After publishing Fishtail, I entertained the possibility that my journey into the feminine dimensions of my consciousness had, for all practical purposes, ended. That my experiment in locating the essence of my femininity would culminate there, in a series of self-identified states, desires, and creative urges. In a love of process. Blocked from further progress by my own limitations in seeing. At least, for now. And, while I find my interests, at present, pointing very strongly toward creativity and personality development, particularly the processes of integration (by means of sacralizing or alchemy) and self-actualization (or individuation), my thoughts keep returning to one aspect of the feminine–one particularly elusive and deceptively self-explanatory need—which I’d identified many months ago and failed in my previous attempts to meaningfully articulate.
The need to be pampered. A need whose expression is, for some women, embedded in a daily, or almost daily, set of rituals. Indeed, when I explained to a friend that I was working on a post about those moments when you need to be pampered, her immediate response was, “You mean, like, every day?” Pretty much. The need to be pampered is surely one of the most most frivolous and seemingly self-indulgent desires discussed here. Yet, I believe it serves a very specific and important function. An integral feature of my own consciousness, the need to be pampered appears, to my mind, as a primary celebration of receptivity. It is an invitation. A love of transformation—of ceremony, openness, expansion, and absorption. A kind of ritual for ritual’s sake. A deeply felt affinity for process. The need to be pampered may, in fact, be among the most conspicuously creative of all the feminine desires.
Here are some thoughts on what it means to experience the need to be pampered, including its links to receptivity, creativity, and what may be a distinctly feminine form of creative ecstasy.
The need to be pampered is an invitation.
If forced to describe simply what it feels like to be pampered, when the need arises, I would say it’s very much like a big sigh. A restorative ahhh. Indeed, I most often feel the need to be pampered when I perceive imbalances in my daily routine. When I’m working too hard and playing (or creating) too little. When I’m neglecting physical exercise or otherwise indulging bad habits to too great a degree. When I am distracted by family/friend/relationship issues. And, I just need a moment to regain my footing. To restore balance through small acts of self-care. To exhale.
Indeed, the need to be pampered is driven by an impulse to refresh, or reorient, one’s existing perspective by inviting the world in. By releasing the weary and welcoming the new. By embracing a desire to be cared for. To be nurtured, treated tenderly, vivified. To unfurl. To receive and transform.
The need to be pampered is not merely a desire to be doted upon or lavished with attention. It is not an emblem of passivity. Not a call to be taken care of. It is, rather, foretold by an eagerness, an engagement, and openness to activities signifying renewal. To be sure, the need to be pampered manifests in an attitude of receptivity, identical to that which Rollo May describes in Freedom and Destiny as being fundamental to creative activity, generally:
I want to make clear that the common misconception that the creative person is passive is just that—a misconception…The creative person stands in a state of openness, heightened sensitivity, incubating the creative idea, with a sharpened readiness to grasp the creative impulse when it is born.
When you need to be pampered, you yearn for restoration and rejuvenation. For alternate forms of self-expression. For the ceremonies of transformation.
Pampering is about process.
While most pampering rituals involve some form of being taken care of (and, that includes self-care), it is rarely, if ever, the act of being cared for alone that is ultimately rewarding. It is not, for instance, the act of gazing at my freshly pedicured feet that I find particularly gratifying. Nor is it the scent of my skin or the laxity of my muscles after a lavender massage—although, that’s all wonderfully restorative and sensually indulgent in its own right.
It is not the outcome of pampering that, to me, brings the greatest satisfaction, but the process itself. And, a love of process, according to A. H. Maslow, is the defining feature of a uniquely feminine form of creativity. The small acts of imagination that make these sensual rituals personal. The process of picking out the color of my nail polish/the hue of my new lipstick/the fabric that conforms most correctly to my curves because of the way it makes me feel in my own skin. Because of what it can add to my repertoire of self-expression. Because of the statement it makes about my mood, the shade of my personality, my sexuality, and my creativity. The ceremony is in the act of incorporation. In the ritual of selection. In the use of imagination. In transforming that which we take in, that which we allow to be done to and for us, and that with which we choose to adorn and compliment our innermost selves. For a great many women, those transformations are the stuff of poetry, of vibrancy, an integral part of the eroticism of our daily lives.
Pampering is ecstasy.
If there exists a feminine form of creativity—one that is gratified by the process, or ceremony, of creation—as Maslow suggests (and on which I hope to find more information elsewhere in print)—then it follows that there may be such a thing as a distinctly feminine type of creative ecstasy (I am, of course, simply tossing around an idea here based on my own experience.). One that is achieved by possessing at once the attitudes of creator and receiver. The ecstasy of openness is how I’d describe it. (I believe other women know this feeling.) A giving over of oneself to the forces of one’s own nature. A unique and profound expression of receptivity. I am the thing I make. And, I must constantly exist in the simultaneous states of making and being made. My sexuality is an unending cycle of generation and destruction. Physically. Psychologically. As a course of nature. On a creative plane, it is the pleasure I get from being able to design myself in my own image—according to the myriad ways in which I experience my own life force. Over and over again. Because within me there is a multiplicity that wants only (and very forcefully) to affirm itself. The pretty, the sexy, the submissive, the femme fatale, the all-over woman. I must pause for a moment. Because I am hearing myself come closer to finding the seat of my own feminine vitality. It is of the daimonic, as May defines it. Its power lies in the affirmation of itself. It is a voice that needs to experience its own reverberations. Its fire is in its own expansion. Its own fluidity. A constant interplay of creation and destruction.