As the days of quarantine drag on, many women are reveling in the relinquishment of high heels, painful waxes and constricting garments.
Self-seclusion, Week 1. I’d been planning to watch over the health of loved ones. But I’d also been looking forward to having time on my hands: long idle hours during which I’d administer liberal doses of self-love.
Ordinarily that would have meant communing with my wardrobe, weeding out nonessentials, planing my skin to ageless perfection, trimming overgrown hair, tending to visible roots and trying to stick with a diet of ripe avocados and sprouts.
Week 2: I found myself ditching those overzealous routines for a rigorously streamlined plan of action. I’ve razed my hair to within an inch of my scalp: a monastic look, I know, but somehow in tune with my cloistered state. I’ve trimmed my nails to the quick, and discarded a cabinet full of salves and lotions in favor of “99 44/100 percent pure” Ivory soap.
Week 3: I’ve turned my back on the ascetic life, eating what I love: bananas in ripe quantities, dark chocolate, generous dollops of peanut butter mashed into just about everything. I’ve banished spandex and am wafting around my living space inan all-forgiving caftan,congratulating myself for dispensing with other peoples’ notions of what a woman looks like.
Still, I had to wonder: With few beauty tools at hand, and no pressing reason to get gussied up, would I work more efficiently, reflect more profoundly and get in touch with my authentic self?
Femininity, it’s been noted, is a performance (as transgender women know all too intimately). Would functioning without an audience make hash of our self-image? Would it undermine the foundations of our identity? Or would it free us to divert our energies in loftier directions? Who knows?
What I have learned during this interval is that it can be liberating, even enlightening, to sign on with a sisterhood — people of varying ages, racial and social backgrounds, professions, and styles, openly engaging in a little self-neglect. We may be reminded of Germaine Greer, who famously said: “If a woman never lets herself go, how will she ever know how far she might have got? If she never takes off her high-heeled shoes, how will she ever know how far she could walk or how fast she could run?”
For years, outrageous social media displays have aggravated FOMO, the Fear of Missing Out. Now we can revel in the Joy of Letting Go, technically JOLGO, but, amalgamated with You Only Live Once: JOLO!
Spurning Our Bras
“Some of us will regard this time as an opportunity to make changes we’ve been wanting to make,” said Carolyn Mair, the author of “The Psychology of Fashion” and a professor at the London College of Fashion. “We may stop wearing high heels and shapewear. And, if we are feminists, we may see this as chance to reflect on why we wear these things in the first place.”
We may also discover that we are surprisingly durable: the tougher sex, according to Sharon Moalem, a scientist and physician, who argued recently in The New York Times that when it comes to survival, women lead with the advantage of a spare X chromosome that helps maintain vital functions in the brain and immune system.