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I don't wear scarves. I don't wear jewelry. I rarely wear makeup. It is a big deal for me to style my hair in any way that does not involve a haphazard bun or pony tail. Mostly, my intent is to get it out of my eyes, away from my cheeks and off my neck. Contemplating the traveling scarf, I consider briefly wearing it in my hair, but it's heavy. I settle on a simple tie over my t-shirt and cardigan.
I'm not sure I can carry this off.
I feel like an impostor in accessories. Bracelets don't fit, necklaces choke, watches stop working when they come into contact with my skin, earrings get tangled in my hair. And frankly, it's a bother that takes up precious time and provides very little payoff. I never leave enough time in the morning to put on makeup. The rituals of completing a look before venturing out into public feel extra to me, a luxury of time I'd rather spend elsewhere. I could grab an extra half hour's sleep, read for a little longer in the comfort of my bed, or actually make myself a breakfast that is tasty and filling. All feel like better options than locating the earrings that I plucked out of my ears and put God only knows where the last time I bothered to wear them.
At times in my life I have placed political importance behind my "decision" not to accessorize, a rejection of traditional gender roles and performativities. Why should I spend money and time acquiring pieces that decorated my body further? They didn't make me feel good, mostly they served to remind me that what I find appealing is rarely flattering and usually a distraction. By eschewing makeup and accessories I was renouncing the overly feminized way that Madison avenue had inclined me, and perhaps other women, to add bits of color and sparkly things to my appendages, my face.
Except my toothbrush is coral. The first thing I do in the morning is shrug myself into a pink terrycloth robe. I turn on the water for the shower, and choose among my vast soap collection: rose, linden, and lilac scents dominate. My shampoo and conditioners mix tea tree oil with ylang ylang and vanilla. My washcloths come in two colors: white and magenta.
I have sprays, pomades and powders for my skin, face and hair that fill up several shelves and are a colossal pain when it becomes time to dust my dresser. My mother refers to the lot of them as my lotions and potions. None of them evoke musky scents, pines or woods. All of them are floral or sweet-spiced based. My wardrobe is dominated by pinks, corals, roses and salmon. Recently I went to a conference and brought one pair of shoes that matched my black and hot pink outfits for four days straight perfectly. My morning ritual is actually an extensive act of gendering myself through colors and scents, regardless of whether I choose to ice the cake of my appearance with makeup or jewelry.
I like these things, and I don't feel guilty or inclined to give them up. Rose, lilac, lavender and linden, they make me smile and relax and feel good about myself. But putting on my traveling scarf this morning did provoke me to ask myself: Why do I find these things appealing? Why do they feel like coming home in a way that traditionally masculine scents don't? I doubt that the answer will change my daily routine; I do like how how my lotions and potions make me feel, the comfort they provide to a too busy life. But it's a question worth asking, a quest for self-understanding worth pursuing; especially since I suspect that the more interesting question might be, who benefits from me liking these things? Most of my potions are mass produced, and that answer might point to lots of other interesting possibilities I have not considered. Like where I buy my familiar scents from, and whose craft and art I choose to support.
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