I have a friend. Let’s just say I have taken her under my wing in some ways. As something of a younger sister. I may not be the wisest of the lot, but life has thrown me enough curve balls along the way and for all my softness, I have emerged each and every time triumphant. This friend of whom I speak, she is only in her early twenties, and for all that I have easily met my match intellectually, she still has a way to go in becoming a woman. And so I made it my gift to her, to teach her as I had been taught, that sometimes, just sometimes, self-indulgence as a woman is an act of revolt.
I uncluttered my wardrobe and passed on all the clothes I knew would suit her best. Clothes of fine cottons, and silk and velvet. Believe me, I’m not wealthy enough to afford such things but I have a fashionista aunt who keeps me well-stocked when she has grown tired of some of the garments taking up space in her own closet. Clothes, well tailored and made from fine fabrics, these are not things a woman needs to wear for the attentions of men. Not in the slightest. Velvet shimmers and feels warm and luxurious on a cool Autumnal eve. A cotton blouse is soft to the touch on the skin within. Beyond this, I would treat her to the occasional bottle of fine bubbly or delectably dark chocolate or a dessert at a fancy restaurant. A woman cannot, must not, rely on a man for pleasure. This much I know. Perhaps that will come when she has learnt how to pleasure herself.
The greatest of all things, I gave her one of my robes, for there are two things that are a Must-Have for me and one is an elegant robe, the other an apron that makes you feel like a goddess in the kitchen. Yes, think what you will, but I’m quite happy admitting that for all I am a die-hard feminist, I am truly most often happiest barefoot in the kitchen. (Any feminist with any good sense will tell you that that’s okay too.) And as for my daily routine, I will gleefully spend all day writing in nothing but one of my robes.
And one day, I told her a story to illustrate this apprenticeship we were undergoing. It was the story of a young woman of similar age to herself, a Christmas bed and four of her favourite things in the world. As you may have guessed, the young woman of the story was in fact myself.
I had attended an annual wine show earlier one year, and deliberated at each and every wine stall. I’ve never been made of money, so I had to choose wisely. Eventually, for all my tasting I left with a bottle that if I’m honest I purchased more for the bottle itself than anything else. I remember it clearly to this day. It was a bottle of Prosecco. I saved the bottle but my mother on one of her spring-cleaning missions mistook it for trash and threw it out. As such, I cannot recall its name. But the label was simply enchanting. It was blue and silver, embossed, with a winding river beset by weeping willows, a man paddling his way along the meandering stream on a gondola. I decided I would buy this, and this alone (for it wasn’t cheap), and I would save it for a Special Occasion.
The Special Occasion turned out to be a warm enough day in Winter when I resolved I would retreat from the world entirely. I dressed so that I could go to my local video store and rent what for me had been the eagerly anticipated cinematic telling of the life of Coco Chanel, starring Audrey Tautou. I remembered my younger days in London and how I would so often treat myself on weekends to a brown paper bag of cherries with a side of pistachio nuts. An inexhaustibly moreish combo. And so off to Woolworths I went next, where I handed over the dosh for my fresh cherries and pistachios. Toast and Bovril would have to do for the rest of the week. But today was My Day. My Special Occasion.
Once home, I immediately removed my clothes and changed back into my robe. The ritual demanded that a robe would be all I would wear for the rest of the day. Dragging my futon into the lounge I set up my Christmas bed. (And for those of you unfamiliar with the term, a Christmas bed is not one covered in reindeer-themed quilts or tinsel… It’s a bed you prepare for a lazy day of lounging in front of the telly… I love my Christmas bed days!)
Good. It was all set up now. French film. Check. Glossy and gorgeous cherries. Check. Salty pistachios. Check. And finally, my bottle of chilled Prosecco. Check. And so it was, a day of languishing and dining and drinking of only the finest, of all the things I loved, languishing like the woman I had become who knew how to pleasure herself, once in a while and even if it was only for one day.
Sometimes, all we need is just that one day, when we have forgotten ourselves and that which we so desperately crave and deserve. A day of all our favourite things. Alone and unfettered by the problems of the world. Self-indulgence can be an act of revolt, indeed, as I have tried to teach my young grasshopper, but truly there are times when it is an act of self-preservation, for in such pleasure, we fill up that cup so it can floweth over yet again.
Still life with cherries and champagne glass by Frans Mortelmans