It is something I have always admired in the generation before ours. They stood tall — even if they were not — they sat up straight, they took their half-hour siesta every afternoon, but beyond that short time in the horizontal position, they never lounged around.
When they watched television (which entered their lives when they were seniors), it was from a high-backed chair; and during each break for advertisements they would get up and pace the room — doing all the things that we now learn are conducive to general good health, healthy ageing and growing old gracefully. They set an excellent example — but we find it awfully difficult to follow in their footsteps.
Because we in our adult lives, unlike them, could not even sit at the dining table without surreptitiously tucking one leg under the other to get more comfortable. More often than not, we would head to the sofa in front of the television screen with our plates, sink into the cushioning with a sigh, and proceed to munch distractedly without giving the food or the cook our attention and appreciation. And once we were done with our meal, we would recline even further, using those same advertisement breaks to grab a few moments of shuteye.
Of course, we were often instructed, even as adults, to sit up straight and hold ourselves tall and keep our chins up (literally as well as figuratively), to help our posture, our breathing, our bones and muscles and whatever else required some measure of control.
The bulk of our parents’ working lives had been spent on the go or in firm wooden chairs — and therefore, when they acquired furniture for themselves, they followed that general design, making do with a cushion now and then when their backs gave way with the sheer effort of remaining ramrod straight. We would often urge them to put up their legs and even provide a low stool for them to do so, but most often they passed up those offers and ignored our effort to make them relax. They found it easier to keep their feet firmly on the ground at all times and frowned upon our tendency to do just the opposite.
We, on the other hand, had our ergonomically adjusted contraptions that we could raise and lower, push back partially or completely, and adapt in various other ways at work. We spent so many hours glued to those chairs that we needed them to be able to move — since we forgot about moving ourselves!
True, many of those hours of slumping with the laptop on our chests or stomachs were productive — and we had something to show for it other than our protruding bellies but we were often warned by that ramrod older generation that we could eventually lose the ability to hold ourselves up without support.
Now, however, there are reports that slouching can actually be good for you. It increases the amount of fluid in between the disks, the reports say, and this helps to reduce joint stiffness — and probably eases tension and gives us a general feeling of relaxation and well-being.
I am pretty sure that this does not mean one can hope to benefit from being in a constant slouch, but I am also sure that hardcore slumpers and loungers like me will cling to this bit of news and spout it whenever someone casts a disgusted look at our languid spread on a sofa.
We have, afterall, made slouching into a full time occupation — and it will not be easy to straighten ourselves out, especially when we have that little voice of hope inside telling us that soon, somewhere, someone will find that a lifetime of such a lifestyle is not so bad after all!
Cheryl Rao is a journalist based in India.