I was driving home from Monticello on Sunday when I read that Hillary Clinton had collapsed at an event due to dehydration and pneumonia.
Interestingly, at least to me, I’d almost collapsed on Saturday, due to the heat, humidity, intense spiritual presences, and the crowd at Monticello, not to mention having gone too long between meals. My Druid friend got me to an air-conditioned restaurant, a gallon of iced tea, and a salad and I was OK, although I still went back to the hotel and slept for a few hours before dinner.
Sunday morning we woke up, ate country ham and biscuits, did some intense political magic, and then began the drive down from the Blue Ridge mountains to the Potomac watershed. And when I checked my iPhone, there was Hillary, doing everything in the world to stay rigidly upright and still staggering, falling, needing help to get back up. Hillary got to somewhere safe; she cooled off and drank liquids; she screwed her courage to the sticking place; and she went out and showed the world that she was OK.
Of course, unlike my frailty, Hillary’s health event launched a million media comments. Her opponent has already made the fact that she’s a frail female — we’re the “weaker” sex, even though we bleed and recover every month, give birth, and live longer, don’t you know — a campaign issue. And women’s supposed “weakness” has long been an excuse for keeping us out of realms that men prefer to keep for themselves.
And, then, it came. The avalanche of “self care” advice.
You’ve heard it. Pull your own oxygen mask down first! The usual BS that if you’d only manage your time better you’d be able to sleep 8 hours, exercise, meditate, cook nutritious meals, get a massage, spend time in nature, assume some yoga positions, exfoliate, moisturize, floss, and just generally take better care of yourself while working at least one full time job and caring for your aging parents, a partner, some children, and the rest of your community. Because what kind of slob doesn’t do those things? In my day, we all believed that if we could only get the right FiloFax inserts, we’d somehow manage to manage. Now, there are so many self-care apps that you need a master app to make your FitBit talk to your iCalendar, which talks to your human secretary, who comes in to remind you to stand at your standing desk just before she, herself, heads off to the gym and still manages to get all of your edits into the document. Just because you’re a woman who, let’s be honest, has to take care of everyone else, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t, relentlessly and mechanically, also obligated to get enough good quality sleep, exercise, eat enough fiber, and go to your GP, dentist, OBGyn, Mammogram, opthamologist, nutritionist, therapist, dermatologist, and, oh, yes, the person who balances your vata, pitta, and kappa. It’s not even so much that you’d do those things if you cared about yourself; it’s that you’d do them if you cared about your family, your co-workers, the people who support your campaign for president. If you haven’t managed to manage all of those demands, well, then, you must not really care for your children, your co-workers, all the people who want to vote for you.
Following the media outrage over Secretary Clinton’s having dared to get sick, many of the women I know began to push back. One group started, humorously, to let each other know about our maladies because, apparently, in addition to caring for our own health, we women also are obliged to always inform the world about how we’re feeling, and that’s now true even if you, like I, grew up being told that no one wants to hear about how you’re feeling, just smile, be positive, and act interested in everyone else. No, now it’s also our job to be “transparent” about our health. So, of course, I emailed my personal assistant and told her that the dandruff that re-occurs every Autumn is now back on the right, front part of my scalp, that my left knee is still acting funny for no reason, and that my pee has been lighter than usual. Transparent: that’s me. I posted on Facebook that my old broken ankle hurt in the morning and that my skin has been a little dry.
Look. We live in a society that is arranged around women not having time to take care of themselves but that then sells magazines, tv shows, and books around urging women to take better care of themselves.
Fuck this shit.