I cannot let anyone see the stretch marks, the cellulite, the saggy breasts. I cannot reveal my hideous body. I feel anxiety well up inside me even as I visualise this eventuality. I read about ten ways for a fat person to have meaningful sex. I learn that throwing a cloth over the bedside lamp will help hide my flaws.
Continuing with our theme of self-care being about sustaining ourselves, our work, our movements, keeping the fires lit, and relating with love to ourselves, in our mid-month issue we bring you more articles looking at self-care from different perspectives – individual, queer, activist, collective, organisational, not necessarily separated, or in this order, of course.
In a country like India where both mental health and non-binary identities are topics that are neglected despite being essential parts of an individual’s identity, it can be quite challenging to navigate through issues regarding the same. Accessibility to affordable and quality mental health services is a serious difficulty that the queer Indian population faces.
Self-care is influenced by the environment we inhabit, the way we relate to others, the way we negotiate with other living beings or structures. Self-care is also interlinked with other types of care – whether that is in community resources, psychosocial support, engagement with medical and health care institutions, and of course in collective agency and solidarity.
Just as capitalism has learned how to co-opt feminism into its model, it has done the same to ‘wellness’, so much so it has become an industry of its own. Mental wellbeing, no matter how necessary and important it is, remains a luxury with more than half of our country either unaware of available mental health resources or not in a position to even afford therapy.
But self-care is not a clean and happy procedure, it is not definitively achievable when systematically explored. To understand the scope of self-care we need to see the ‘dark side’ of the landscape, and destroy the versions of self-care that denounce our plurality. In this fight, the only outcome can be a recognition of experiences beyond the wellness narrative structured around the neoliberal agenda. This article is an attempt at foregrounding some aspects of self-care that decentralise the prevalent commodification of it.
Ageing vaginas in ageing female bodies are joked about. But a vagina shouldn’t have the task of pleasing anybody but itself first. To begin with, we’ll have to love and respect our vaginas in order to pleasure them. Love them just as they are. If they feel a little dry, don’t despair. Use a lubricant or a little coconut oil. If my labia are unshapely, they’re still my labia and respond very nicely to gentleness and tenderness. If I don’t love and respect my ageing body, in need of gentle, loving, patient care, then who will, for God’s sake?
My journal has many entries that are speculative and fantastic. Writing about the mundane leads me to question the way the world operates and from there I frog-leap into a world of ideas where I imagine a radically different way of being. In my journal, I imagine a politics of care, community, and compassion. I become grand, valuable, and unstoppable, even in a world where I am sometimes made to feel small.