I know I’m not alone when I admit that I’ve had a complicated relationship with sex.
Memories of my early teenage years are marked with youthful naivety and fearful ignorance. During my freshman year of high school, I genuinely believed premarital sex would ruin my life. I remember inviting a boy over to my house for the first time and feeling a sense of pride and relief as I dutifully followed my mom's rules: feet on the ground, lights on, door open. I was so caught up in these rules that one time a boy put his hand on my leg and I jumped back so far that I hit my head on the wall of my bedroom. This period of my life was confusing; one side of my brain was constantly consumed with thoughts about boys, and the other side was consumed with insecure thoughts about my changing body. Medical minds call this time "puberty." Maybe you've heard of it.
A few high school hookups and two boyfriends later, college came with the promise of being different, and it was. College was freedom, college was no rules. No feet on the ground and no door open. College was lights off, crop tops, tight jeans, and boys as far as the eye could see. The experimentation era began, and I not only discovered that sex was fun, but it also, evidently, would not completely ruin my life.
I wanted to start nurturing myself, learning more about myself, and taking better care of my body and mind.
But even with a new era of freedom and exploration, I felt that I'd barely scratched the surface on my own sexual wellbeing. I rarely orgasmed. I associated masturbating with being single (rookie mistake), which led me to spend the better part of a six-year relationship feeling dissatisfied, sexually frustrated, and wanting more. I never bought lube. I didn’t own a vibrator. To top it all off, I knew next to nothing about my own body and what felt good for me.
The societal stigma surrounding the female body and expressions of sexuality felt like a cage that took me years to break free from. When that sense of freedom finally came, it brought with it a whole new perspective on life, sex, and myself. Finally comfortable acknowledging my sexual wellbeing, I wanted to dig deeper. I wanted to start nurturing myself, learning more about myself, and taking better care of my body and mind — which is why I turned to the idea of self-care.
Self-care has become culturally synonymous with things like juice cleanses, algae peel-off face masks, yoga classes, and meditation. But for me? I’m not a big fan of carrot and celery in juice form. Algae’s slimy consistency makes my skin crawl. I can’t touch my toes, and my meditation attempts quickly devolve into naps. Suffice it to say I’m not great at trendier forms of self-care and I never have been. Now as I look ahead to my late twenties and my early thirties, I'm redefining self-care for myself and my needs.
After spending so much of my youth afraid of sex and my sexuality, scared of my body, today I've made a commitment to myself and the betterment of my health. I know that self-care looks different for every single person; for me, centering self-care around something I feel comfortable with made it easier to adopt into my day-to-day life. At 29 years old, I feel comfortable saying that I am a sexual being and my self-care reflects that.
The best part? I don’t have to make large sweeping changes to my life in order to practice sexual self-care. I’ll be honest, I’m not necessarily confident enough to walk into a sex shop just yet, but it's also OK if that's just not my style. I actually love that I have the freedom to walk into a Walmart to pick up groceries and LOLA personal lubricant simultaneously, as if that's just another essential item on my shopping list. Starting off with a simple act like that was important for me, and soon it empowered me to continue looking for small-but-powerful ways to prioritize my sexual health, like by switching to LOLA’s organic cotton tampons or working plant-based Honey Pot Daily Sensitive Foaming Wash into my shower routine.
I’m nowhere near the poster child for self-care, and that’s not where this journey is headed. But I’m on a path toward getting closer and closer to a fuller and more holistic understanding of my own self-care and wellness. I’ve discovered I like beet juice! I’ve adopted a once-a-week clay face mask that I look forward to (and so does my skin). I haven’t mastered yoga, but I’ve found lots of dance-focused cardio videos I enjoy. Meditation is still off the table, but I’m learning to power down, decompress, and let my mind rest before I go to sleep. Now if only I could find a way to cut down my dependence on my phone, then I'd be golden.
This post is sponsored by Walmart.