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self care

mattress copy

If I get there before you do,
(Coming for to carry me home)
I’ll cut a hole and pull you through.
(Coming for to carry me home)
—lyrics, swing low sweet chariot

It’s so sad that I don’t have a Youtube channel. But if I did have one, I’d make my bed before I filmed anything in my bedroom. Not to be a big phony or anything. It’s not like I make my bed every day. But if I were going to post a video of myself, something I filmed in my bedroom, I’d clean it up first.

I notice a lot of people on Youtube don’t use fitted sheets. In fact, they don’t use sheets at all. The puffy, deeply quilted surface of an uncovered mattress lurks in the gloom behind them as they sing into the webcam.

I expect fitted sheets; I grew up with them. They weren’t new sheets, or fancy, or even matching, and they weren’t always even clean. But they were fitted. Maybe fitted sheets are a luxury of the privileged. Well, of course they are. To me, they’re indicative of self care, along with tooth brushing, and intact underpants. But flossing is an advanced level of self care, well on its way to frivolity. And Q tips, pushed on the world by whoever invented them, are not actually necessary or even safe. We aren’t supposed to shove sticks into our ears. So that’s self care run amok.

Self care is always in flux. And no one can practice it for you. It’s got “self” right there in the first syllable. In fact, we seem content to let people neglect themselves horribly without much civil intervention. You can let a tumor grow on the side of your face and ride the subway and no one will call you out, for example. It costs money to tend to these things. And we don’t like to feel guilty. So we pretend we don’t see.

There’s a guy in my neighborhood who walks to town for groceries every couple of days. Our house is on his route; I also know where he lives. His is the only house around here that looks like it’s about to fall down. And the man looks just like his house. He wears overalls with no shirt underneath and a dirty green windbreaker in all seasons. He has worn-out sneakers. And he walks with his arms crossed unless he is carrying his two bags of groceries. I don’t think he cuts his hair; it might have stopped growing. It’s wild and messy, totally white, because he’s pretty old and craggy. His eyebrows reach off his face like caterpillars. He doesn’t talk to anyone, at least not to me.

I have lived here for ten years and he’s been wearing those same overalls, with no shirt, the entire time. No one is looking after this guy. And he definitely doesn’t sleep on fitted sheets.

He’s fine.

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