In this bizarre search for beauty and glamour that many of us undergo as women, I have encountered many products. Some have been good enough for me to use the whole jar or wear frequently. Others have left me with breakouts and feeling lacklustre. They might be right for other people and they might have excellent reviews, but the way I feel is what matters here.
Perhaps this is just part of the insecurity that women are encouraged to have, or perhaps it is mine alone. However, I have been not always been good at listening to myself or my own body. Yet, the body is the starting point from which all other life experiences radiate. It deserves to be cared for, nurtured and treated gently.
With this in mind, I began a further decluttering adventure in which I tried to figure out what my skin thought of different things. It appals me to think that my body’s largest organ is frequently squished, scratched, blistered or generally irritated so I can look the way I think others want to see me.
So many things have left this way, from shoes with an awkward peep toe to a dress with a scratchy lining. I even dumped an expensive moisturiser that irritated my skin. But all of this was really just a prelude to a trickier skin conversation that happened around my underwear drawer.
Knickers riding up, legs being too tight, that weird ham hock look that legs get when elastic is too tight: all = normal. What was abnormal was the inflammation that my vulva would get when wearing the wrong underwear. Sometimes it lasts for weeks, sometimes just for a couple of days. I used to think that this was in my head, and I only got a diagnosis of vulvodynia after seeing three doctors. Even then, the doctor who diagnosed my condition was quite derisive about how much pain I was feeling. Absolutely absurd, considering that 1 in 5 women is now thought to experience this. When I was diagnosed just a few years ago, it was 1 in 500.
So my skin and I approached a rather decadent collection of lingerie and I listened, questioning each piece in turn. Some boyshorts were bad while some thongs were good; no particular style was guaranteed to work for me. One of the most liberating things I’m finding about minimalism is that I’ve become the expert in my life; I get to decide what stays in it.