For the past two weeks I have been taking stock of my belongings, in preparation for a big move-out from my current living space. First I went through my clothes. This is something I tend to do every year, as we move from winter to spring, so I am accustomed to making the decisions based on “Did I wear this in the last year? Will I wear it in the next year?” But as I made my way through drawer after drawer, I realized I needed to make my decisions using stricter criteria. It became particularly clear to me when I made my way to the lingerie drawer. I know many women (and men) like to wear lingerie. It makes them feel pretty. They like the way it slides on their skin. I’ve never liked wearing it. I much prefer getting naked with a lover. I find skin a far more powerful aphrodisiac than bits of silk and lace. But, over the years, I’ve had lovers who loved lingerie. And I wanted the orgasms those lovers gave me when I wore it. So I bought it and wore it and kept it, even after the last of those relationships had ended. I suppose I thought I might have another of those lovers, one whose libido depended on the novelty of garters and push-up bras. My last lover, in a long-term relationship that ended six months ago, was also a fan of naked skin, so provoking desire with sexy clothes, for the last eight years, has been an issue as unexamined as the lingerie drawer has been. I stood next to the pile of Victoria’s Secret stuff, and counted the years since I last wore it. I’m middle-aged now. Would I still be able to carry it off? I picked out an expensive bra and corset with garters and slid my way into black seamed stockings. As I swiveled in front of the full-length mirror, for my imaginary future lover, I thought, “I look sexy enough.” But here’s the big thing –it wasn’t comfortable, physically or psychically. I had a familiar and troubling sensation deep in my gut. It was the feeling I used to get when I put on those clothes, knowing I was doing it for one reason only–to please the man. I stripped it all off, and the feeling faded away. And that’s when I identified the key point -the Cheryl in the lingerie is not the real Cheryl. She’s a fabricated person, created for effect. She’s a sexual object. She’s not me, and she never was. I tossed all that lingerie into the Goodwill box, thinking “If he wants me, he has to take me like I am.” And as I trundled the bags down the street to give them away, I found myself feeling lighter, and empowered. It feels good to give up the idea of making myself over into something I am not. I realize I never wanted to do it – not even the first time. I did it because I felt like I was not enough. I’m not suggesting that anyone else should feel the way I do. People who love lingerie should wear it, and more power to them. But for me, it carries a sense of self-betrayal. I am done with that. In the days since I gave away the sexy clothes, I have identified the main emotion that caused that sense of self-betrayal. It’s regret—for having capitulated to a belief that five ounces of artfully constructed expensive fabric makes me more desirable. Had I held out for lovers for whom, like me, skin is the most powerful aphrodisiac, might I have been happier in my love life? I think so. That lightness I felt, coming back from Goodwill, was the regret falling away. Now I am armed to take on the rest of my taking stock. I now know how to determine which stuff to get rid of. If it causes me regret, it’s time to let it go. I moved on to the books.