“Every love story is a ghost story” proclaimed David Foster Wallace, a writer whose complex imagination has expounded upon some of the most intricate, and funniest, parts of our human condition. I’d venture to expand upon this statement with a more general analogy: Every story is a makeover. I’m not just talking about rom-coms—those amazing scenes in Pretty Woman or The Devil Wears Prada or countless other movies wherein the heroine (it’s always a woman, isn’t it?) is buffed and coiffed and styled to the tilt, such that she emerges with the confidence and panache that allows her to kick some serious @$$ in whatever situation she’s been belittled by.
Makeover moments are just about my favorite part of any story I encounter, screen or elsewhere. It seems vital to our existence to drastically shed an old self and replace her with a new self, and watching these unfold has given me great pleasure and enjoyment over the years. Like the natural process of cells turning over (roughly) every seven years in your body, your elemental self—your mind, your heart, your soul—can also be regenerated and reborn.
Experiencing these transformations vicariously was, I thought, enough for me for a long time. I knew who I was at the core, and that wasn’t going to change, but other people—sure, why not? And maybe I’ll get some good tips on new outfits or hairstyles. I’d listen to my friends talk about self-reinvention after summer camp or going away to college and consider how nice it was to be stable and apparently sure of myself. Until I wasn’t stable, or sure, about anything.
I’ll break a cardinal rule of female-dom and confess my age in this post: I turned 28 this year, a year when the country and the world seem to be undergoing an extensive makeover. (I think of it as the post-plastic surgery stage, when everything is bruised and swollen and horrifically distorted.) But for me, this multiple-of-seven year has also proven a time of great overturn and regenerations, from my cells all the way through the tips of my hair. Personally and professionally, I pushed through that hard morass of realizing nothing in my spiritual closet fit; maybe even that I had nothing at all to wear in my spiritual closet. So I made a brave decision to move away from the person I was so sure I was and accept a reality that was more true to my creative aspirations and desire to more immediately affect change, to help people in real time rather than dreaming about legacy and posterity.
I’ve rearranged my apartment, my diet, my budget, and my yoga class schedule (the last being the hardest to fuss with). Most excitingly, though, I put my faith in a new hair stylist to give me the cut I’d known I’d wanted for almost a year but was too reticent to speak up about. I’d settled in the interim for what he called a “halfsie” hairstyle—a shedding of my previous curtain of hair that was dramatic but not quite enough; the not-long, not-short style was just sitting there and “disrupted the nature of my curls,” a texture I’d come to embrace and even like about my hair after years of fighting with it to be something it wasn’t. I hadn’t committed to what the After could look like, so held onto bits of the Before.
Now, with my short pixie cut, I feel like suddenly it all make sense. My face feels exposed just the right amount, and when I tousle my hair with R+Co’s Mannequin Styling Paste the look is effortlessly put together: the feeling I strive for in all aspects of life. I stand taller to elongate my neck and frame myself with the shoulders I’ve made strong through chaturangas. I am more deliberate about highlighting my eyes and cheekbones with playful, bold, yet simple makeup like W3ll People’s tinted Expressionist Mascara and Bio Brightener Stick because, like a bold pattern and thin stripes in the same color family, they just go. When I look in the mirror, I can smile, just as when I sit down at my computer in the morning and smile at the prospect of what’s in store for the day. Outside matches inside; body aligns with mind.
Half the fun of makeovers is usually those dramatic Before and After shots. But the thing is, although I’m standing only a relatively short distance away from her, I can hardly see the Before-Jennifer to compare with this After. And it’s somehow just as fun, just as rewarding, to be on this side and not have to look back.