It is pretty commonsensical today that every adult ought to be independent. Financially. Emotionally. Physically. Etc.

Well, I wonder.

I am kind of clear on the need for financial independence. Which is weird because I am not that convinced of the others.

Take the need to be emotionally independent. What does that even mean? I’m not sure. Does it mean that we should be emotionally so self-sufficient so that even if the people we love drop away, we will survive, as the song goes? I have been that way since I was a little girl thanks to the ability to construct walls. It works for me and has been an ongoing project for so long, I never realised I was doing it until I was an adult. I survive by letting people into my affections very very slowly, and once they’re in, once in a way, picturing what I might do were they not to exist. Is this emotional independence? If so, not sure I’d recommend it as the way for everyone.

And then there’s the matter of fending for oneself. By which is meant the ability to do daily tasks such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. by oneself. I used to subscribe to this notion except now I wonder – is it really necessary? For everyone? Two points sway the matter for me:

1) If one is meant to prioritise the acquisition of skills based on the likelihood that one will use them, then some people in some situations might be justified in thinking that they might never need to cook, do the laundry, drive a car, learn to swim, etc. Some people live a lifestyle, normally of certain wealth, where they can outsource these duties. It is more efficient, someone who can do it better, is paid to and one more job is created. Why not?

Had this discussion with MinCat and she pointed out that it’s really irritating when such people end up not living in la-la land as expected but end up sharing an apartment with one. I fully understand. If people are living a lifestyle where they need to do things themselves in cooperation with other people, then they need to speed up their learning process. They should also have the good grace to admit their incompetence while learning. I do.

2) Many of these things are not rocket science. Were one to be in a situation where one had to perform these tasks, one could probably master them in a short time. Even cooking. One might not become Michelin star worthy but learning to cook something to stave off hunger is not that hard.

For example, I never learnt how to cook growing up. When I was on the verge of being married and moving cities, my mother got me to watch her a couple of times and handed me some simple recipes. These I tried out on my own to lukewarm reviews. Had I persisted, I would probably have got better. However, I happily happened to be married to a man who liked to cook and further, found a helper who could cook. I cannot throw fabulous dinner parties with homecooked meals unless my husband agrees to do the needful but this is not a major loss to my life. Caterers and take-out exist for such purposes. I am not that into throwing parties anyway.

I had also never cleaned a toilet and only on rare occasions swept and swabbed a house. This I mastered fairly quickly. Washing machines are not hard, though I need to relearn how to use each machine separately. I do not know how to use the machine in my current apartment because I don’t have to. If the need arises, I will write down instructions and proceed.

I knew a woman who has a very senior position at a multinational company and freaked out when she moved to Hong Kong because she tried to do a load in the machine and all her shirts came out pink. She flapped around helplessly and instead of learning how to do everything herself, got herself a helper. Two years later, she was transferred to Europe and was again panicking. She has found herself a helper in Europe too. Despite all the drama, I am sure that should the need really arise and should she really want to live somewhere that doesn’t have helpers as an option, she will learn how to operate a washing machine and the rest of it.

So the question is: does one need to be practising say turning on the washing machine or making dal one’s entire life if one is fairly certain that one would most likely never need these skills? (Amazing as it may seem to some, such lifestyles do exist). And also: Is there some special valour in doing everything oneself, or being able to? Okay maybe there is, but is this something we should all be focussing our energies on? I am not convinced.

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