‘Tenderness,’ said one philosophical friend, ‘is a way that love expresses itself for oneself or another.’ We have been searching for an accurate way of understanding how one takes care of oneself properly. ‘Taking care of oneself properly’ lacks of certain ‘intimacy’ in the offing. (One may take care of one’s business affairs properly, but there is a lack of affect in all that.) Or one could not be taking care of oneself, as is evident when one is sternly cold with oneself. Or, we said, one could indulge oneself.
By being tender with myself, I am neither cold with myself nor lukewarm toward myself nor warm in the pleasures of excess. Coldness is not love but hate; lukewarmness is not love but a certain lack of partiality (I could just as well be someone else); indulgence is not love but, he said, a symbol that seeks to show that I’m worth it. Born of suspicion, selfindulgence never carries enough prove that I am worth it.
Only out of loving myself am I tender with myself.
We said that there is first-order tenderness, which has to do with how I take things in the course, say, of a day. And there is a second-order tenderness, which is concerned with how I take myself, over time, in the things that come to pass. A tenderness of tenderness involves not only taking this or that with a quality of light touch but also taking myself, over time and even when a number of things go awry, with a light-humoredness. Without second-order tenderness, one could insist upon a coldness of tenderness, and that, though comical, would also be harmful. So that I am not simply tender, when I am tender, here and there or now and again; I am becoming a tender person, a person with a tender demeanor. This is the meaning of tenderness of tenderness.