And now for something completely different… Or perhaps not

I washed my pyjamas yesterday (as you do) and they didn’t dry (as they don’t, in the rain) so I dragged out my second pair (two being the sum total of my winter nightwear). As I contemplated the lengthy rip in the back seam, the slightly shorter rip in the shoulder seam and the delicate tracery of runs and ladders hanging like icicles from the waistband (they’re made of cotton jersey), I worked out that they were somewhere between 25 and 30 years old.

For a moment there, I felt a definite stir of excitement. Could I – could I really – treat myself to a new pair? After all, they owe me nothing. They’re not, strictly speaking, presentable. And the winter sales are on…

But then habit kicked in.

They still do the job, nobody sees them but me, and even at half price, it’s still money that could go towards the rates. Perhaps I should wait and think again next year. No big deal…

But this is the tip of very robust iceberg consisting of stubborn self-reliance, well-developed – if selective – self-discipline (it doesn’t apply to trivia like housework), pride, and a horror of self-indulgence. None of which I consider relevant to anyone but me (except perhaps the pride; we all need a bit of that). For other people, I see with crystal clarity that self-reliance can go too far, particularly when friends and relations are itching to help; that excessive self-discipline can lead to black holes you don’t want to know about, and a bit of self-indulgence from time to time is actually essential self-nurturing. But not for me.

On the whole, it doesn’t bother me. I like being self-reliant, and I’ve no reason not to be. Self-discipline gets me out of bed on cold mornings, stops me becoming a mental blob and keeps me marginally in the financial black. I have the odd self-indulgence I cherish and will not part with. But then we come to the pyjamas. They’d be classified as a treat. And treats are for other people…

And there it is: the line we draw between what we allow ourselves and what we don’t; between what we accept and encourage in other people, but not in ourselves. I’m ten times harder on myself than I’d dream of being on other people, and if I lapse from my self-imposed rigour, the guilt all but destroys the pleasure.

Am I ringing bells here? I’m sure I am. Giving myself anything, emotionally or physically, is like drawing teeth. Endurance is a prime virtue.

Is this good or bad? I don’t think I know anymore.

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25 Responses to And now for something completely different… Or perhaps not

  1. As a “Great Depression” kid, I often heard: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do – or do without.”

  2. ChristineR says:

    Helen, I really think you are going too far. What if there is an emergency and someone does see you. A neighbour might bang on the door, wanting to use your phone or something. If your dressing gown is long, it doesn’t matter. And imagine how warm and toasty you would be at night in new flannels – real cheap if you keep your eye open for a bargain – so that is good for your health, right? The old PJs wouldn’t be wasted, they would make good polishing cloths. If you think hard enough, there is plenty of justification!. LOL, that said, I’m also stingy like that, I just wear an oversize Tshirt and I do have two long sleeve nighties that I must have purchased about 30+ years ago that I’ve started wearing again these cold nights! 😀

    • Neighbours who bang on my door in the dead of night deserve the shock! But you’re right, they don’t QUITE do the job anymore, and I did look in Big W when I had to go to the next town yesterday, but all that was left was leering Mickey Mouse. I’d have nightmares. They will make perfect polishing cloths, though – worn to that tissue-thin softness!

  3. bkpyett says:

    I wonder if you have Scottish fore bares? I did, and my up bringing held the same values. Now I am much more generous with myself! I love to spoil myself, sometimes. Still careful, but self worth is important. Helen you are worth it! Please enjoy buying yourself some new, warm and cozy PJs.
    Hope you will reconsider this decision. 🙂

  4. Oh how I can relate! This sentence is amazing! —> “But this is the tip of very robust iceberg consisting of stubborn self-reliance, well-developed – if selective – self-discipline (it doesn’t apply to trivia like housework), pride, and a horror of self-indulgence.”

    Good or bad? Hm. I thought I had a snappy answer to that, but I don’t. Of course you want to consider yourself worthy of a new set of jammies. You’d encourage anyone else in your circle to dumpster them ASAP. So that makes denying yourself something “bad.”

    BUT! It’s good, is it not, to eschew vanity, to be frugal, to make do. Who cares what they look like? Who is going to see them? I recognize what I call a kind of reverse vanity – I dress down by way of protest.

    Very, very thought provoking, Helen. And superbly written, as always.

    • Thank you! Is it reverse vanity, though, or is it a form of hiding? It’s the emotional self-denial that’s harder on us I think – and I’m pretty sure you do this as well: the whole ‘love thy neighbour’ and never mind thyself. I encourage my family to be kinder to themselves, but have a million answers as to why my treatment of me is perfectly reasonable. That question of self-indulgence…

      • “Is it reverse vanity, though, or is it a form of hiding?”

        That is a very good question. I’ve been thinking about this all day, Helen!

        Sure, I’m much harder on myself than others in a lot of ways, especially in terms of self-reproach. In terms of self-indulgence… if you were to look at my waistline (please don’t look at my waistline) you’ll note there is no lack in the food department.

        You have made me think today! And I’m gonna need to think about this a whole lot more, Helen.

  5. Pat says:

    Okay —- this sort of falls under the category of wearing ripped and torn and stained undies.
    Do we not remember that our mothers literally pounded it into our heads to always always wear clean and presentable knickers, lest some tragedy befall us, and we arrive in the emergency?!

    Too bad Mom didn’t offer the insight that given the nature of the unfortunate tragedy, the possibility of sh*tt*ng one’s shorts, is high.

    Life is just this —- the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful.

    Nothing wrong with being self-reliant, even being frugal and cautious in case of unforeseen circumstances.

    But, I would suggest —- there comes a time in every woman’s life, when we must sit down with ourselves, dig deeply into the black holes we carry within ourselves, especially if we have been ones to support, comfort and provide “allowances” for others, and face some hard cold truths (no pun intended Helen) —– if we, ourselves, take no pride and consideration for our well-being, and genuinely allow ourselves some honest self-love, even by way of new jammies, then who will?

    Being generous and gorgeous with oneself is NOT – I repeat NOT – a privilege or luxury we can ill afford — it is OUR RIGHT.

    Helen – seriously, go out and get yourself some new jamjams — and settle in with an eclair, toasty warm, and watch a great heart-warming movie, or read your favorite spirit lifting book.

    You are so deserving and worthy of blessing yourself, in some way, every day.

  6. Monicle says:

    I do wear my pj’s until they are rags but it’s out of comfort. It takes a year to break in new pajama’s! I even wear them inside out so I can’t feel the seams.
    Underwear, too. I have one pair that just hang by threads off the waist band. These are only for hot days that I stay home because the crotch hangs free….. definitely potential accident undies.
    But I have no problem indulging myself. I envy your discipline because I should be more frugal. I love to buy myself stuff. I think it’s a reaction from 28 years of living with a rigid, overly disciplined man who didn’t think I deserved anything. In my forties I discovered I did, indeed, deserve a lot better!

    • Buying myself stuff has never been high on my wish list (for a lot of reasons),but in your situation, I say go for it! I was reading a book the other day where the baddies did horrific things for sake of the money, and it struck me afresh how meaningless it is. They were still going to die one day, and all they’d have to show for their lives would be a six-figure account as dead as they were.

  7. Why don’t we all chip in and buy Helen new PJs. She could go to sleep wrapped in our good wishes.

  8. Pingback: Dressing Down | The Zombies Ate My Brains

  9. Martha Kennedy says:

    Get pajamas! You’ll find that new pajamas are warmer and softer and you can wear THEM out and you can use your old ones for dust-rags (should you wish to dust) so you can, what’s the word now, “repurpose” them. What was wrong with “reuse”? I know what you mean; I’ve got flannel PJ bottoms I got in the 90s and I love them because I was happy then and for some reason they’re sentimentally attached to a time when I believed I was building a career and a life but now they’re threadbare and not very warm and the career and the life are now “been there done that” and you know what? Someone gave me new ones and I realized that those poor old flannel jammies hadn’t done their job in a WHILE. Warm jammies — Warm Helen. That’s not indulgence. That’s rationality.

    • Warm… Warm? It’s a word to roll around the tongue…cherish…revel in…
      On the other hand, ‘stoic’ is a password at the pearly gates…
      What am I thinking? Hell would be a whole lot warmer!
      But the truth is, Warm Helen is a bit of a will-o-the-wisp, not for reasons of unnatural stoicism, but because my metabolism is warped. But you’re right, and I did try. Just couldn’t come at Mickey Mouse.

  10. bkpyett says:

    Sensible Martha, well said!

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