FOR ESMÉ – “MODERN LOVE”
For Esmé Talks About “Modern Love”
Whenever I find myself down in the well of self-loathing or in desperate need of affirmations, I always return to Joan Didion’s 1961 essay “On Self Respect”. It is a bible of sorts for me — a map that leads back to myself. I wanted to create a similar sign post, for myself and others, to look at ourselves in the mirror and know: I am complete, I am in charge of my own life, I am responsible for my own mistakes and my own victories.
“The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing
to do with the approval of others—who are,
after all, deceived easily enough.”
~Joan Didion, ‘On Self Respect’
When Director Nick Tiringer approached me about making the video, the concept of a great cast of womxn singing the affirmations to themselves in the mirror was perfect. The imagery was exactly on point with how I’d written the song: a note to self — a post-it on the bathroom mirror not to forget: “YOU are the one you’ve got to live with.”
We live in a culture that places a great deal of emphasis on self-care and self-love, while simultaneously making those things feel impossible to do well. While I see the good behind these concepts, they’ve never sat easily with me. The incline from self-care to self indulgence feels too slippery— a cliff one risks falling over the edge of. Self respect on the other hand is more bonafide — something that we can all cultivate and nurture that involves taking responsibility for oneself.
When faced with the prospect of marriage, a source of anxiety was of being defined by my relationship. My partner would never define me by my relationship to him, but my fear was that other people would. People acting like my having secured a husband meant I had achieved my biggest milestone. The concept that if the right man loved me, I was winning big. Of course, a house built on the approval of others is sure to crumble, and crumble mine always did.
Now I try to make sure that I am attractive to myself. To put in the hard work of becoming someone I actually like, someone I respect, and therefore someone wholly able to discriminate between what I do and do not deserve.