pilates is going to stop Trump, reverse climate change, meaningfully contribute to a dialogue on police brutality and racism, or do any of the thousand other important things our culture so desperately needs. It’s not a replacement for large structural change.

But you know what? Self-care is where that important stuff starts. It can be elitist (WTF is barre, for instance?) and out of reach for sure. But loving yourself and taking care of yourself don’t REPLACE the big work; they provide the ENERGY to do the big work. BYOH doesn’t mean ignoring huge-scale change that needs to happen, like holding politicians and corporations accountable. It means that stuff is easier to do effectively when you don’t hate yourself and are running on 3 hours of sleep. Even Penny admits, “I sometimes take a day off, because it became apparent that the revolution was not being driven any faster by my being sick and sad all the time.” Ya think?

Self-care is the first step, NOT the only step. BYOH–and then go change the world! <3

*a luxury, I know!

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