My body requires constant vigilance. At this point in my adult life, if I stop working out for a month, or let myself eat whatever I want for two weeks, or don’t condition my hair for a week, or forget deodorant for more than an hour … things go wrong. My body likes its routine. It demands very specific and regimented sets of care-activities to remain in my preferred version of “working order.” And when I slack off, when I stop paying attention, things change shape and texture. I get stinky and jiggly and sometimes I even get sick. I have to redouble my efforts to reestablish physical equilibrium.
This drives me a weeeeee bit BATSO because, for most of my life, I have been almost entirely cerebral. As a girl, I vastly preferred thinking and writing and talking to moving and acting and exerting. And my default is still to totally ignore my body’s existence. But I can’t. My body is a brat, and it acts out if it is not tended to.
One of the reasons I don’t wear Uggs or velour sweatsuits or baggy boyfriend jeans is that I would be far too comfortable. I’ve learned that one of the best ways to trick myself into being conscious of and attentive to my body is to maintain a careful balance between comfort and discomfort. Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t actively seek out confining dresses and itchy sweaters and painful shoes. I merely make sure that my everyday garb keeps me aware of my body’s conformation, movements, and needs. I dress to remain aware of my physical self.
I wear tailored and fitted clothing so that I am forced to see what my body looks like when I pass a mirror. I wear heels so that I am forced to pay attention to my own walking and posture. I wear skirts and dresses so that I am forced to remember that I am a girl, and that no matter how much I may yearn to don oversized hoodies and baggy boyfriend jeans, that’s just not what I’m built for. I even wear stacks of bangles and piles of necklaces because the clinking and tinkling keeps me aware of my body’s movements. It may sound ridiculous to resort to such measures, but they truly do prevent me from ignoring my body completely and, therefore, neglecting my self-care routines.
And although I sometimes resent this constant state of body-vigilance, it works out well in the end. I have learned that my enforced awareness engenders respect. I respect my body by remaining aware of it and its needs. My own respect for my body is projected outward. I garner respect from others because they can immediately see that I respect myself simply by seeing how I am dressed and by observing how I hold my body.
Again, I am not saying that discomfort breeds respect. I am saying that by remaining alert to and aware of my body, I can create a state of poise and control that all-engulfing, Ugg-level comfort just can’t replicate. I would never advise anyone to keep themselves perpetually uncomfortable as a means of feeling more present. But for me, total comfort breeds lack of self-awareness which can, in turn, breed lack of self-respect.
So I attempt to strike a balance. I reserve total discomfort for scuba diving, state dinners, and the dentist’s office. I reserve total comfort for movie night at home, working out, and road trips. At all other times, I dress for awareness. I dress in a way that respects my body’s needs, its shape, its natural assets, and its beauty.
I dress for equilibrium, and gain control. It’s a system that won’t appeal to or benefit everyone … but I need it. Without it, I risk losing sight of my physical self altogether.