I have crossed several things off of my to-do list for 2016. Divorce is finalized. House is listed for sale, though not yet sold, which means I have not yet moved back to my home state nor stopped being anyone’s employee. I have started a perfume wardrobe and finished updating my make-up and added a few more things to my wardrobe. I have made huge leaps forward in the project of becoming the woman I truly am.
The furthest leap (both in terms of where it started to where it is now, and where it is in relation to the other aspects of this project) has been in perfume. I have acquired a scent wardrobe that I could live with quite happily for some time; while there are a few gaps in season/mood/occasion terms, and room for a few more “just because it is beautiful” fragrances, I am content to let those perfumes find me instead of aggressively seeking them out. In the process of researching and discovering my likes and dislikes both aesthetically and functionally (meaning on my skin), I have made a profound connection to cosmetic scent. Perfume has become a genuine love. I don’t know how I missed the fact that it was an art form and an emotional expression before now, because normally I am sensitive to such things and interested in any medium that embodies them, but yet it never did occur to me that perfume was or could be more than mass-marketed functional smell-good products. But it is. I will wear perfume every day for the rest of my life. It brings me happiness and comfort and a small piece of beauty even on days when I can find little else beautiful around me. Perhaps I will write sometime about the fragrances that speak to me, and those that speak for me. I am glad that I have come to an appreciation of perfume at this juncture in my life, despite the sense of disbelief at how long I needed to discover it, given that it has already become a part of my sensory experience that I cannot imagine being without. But because I have no olfactory associations with my ex or our life together, I won’t have to give up a beloved scent because it bears too many memories of the past. And every man that I meet going forward will see my perfumes as a part of me, and not a pretension or an attempt to play dress-up, the way I might have felt if I had developed this passion while in an established relationship. The fact that I have more than one perfume, and that I can explain why each one I wear speaks to me, will simply be a window into how I relate to the world around me and how I view myself and what I find beautiful and compelling. And any man with smell-triggered migraines will know not to apply.
I have mentioned previously using color theory to help with my wardrobe update and make-up lessons. What I have specifically been using is the “12 color seasons” approach, which is a great starting point for someone like me who likes to test theories. It was fairly easy to determine that I am a cool skin tone and one of the “winter” seasons, so having only a few palettes to examine made for easy experiments. I would have guessed myself to be a dark winter, based on having very dark hair and dark eyes and very pale skin, but in fact I am a bright winter. The bright winter, if you are unfamiliar with the palettes, is the brightest palette of them all – the purest colors, the highest contrast. When I saw the make-up shades I was a little terrified. On the clothes side, the colors simply made my heart flutter and my soul sing, because, might as well face it, peacock green and Amazon-butterfly blue and neon yellow and the hottest pink in the ‘verse are the colors that make up my personality. They suit me, at least when I am willing to be seen. But you do not know fear, or courage, until you swirl your brush into fuchsia pressed powder and raise it toward your face at 0730 on a weekday.
You see, these are the make-up colors I have ended up with:
These shades do not look insane on me. In fact they make me look healthy and beautiful and allow me to use less make-up than I ever thought I needed to look both pulled together and radiant. They enhance. They make me look more myself than my bare face does. And they explain in one image why I never liked wearing make-up: because I was literally wearing the wrong colors. The shades I would have expected to like on me, or that I thought would look natural on me, were subdued. Pale browns, dusty pinks, wine reds. They maybe didn’t look terrible on me, but they didn’t make me better than my natural skin. They didn’t bring me joy, or make me smirk at my reflection in the mirror because I never thought I could look that…posh. I would NEVER have pulled these shades for myself. Well, maybe a couple of the more subdued lipsticks, MAYBE, but not the bright ones, or the deep ones. Never the hot pink. Not these brightly hued blushes. Not the pale iridescent eye shadows. The seasonal theory gave me a reason to try them, an easy experiment to run. And the difference was immediate, obvious, and undeniable. I find myself wearing make-up 6 days out of the week now, when I used to only do it when I was “dressing up.” Make-up used to be the same binary as perfume: worn/not worn based on whether the occasion met a certain threshold of formality or specialness. Not so any longer. Now it is a pleasure to wear, a means of self-expression and a way of claiming back my natural beauty for myself, because I am choosing to enhance it.
Are there days when I wish the lipsticks that look best on me aren’t so entirely…well, obvious? Sure. That’s what the “peach parfait” is for – a perfect nude for my lips that still adds that one extra shade of radiance to my entire complexion. I am still working out which shades I am truly comfortable wearing everyday, and which are for the times I want the elegance and drama of being obviously made up. But now I at least know this: I AM the sort of woman who chooses to highlight her charms, who puts on perfume and lipstick before taking her son for a walk in his stroller – not because I am trying to conform to anyone’s standards or expectations, but because wearing the colors and fragrances of my soul make me feel happy and centered. They allow the joy and appreciation of beauty and life that exist inside of me to be expressed literally on my skin. They help me become…me.