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High Maintenance to Be Low Maintenance
On front-loading my self-care, and giving less f*cks.
Hey friend. No sanctimony: I’ve been taking better care of myself lately. I’ve withdrawn from most outings since January to focus on my little self-improvement journey — a tune-up. Hibernating. Wintroverting. Working on myself. TikTok has been calling a version of this mindset “high maintenance to be low maintenance”, which essentially just means front-loading your self-care with prevention so that you have less to maintain day-to-day.
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It began with Dry January. I missed drinking so little that I decided to just keep it going. Now, I’ve been nary a cocktail for over a month. I feel really good. My anxiety has dulled, my sleep is better, and those atrocious hangovers are no longer gnawing away at my mornings.
Not saying I’ll never drink again — I’m fortunate that I’m not an alcoholic, and the decision to quit was easy for me — but cutting way back made me realize how little value it added. I’ve been sober curious for a year or so now, so the cleansing power of a new year felt like as good a reason as any.
Let’s be clear; I do not mind or judge if you drink. It’s the epitome of a personal choice, but I’m rolling with it since it’s been so low-stakes for me.
The momentum of sobriety started a confident little snowball that rolled into other things I’d been putting off. For example, I went to the dentist.
That sounds silly, but I’m actually terrified of the dentist. Forcing myself to go was a big deal. It turned out to be an even bigger deal, in fact, because, upon examination, my doctor found an issue with the one cavity I have ever had.
An old filling from high school had dislodged itself and little bits collected underneath. Once she removed it, the cavity was worse than ever, and I had to have emergency oral surgery to extract the tooth. The tooth (a molar in the back) held on for dear life, a genetic freak with three roots (two is standard) that required multiple rounds of very physical yanking and drilling. Underneath it, an abscess had formed, an infection that turned into sepsis that we were very lucky to catch early.
“No wonder you’ve been feeling so tired lately,” my friend Abby said. “Your body has been fighting off infection!”
I am okay now, thank God. But in a weird way, I am also relieved. Because the worst-case scenario happened, and I lived, and it was awful, but I’m fine. And now no dentist appointment can ever be that scary again, so the whole experience sort of absolved me of the fear. So even despite a very protracted recovery process (that absolutely sucked), the self-care snowball was still picking up momentum.
Last year, I went on Lexapro to help curb my anxiety, which the events of 2020 sent to a near-unmanageable place. It helped immensely. If it weren’t for that medication, I doubt I would have ever been able to walk into the dentist in the first place, so it is certainly helping me. The downside is that it made me gain 25 pounds in 6 months. With my new momentum, I made another promise to myself to lose it.
My insulin resistance qualified me for Semaglutide — in layman’s terms, generic for Ozempic/Wegovy — that “skinny shot” you keep hearing about. I had some blood work done and my doctor recommended it. I’ve been going once a week to get the shot since January 11, and I’ve lost 15 lbs so far. I plan to write about this more once I have more experience under my belt.
I opted for generic Semaglutide (mine is compounded with B-12) and not name-brand Ozempic/Wegovy for two reasons: one, it’s far less expensive, even with insurance. Two, there is a well-reported shortage of the injection tool that the name-brand drugs come in, and I didn’t want to get cussed out by some Karen on the Internet for “taking away” from others who need it. I know I’m opening up a proverbial can of worms by putting this out there, but I’m hopeful and confident that most of you are rational people.
The next promise I made to myself in my ever-growing momentum snowball was to get back into my Pilates practice. I am starting off gently with private instruction twice a week to get my rusty body back in reformer shape, and it’s been so immensely therapeutic for me. My instructor Karlee has been an angel, and I can feel my body getting stronger. I treat myself to some sauna time after every class.
Weight loss invariably gets me thinking about shopping, because my clothes are fitting differently. But I’m such a uniform dresser and wardrobe builder that I’m determined to squeeze every last bit of value from the beautiful things I already own. Buying new clothes has lost a lot of its verve for me this season. I reckon we can attribute a lot of that to the doldrums of February, but even now, at the height of New York Fashion Week, the items that appeal to me most on the runways are those that ring with sensibility.
Rachel Tashjian wrote a great piece this week called “Forget Clickbait Clothing, the Wardrobe is Back.” To which I say, in my thickest native Southern accent: I’ve been TELLIN’ Y’ALL. From the article:
The first big story to emerge out of New York Fashion Week, which began on Friday, is something so straightforward it might sound nuts: designers are making clothes for the real world.
That might sound silly—aren’t clothes what this business is all about?—but their blazers, knit dresses, and sequin knits at Proenza Schouler’s Saturday morning show felt like a joyous relief in an era saturated with pieces that seem more like clickbait than strong, wearable, intelligent clothes. The show opened with longtime Proenza pal Chloë Sevigny, wearing a black blazer cinched at the waist with a thin leather belt with a silver oval at the back, over a boxy leather wrap skirt. Then came more great clothes: a black suit with a very fluid carrot leg; a v-neck black dress with a sliced skirt revealing strands of bonking white pom poms; a couple perfect double-breasted camel and blonde coats; sequin knits twisted beneath the arm to give a gentle shape to the waist. The runways were narrow, so you could see these great clothes up close. It was like, Here’s your wardrobe for next fall—done, solved!
Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, who are entering their second decade in business, said backstage that they didn’t do anything too wild to shake things up this season, though they did start in a different place, with headshots of women they admire, like Sevigny and Olympia Scarry, instead of sketching full looks. They thought about how those women dress. They designed in pieces— making “just clothes,” as McCollough put it—and then, working with their longtime stylist Camilla Nickerson, worked through how the women they admire would wear them.
So they made a wardrobe? “Definitely,” said Hernandez. “Reality. We’re tired of all this fantasy and Instagram clothes.”
Strong! Wearable! Intelligent! Clothes!
I’ve dubbed the vibe Neo-Elegance, but you can call it whatever you want. It’s not minimalism, really. But it’s derivative. Think of it as wardrobing for the thinking woman who does not want to think that hard. Or as Tashjian wrote,
I really do love this New York woman, who runs an art gallery or just frequents them, and who gets excited about seeing a Norma Kamali sleeping bag coat-clad Deborah Eisenberg walking down Wooster, and always gets a good table at Raoul’s, and likes to sneak the occasional cigarette. The kind of woman who needs some beautiful pieces to mix in with her mom’s vintage Alaïa or and Yohji. She’s such a cool, aspirational person—aspirational in the sense that you want to dress like her and know how her mind works, what she’s reading and listening to.
I’d argue that buying fewer, better things is self-care in the same vein as Pilates, hot baths, cracking the spine on a new book, or making a playlist. It’s a mental unburdening because you do the work up-front. When you front-load a well-assembled wardrobe of foundational items, getting dressed is low-drama. But you still feel good in your skin! No overthinking! High maintenance to be low maintenance!
It hearkens back to the “five good outfits” theory I’ve written about, the ethos of which is function and simplicity, but the fun of which is doing it with style. If I buy good things in classic silhouettes and take good care of them, I find myself shopping with the mentality of wardrobe building, not outfit building.
(A closet clean-out is a great thing to do when you can commit to this mindset. You’ll find you have ruthless clarity.)
Steering my wardrobe makes me feel like I can steer my life. Not minimalism or restriction, just balance. Then, I can indulge.
I once read to think of your time like a budget — a “fuck budget”. As in, you have only so many fucks to give. Fucks are finite, and once they are spent, they’re spent. So save your fucks for the things that you care about, and don’t spend your energy doing things you hate. Front-load the nonsense to streamline your day-to-day, so that you have time for the things you actually give a fuck about.
I don’t care all that much about drinking these days, but I’ll never deny myself a well-timed, bracingly cold gin martini. That I give a fuck about. I’d rather stay in bed than go to Pilates, so when I go, I’ll be damned if it’s to the big beige studio where everyone’s in matching pastel workout rigs like little goop’d pod people. I pre-pay for private lessons at my no-nonsense gym to hold myself accountable, and thus, I don’t have to worry about sighting a single frond of pampas grass, an aesthetic I soundly give zero fucks about.
I’ll stay on the medications that have changed my life for the better, rhetoric or not, because I give a fuck about my mental well-being. And I will shop carefully and edit ruthlessly because there is nothing I hate more than agonizing over what to wear. If it doesn’t come together in ten minutes or less, I have overspent my fuck budget, and it’s time to revisit the front-loading process.
So if you haven’t done it yet, go call your dentist and get on the books. Stop avoiding it! Clear those cups off your bedside table, too. Wash your hair! Wash your sheets! Go on a little walk. And if you’re really feeling the momentum, purge your closet. Get all your beauty appointments done. RSVP “no” to that baby shower. And then, go spend your fuck budget on things that actually matter to you. You’ll feel better, I promise.