Tasked with writing about my style resolution for 2012, I puzzled for awhile, trying to come up with some trend I wanted to try or a bad style habit I wanted to break. Everything I thought up I realized I had done already, mostly in the recent past. So instead of writing about the new style resolution I was making for 2012, I decided to pat myself on the back for the ones I’ve already made and stuck to.
See, I’m someone who did not have much self-esteem growing up. Actually, I thought I was ugly. My parents told me I was beautiful, but their kind words were no match for the trifecta of hideousness that hit me at age 14: glasses, braces, and an onslaught of acne bombarded me all at once. While I had always been somewhat shy, I became a complete wallflower, shrinking away from any additional attention my looks were attracting. It was likely all in my head — what 14-year-old doesn’t get a bit of acne or go through an awkward phase? — but I felt like the most hideous girl in the world.
Over the years, my skin and my self-esteem got better, but often because I was taking cues from the women I thought were prettier than me. I dyed my hair “Crimson Glow” like Angela on “My So-Called Life,” chopped my locks like Gwyneth Paltrow, dressed like the stylish girls I wanted to be like from real life, movies and on TV. Sometimes those style changes looked okay on me and I felt good about what I saw in the mirror, but mostly because I wasn’t actually seeing myself, but an imitation of someone I thought was beautiful and worth looking like. In the last couple of years, however, I’ve finally started to really see the beauty in how I look just as Amelia, without all the bells and whistles and outfits ripped from the pages of Lucky. I’ve become a lot more confident in my own skin and have found myself subconsciously making and embracing certain style resolutions. And I’m damn proud of myself for it. They are:
1. I’ve embraced my thin upper lip. Some women have lips that are just made for slicking on lipgloss — Angelina Jolie, for example. My lips, however, are on the very modest side and the top one is especially demure. For years, I thought I couldn’t wear lipstick, that it only emphasized that I had no upper lip in the first place. I would try to smile with my mouth closed so that my top lip would push against my teeth and look just a tiiiiny bit fuller. Now I smile full and wide. Why? Well, for one, I once found out exactly how I would look if I got lip injections. Which brings me to story time!
My freshman year of college, I did some experimenting with a certain substance that has the effect of making you feel realllllllly good. At one point during this incredibly pleasurable sensory experience, the friend I was having an appropriately intense conversation with exclaimed, “Amelia! Your lip! Your lip! It’s bleeding!” I ran to the mirror. Apparently, the wonderful feeling I had was distracting me from the fact that, for the past 30 minutes, I had been gnawing at the inside of my top lip. Like, eating it. My top lip gushed blood. And then, when I pulled the paper towel away from my face when the bleeding had stopped, that same friend exclaimed, “Amelia! Your lip! Your lip! It’s growing!” It was not a hallucination. My lip inflated to three times its size and my friend, hell bent on making sure I didn’t freak out, assured me I looked like Kelly Lebrock. But the next morning, sober, I realized she had been lying. I looked like a freak and I skipped class for three days until the swelling went down.
The point being: I saw what I would look like with a lip that wasn’t naturally my own. I didn’t look like Amelia. I didn’t look like Kelly Lebrock either. I looked ridiculous. It’s not that the experience made me have an immediate epiphany about my lips, but it did make me want other people’s lips less. I stuck to emphasizing my eyes, but finally, just this year, I decided to give red lipstick a try. And guess what? It looks awesome on my kisser.
2. I stopped abusing my hair through excessive blowdry-ing and flatiron-ing. My mom has super wild, crazy thick curls. My dad, when he had hair, had straight, fine hair. My hair is exactly in between: the hair itself is fine, but I have a lot of it. When I hit puberty, it developed a certain subtle kinkiness that put my texture somewhere in the “kinda wavy” category. But I wanted it to be pin straight and glossy and to get that took a lot of work. I used to spend about 45 minutes doing my hair, blowing it dry and then flatiron-ing every single strand to maximum straightness. Even then, it never looked straight enough to me.
I don’t know what led me to stop obsessing and to embrace my hair’s natural texture. Maybe it was becoming a workaholic and realizing that the 45 minutes I spent on my hair was a waste of my time. But once I stopped, I never really looked back. I would save flatiron-ing for special occasions, but honestly, nowadays, I prefer my kinda wavy hair. It’s soft and touchable and isn’t threatened by a little rain or a gust of wind. It doesn’t have the time for that shit.
3. I stopped thinking of myself as a “blonde.” I was born a blonde. It darkened as I got older, but even at 13 or so you would have described me as at least “dirty blonde.” And then puberty hit, my face got acne, my eyesight turned to shit, my teeth got encased in metal, and, oh yeah, my hair turned brown and stayed that way. This was not okay. The acne, eyesight, and braces were out of my hands, but my hair was something I could control and being a blonde was the one positive aspect of my physical identity I refused to give up. From high school, all the way through college, and into my first few years in New York, I held onto being a blonde by way of the bottle. It wasn’t that I was even convinced I looked good as a blonde — I didn’t, by the way — it was that I thought I was one. Inside. When a hairstylist finally refused to dye my hair platinum and sternly told me I needed to deal with being a brunette, I begrudgingly agreed. I didn’t like it at first — if I wasn’t a blonde, who the fuck was I? Rationally, I knew that my hair color had nothing to do with who I was, but when so much of your time is spent feeling like crap about the way you look, it’s hard for things not to get muddled.
Now I love having brown hair, but I don’t think of myself as a brunette. My hair color has nothing to do with who I am.
4. I fell in love with my ass. I didn’t think about my body very much as a teenager. I was too focused on the clusters of flaming red zits crop-dusting my face to even think about whether I was skinny or fat or curvy or flat-chested. But when my acne, thank goodness, went away (save the occasional minor breakout), I started to pay attention. And one thing I immediately noticed was that I had a butt. Everyone has a butt, of course, but my butt really knew how to fill out a pair of jeans and I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing. My experience with guys and sex was pretty limited; did they like girls with butts that jiggled? What about the dimples? Were those cute or gross? Should I minimize its ampleness, like the magazines suggested? It was very confusing, my butt. My weight would fluctuate, but my butt stayed the same. I started to get used to it. Some guys told me, all on their own, that they liked it. No one complained. And really, one day, it’s like I woke up and looked in the mirror and was overwhelmed my one thought: Damn. I have a great ass. I’m not kidding. Just like that. And I haven’t stopped loving it.
5. I became my own style muse. As I said earlier, much of my self-esteem has been affected by how I compare myself to others. I’ve spent far more years emulating other peoples’ style than finding my own. I think admiring the style other people have can be totally awesome, especially if it inspires you to try new things. But dammit, don’t forget to also be your own style muse. If you’re uncomfortable in something you’re wearing — which you bought and put on because you saw some other chick wearing it — you will look uncomfortable. And that’s not cute. The best style resolution I think anyone could ever make is LEARN TO BE COMFORTABLE IN YOUR OWN SKIN. Because it’s with you forever; everything else — the clothes, the hair dye, the makeup — is all window dressing. The day I stopped trying to dress and look like everyone else who I thought was prettier or better than me is the day I started to learn and appreciate what makes me pretty and awesome too.