At some point, several years ago, a revelation dawned on both my physical and emotional self: I am obsessed with being comfortable. I am a convert to ease. I will, more often than not, prioritise my comfort over my appearance and every day I am refining my process of minimal effort for maximum comfort.
When I was sixteen, I was monstrously into platform shoes. How my mother let me stomp around in those precariously immense shoes is, in hindsight, both baffling and hilarious. Jeffrey Campbell was my main source of giant, Bratz doll-esque platformed shoes. I fondly recall the thirteen centimetre pewter glitter, wooden heeled platforms that I graced the presence of my peers with for my Year 10 school formal. I experimented with a full face of makeup, done at the MAC counter in Myer (never again, mainly for ethical reasons, somewhat for personal reasons), and wore a strapless, asymmetrical, chiffon fish-tail dress. Every time I blinked, I could feel the fake lashes battling with my real lashes. There was a lot going on. And yet, the slightly ostentatious, heavily blog-trendy sixteen year old me relished every moment.
Come eighteen years old, thick in the dense forest of the HSC, I had been reduced to hair that was washed once a week, and if not in my school uniform, I was pyjama clad. As my studying increased, my zeal in dressing to the nines decreased. All my body wanted was a break from academia, a pair of leggings, and a pat on the back. The heels went dusty, and I found a sense of comfort, both emotionally and physically, in being barefoot. And just like that, it was as if I was a reverse-Cinderella. I traded in the towering heels, party makeup, and short body-con dresses for loose-everything and bare feet.
I haven’t looked back since. These days my face consists of cursorily done eyebrows, and perpetually smudged winged eyeliner. I don’t own concealer or foundation, but if I’m in the mood, I will coat my cheekbones with an indulgent amount of highlighter, and I wear mascara about three times a year. If I woke up earlier, and cared a little more, I would perhaps endeavour to look more put together more often. Instead, to an extent, I have adult-proofed my appearance to suggest I am somewhat on top of things. A grandly gestured suggestion that the generously cut, haphazard clothing and makeup choices that adorn my body are, in fact, entirely purposeful. Think soft cotton t-shirts, high waisted blue jeans that are two sizes too big, a pair of sneakers, and a brush (or my fingers on a particularly efficient morning) dragged through my hair several times upon waking.
There are a select few anomalous rituals that punctuate my regular programming, such as my mandatory night time skincare routine of layering serum, cream, oil (in that order). Whilst I have learned to embrace and accommodate my inability to maintain aesthetic presentability for my mental wellness, in the same strain I welcome these ritualistic pamper and self-care habits. I relish their sparkly intentionality amidst the sea of simplicity I’ve pared my routine down to.
Perhaps this is what is most satisfying in the larger rhythm of how I operate now in the sphere of appearance and self-care. I do not wish to be entangled in the patriarchal rigour of needing to be perpetually ornamental in my appearance, nor do I want to be embedded in the false ideology of ’cool girl’ indifference. I value comfort and ease in my clothing so that I am enabled in the tasks I love most: eating, swimming in the ocean, being mobile on photoshoots, watching films with my legs tucked up.
I am simply a strong advocate for being gentle; with others, but also with yourself. And whether that looks like a monster platform glitter heel, cotton pyjamas, or somewhere in between I am excited to persist in this journey of learning what it means - and feels like - to be comfortable.
Words: Nicole Wong
Illustrations: Samantha Toong