Saturday, December 3, 2011

“Lingerie shopping is good for the soul”

Many years ago on an overcast Saturday afternoon, I found myself at one of those fancy foot spas that promise to take your worn-out, roughed-up, sandpaper-y feet and turn them all silken and velvety. I’d been gifted a voucher for the spa and since I was in the neighborhood for work anyway, I decided to squeeze in an hour of indulgent pampering before getting back to the grind. It had been a particularly trying week at work and I was glad to lose myself in the luxuriously plush surroundings of the spa for a while and switch off.

The interiors of the spa were divided into semi private enclosures which seated up to five women at a time and I found myself grouped with four other ladies, all engaged in an animated conversation. They got talking with me too as we waited for our respective therapists to show up and I discovered that they were sisters-in-law out for a weekend treat. During the course of the hour long ‘happy feet therapy’ as the spa manager put it, I got a fairly detailed look into the lives of the four ladies as they merrily chatted away. Apparently they were part of a large joint family which was strictly controlled by the father-in-law who ensured that he had a say in everything from the weekly menu to the household budget. With six growing children in the house, a busy kitchen to manage and a fairly hectic social schedule, life for the four ‘co-sisters’, as they referred to each other, was as full as it could possibly be and they often found that they had barely any time to spare for just themselves.

That’s when the eldest sister-in-law had come up with a brainwave; one that would allow the four ladies to step away from their roles as wives, mums and home makers for a bit and get some much needed me-time. Once in a while, whenever they could get a breather in their busy schedules, the ladies would head out together for an activity they all enjoyed: shopping, a trip to the spa or salon or just a relaxed meal at a restaurant. While the mother-in-law and their respective husbands were perfectly okay with this arrangement, the father-in-law didn’t particularly approve of what in his view were frivolous activities. And so, whenever time came for their occasional girls’ day out and they were questioned by the father-in-law, the ma-in-law would just inform him that they needed to go out for some ‘lingerie shopping’! That would naturally put an end to any further discussion and the ladies would enjoy their time off and get back to their routines, no questions asked!

“You know our father-in-law is actually a very nice person” the eldest sister-in-law who was seated right next to me confided “He is just a little old fashioned and given his age we don’t want to get into any direct confrontations with him. Our mother-in-law on the other hand is wonderfully supportive and luckily for us the four of us get along so famously that we have a readymade support system right at home. These occasional sessions really help us bond and rejuvenate and just forget the daily irritants of life for a while and we get back feeling so refreshed. Like I say, lingerie shopping is good for the soul!”

The ‘happy feet’ session ended soon after and bidding goodbye to the co-sisters, I tripped away on my barely recognizable, sparkling new feet, with these words ringing in my ears. In their own way, these four women had found a way to weave some fun into, what seemed to me, a fairly regimented life, by ensuring that they regularly took some time out for themselves. We’ve all read about the importance of ‘me-time’ but very few of us, yours truly included, actually make a conscious effort to make time for it. And yet I find that whenever I do make the effort and take some time out to ‘just be’, as a friend once put it, it makes a remarkable difference. I feel rejuvenated, more focused and often I find that this time helps me cope better with the day ahead.

And so for some time now, I have been making the effort to fit some ‘me-time’ into my routine as well. It doesn’t have to be an extravagant shopping trip or a trip to the spa; it could be as simple as getting some time to yourself in a busy day.
For one girl I know it is the half hour after the rushed morning routine has passed, and the husband and child have been packed off to office and school respectively. She brews herself some tea, puts her feet up and puts the rest of the world on hold for that half hour before heading to her own workplace. For another friend, a hot foot soak last thing at night is what helps her unwind.

I’ve been really lucky to have made some new ‘mommy friends’ since my daughter’s birth. Every once in a while, we leave our toddlers in the care of their baby sitters (dads!) and head off for a movie or brunch. And when the mommies or the baby sitters or both are not around, I like to get my alone time after everyone else in the house is either asleep or doing their own thing. I pull out my favorite treasure, a stash of much thumbed girlie magazines I’ve had since college and give myself up to an hour of bliss.

“Why are you reading that rubbish again?” asks the husband as he wanders past “Haven’t you given that stuff to the raddi chap yet?”

“No and I don’t intend to,” I reply, with (what I hope is) an enigmatic smile “because lingerie shopping is good for the soul!”

Originally written for "The Punekar"

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Manasi Vaidya, Author of "No Deadline For Love"
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