I cannot tell you how many conversations I start on a regular basis with the phrase, “I read this thing…” with my family, my friends, my therapist, and now — strangers on the internet.
But, I read this thing the other day, a piece Kendra wrote, about getting rid of things in her apartment, and it made me want to immediately stop everything I was doing, get up from my desk at work, and rush home to a particular section of my closet where I knew at least six different white v-neck t-shirts were all hanging next to each other, so I could throw them away.
I’d acquired them during a phase in my life where my desire to layer was high (it still is and probably will be forever), but the ratio of times I needed a clean white shirt to the number of times I did my laundry a month was very disproportionate.
I ended up throwing most of them away, sparing the one that gives me killer cleavage and the one I bought in New York when it was so hot and sweaty the purchase was practically a necessity and now it’s the softest piece of clothing I own.
I was, however, patient enough to wait until I had the free time for a full-blown Slim Shady closet clean-out, complete with I’m sorry momma’s. Not because anything I was doing would make her cry, but because I had never worn the pencil skirts she had given me during one of her own closet clean-outs years ago. So they went too.
I know this is starting to sound determined and ambitious, but despite how appealing the concept of a capsule wardrobe might be, I’ll never be the proud owner of one. Sure I tossed a few plaids I wasn’t crazy about anymore, but I assure you my collection is still robust. I got rid of a few hoodies I’d only worn once or twice, but my beloved crew necks remained untouched. Despite the limited amount of occasions it’s actually appropriate for me to wear them, I still love them.
And this process continued for some time, in a similar fashion. With me making more room for the things I loved (like my concert merch and my collection of baseball hats from all the airports I’ve ever visited) the things that are “me” in their own special way, and saying “I don’t need you anymore” to the things I had held on from fear of being wasteful. Clothes people had given me that I felt guilty for not getting more use out of because I felt like I owed it to them out of appreciation but just weren’t me. Clothes that had shrunk, clothes that had never fit to begin with, clothes I was determined to “fit into again”. Clothes I was holding onto just in case, because I might need them one day, for some specific occasion I had yet to experience. I had even accumulated an obscene amount of hangers from my very regular dry cleaning habit.
But as I pulled out some blazers and a handful of skirts from college, I realized that even if I was in the best shape of my life, I still wouldn’t want to, and honestly had no need to, wear clothes I had worn when I was 18. I saw the entire decade that stood between then and now. Styles had changed, but more importantly, so had I.
What made me feel sexy when I was consuming alcohol illegally at a campus bar was nowhere near what makes me feel sexy or what I find sexy today.
Back then I was obsessed with telenovelas and wanted to look like a bombshell with giant curls and fake eyelashes, lots of makeup, and a tight dress with heels to match no matter what the occasion, even if it was just to go grocery shopping. Granted, I should disclose that my reality during this same period of time included showing up to lectures in messy buns and sweatpants with last nights mascara smeared on my face, but that was my ideal, my golden standard.
Today I see that same look as something entirely different. An insane amount of effort, a trying so very, very hard, which for me now, is the opposite of sexy. And I say for me because this is all so relative and subjective and what works for one person might be very different from another person, but that’s okay. If it feels good, if you like it, great! Do it.
My personal definition of sexy today is something much more natural and comfortable and effortless. It relies more on confidence and individuality than it does on any particular standard of beauty.
These days I feel sexy when I have a good hair day. I still love giant curls, but I prefer them to be more messy and tousled and played with like I just rolled out of bed instead of any kind of impeccably coifed spirals. I feel sexy in red lipstick, in my tweed blazer. I feel sexy in a wool coat and sunglasses. I feel sexy in a button down or blouse and jeans.
I feel sexy tilting a glass of scotch in my hand. When my roundhouse kick makes the person holding the target pad wobble a little. When a stranger comes up to me after a comedy show and tells me they thought I was funny. I feel sexy talking about things I know a lot about, things that are near and dear to my heart.
What makes me feel sexy is anything that makes me feel like me. Whoever it is I want to be that day.
But I’m 28 now, and while I might play around with looks that are more preppy or sporty, casual or professional, edgy or elegant, to fit my different interests, they’re all versions of the same person. I know what is or isn’t me. And there’s no reason for all those things that aren’t me to take up space in my closet or my life. I don’t need to feel guilty for what I’m not. I don’t need to hold onto things for some unforeseen occasion. I’m not waiting to turn into anyone else. I’m not waiting to grow up anymore. It’s happened.
I just happen to be an adult who lives alone but owns twenty coffee mugs even though the ratio of times I make coffee and forget to drink it to the times I do is once again highly disproportionate. And while I probably don’t need matching Bailey’s glasses, maybe one day my life will be like one of those telenovelas, the Colombian kind where they say things like ¿Cómo me le va? and make coffee for people they care about when they’re upset and call it a tintico.
I guess that’s one possibility I’m willing to dedicate a few inches of space to.