Why Is Self-Care a Dirty Word for Guys?
Why Wellness Breaks the Bro Code
Self-care: it’s so hot right now. Lately it seems you can’t shake a stick at the internet without hitting an article dissecting the wellness buzzword. TED Talks even has a whole playlist on the topic. According to the New York Times, the term saw online search interest peak this past November, the largest increase in the last five years. The timing? Not incidental, but we’ll get to that later.
The idea is a simple one: self-care means any step you take to stay healthy, both physically and emotionally. From drinking more water, to taking a hot bath after a hard day, to logging off social media (at least for a few hours…), to remembering to take a few deep breaths all count.
If you catch the flu, or find yourself battling depression, you head to a doctor. Self-care is the deliberate, self-initiated stuff you do to try to stay as far at the other end of the healthcare spectrum as possible.
Consider it preventative medicine for your mind, body, and spirit.
Sounds smart, right? Life runs more smoothly when all your circuits are connected. But! Did you find yourself muttering, “Pshhh, I don’t take baths, Megan..” under your breath reading the description above? Maybe looking around nervously to see if anyone watched you being asked to consider such a gentle undertaking (don’t worry, they didn’t)? You’re not alone. Somehow, self-care has become the domain of women.
Why? Who knows. Maybe self-care sounds like a spoiled endeavor—how ladies who lunch pass the time. Or like activities best executed while watching The Bachelor, such as applying nail polish or reading Us Weekly.
Obviously that’s bunk because I know there’s plenty of men watching The Bachelor, but the point remains: self-care apparently sounds like a thing women do, not men.
All I know is in the weeks and months after the election, “self-care” headlines were splashed across countless women’s magazines and websites. “20 ways to do self-care” “self-care in the age of trump.” “why feminism and self care should go hand in hand” “make self care a priority“. The same can’t be said for the men’s publishers I frequent.
Personally, I love self-care. Talking about it. Engaging in it. Promoting it. Well before Drake implored us, I’ve been taking care whenever possible. I work out almost daily, try to eat well, meditate, see a shrink and a tarot card reader, and am a staunch bath advocate, with the presence of a tub outweighing the square footage or existence of a dishwasher when seeking real estate to call my own.
I got ALL UP in some self-care business last week when I chose not to watch the inauguration of our new president (ahh, there’s that November internet search spike), instead skipping it in favor of cleaning my apartment and listening to music I love.
Apart from the tarot card reader (who, I’m telling you guys, is the BEST), I don’t see how any of the above would turn guys off to self-care.
The cold shoulder to self-care reminds me of how some men (and women, too) swat the term “feminist” away like a buzzing wasp (the definition of a feminist, by the way is a person who believes that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities…that’s you, right?). In the same way, self-care seems reserved by men for “others.”
And if that wasn’t clear… others = chicks, bro.
There’s a great Twitter bot started by Jomny Sun, who has become a beloved burst of positive energy in his own corner of the internet, that auto-publishes simple reminders encouraging self-care every hour.
????: remember to take a second to eat something nourishing please
— here's your reminder (@tinycarebot) December 29, 2016
????: remember to breathe deeply please
— here's your reminder (@tinycarebot) January 26, 2017
When I first followed the @tinycarebot account, it felt too simple. This is it? It just tells me to go outside? But now, I get it.
Sometimes things don’t need a deeper meaning. Sometimes it can be enough to receive a reminder to stretch your legs, or ask for help when you need it. Some of us don’t have real-life people to care for us, or help us care for ourselves in this way.
When it comes down to it, are men so much tougher than women as to render self-care unnecessary? I don’t think so. I’m very tough, like a walking stick of beef jerky. So that can’t be it.
Are you less concerned about the world we’re living in? Maybe a little, in a “Well, if it affects you directly but only me indirectly then I’m slightly more comfortable with that…” kind of way (though please tell me if I’m wrong below).
After turning all this over again and again, I landed on placing blame for this gender imbalance on the term itself. “Self-care” brings to mind spa days and cucumbers on one’s eyes, even for me. And despite it being 2017, I’ll bet I’m more inclined to a spa day than you.
So here’s what I’m offering. In the name of wellness, you have my blessing to re-brand “self-care.” Christen it something more manly, if that would make you more likely to partake. Bro-custody, perhaps? Or Bod-and-Brains-protection?
Whatever will get you to take a deep breath, ask for help when you need it, and – yes, take a bath every now and then.
WHAT DOES SELF-CARE MEAN TO YOU?
Images via Obi Anyanwu