Living with yourself is a nightmare. Because self-care starts with self-talk and, when you live alone, it’s a monologue. No interruptions, distractions, or dramatism, just you. And dorm life can feel like the woods. 

The woods when you’re lost, your orienteering partner is also lost but lost somewhere else, and there’s a weird sound coming from over there. But weird sounds are dorm lingo now and, in a last ditch attempt to avoid catching kettle-hotdog-guy in the act, I’ve had to turn to my somewhat conflated internal monologue for company when my friends aren’t around. Only, I’m not entirely sure what is an internal monologue, or rather one which fits us today. I mean, society’s done it’s best to villainise female self-talk from Austen’s heroines to the Twilight Renaissance. Characters are flawed, but flawed as a particular function of narrative. We enact this fiction though, perpetually, on a real-life level. Even on the most innocent of nights out. 

And it works a bit like alcohol.

Firstly, it feels like a good idea. As a modern feminist you do not need anyone to buy your own drink and, as you have actually managed the basic coordination required with friends to venture out after dark, you’re feeling pretty smug even if the bank account is not. You’ve bought a bell hooks book with it before though so they cancel out in terms of personal development anyway. But like my units, I’m playing some kind of balancing act with my actions. And I’m talking to myself as if I’m keeping them in check. 

Wolf printed in The Beauty Myth that the value of a woman is viewed as proportionate to her sexual attractiveness. Only, there’s a ‘pluralism to the myth’ nowadays and its multiplicity is tricking us. Not just in the diversity of representation physically, but the countercultural backlash of the mental expectation which comes with it. And that starts with self-talk.

In calculating a value to whims, they become the exact opposite of whims in some larger societal game which each of us is playing to appear feminist, but not too feminist. My Instagram is full of ‘self-care routines’ and ‘affirmations to live your life by’, but aren’t they all a bit superficial? More than that though, it means when you really stop and think about self-talk, it’s hard to distinguish how much of it is actually your own. 

Like alcohol though, it’s a bit intoxicating. Because there comes a time where you actually do those whims, in fact, now you’ve done all that maths in working out what level of inebriated you’re at, it feels only polite to indulge in them considering circumstance, even if the provoked aftermath is, well, 

eating raw broccoli as some girls only have a pink mini fridge and a very swanky, top of the budget store range kettle at their disposal. Don’t judge, it’s dorm policy not mine.

But judgement is wholly on the menu. As little things like acts of self-care can get muddied with bigger life questions as your mental maths is charting the narrative arc you take. I was no natural at GCSE and my self-talk is still doing shabby sums. Like:

‘what am I going to do with a humanities degree?’

And my personal favourite rebuttal: 

‘becoming a primary school teacher really isn’t that bad’

A conveniently, 100% unfeminized career path. That’s not to say it isn’t a good one, but it does beg the question. Self-talk is both a blessing and a curse, as sums work, I think, in both directions. So, settling somewhere comfortable and traditionally feminine might just be an enactment of fiction. My character flaws are a strategic function of narrative; my alleged resolution a way of reimbursing my position societally for dismissing certain elements of female canon. 

Or maybe, it’s just the alcohol talking. x

By Carys

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