3 Versions of Myself I Access Through Fragrances

“John Varvatos” by John Varvatos

I am a cisgender woman, but it is just not that simple. Gender never is.

In high school, I used to describe my eclectic personal style as a mix between a 1950s pinup girl, a 1980s teen queen, and a British schoolboy. Elements of the latter only snuck into my outfits occasionally – a collared shirt here, a silk striped necktie there – but I always felt that schoolboy somewhere below the surface, particularly as I came into my queer identity. Pursuing girls, giggling and blushing at girls in the school cafeteria, training my gaze on girls in an unabashedly desirous manner – these all brought out a butchness in me, for lack of a better term; a hard sharpness on the edges of my otherwise plush femininity.

I wondered – and still sometimes wonder – whether my once-in-a-blue-moon dalliances with dapperness are more an homage to a person I want to be, or a person I want to fuck. But then, maybe those two categories are always a Venn diagram, and it’s just a question of how much overlap exists in your personal version.

When I peruse fragrances online, I’m most drawn to notes I associate with masculinity: leather, oak, tobacco, sandalwood. It all sounds terribly sexy, for much the same reason I sigh and swoon when I encounter phrases like “blue striped button-down with the sleeves rolled up” or “freshly shined leather wingtips.” These aesthetic elements sit right in the centre of my Venn diagram of attraction and aspiration: a sweet spot where I can equally imagine myself pinned against a wall by a ravishing man who is kissing me, or being that man.

I ordered a sample of John Varvatos’ self-titled fragrance because a male xoJane writer described it as smelling “[like] you spilled a chai latte into an old leather jacket.” I could see it so clearly. Flirting with a leather-clad heartthrob in a bustling café, all waxy hair pomade and smug bravado – or being that heartthrob, and not needing to ponder petty concerns like gender, because chai and leather and flirty nerve are genderless and always have been.

There are some “men’s” fragrances that feel like drag when I wear them, coming off incongruously boyish on little ol’ femmey me. But John Varvatos melts into my skin and my gender with an uncomplicated ease. It’s masculine and powerful and sexy and bold, but coexists peacefully with my femininity and softness and docility. It’s like a men’s leather jacket I might steal from a boyfriend, that looks beefcake-handsome on him, but adorably spunky on me. It’s masc but it’s not a mask. It’s the brashest kind of boy this cis femme lady can ever be.

I love it. I want to wear it every day. I want to feel this attuned to all my gender-peculiar facets at every moment. I don’t ever want to lose that.

“Carnal Flower” by Frederic Malle

Like anyone who’s lived in a particular city for a long time, I have personal rituals tied to certain places and activities in my city. Like any introvert, many of my personal rituals involve being alone.

There are some activities I will not do alone. Though I love attending improv shows at places like Comedy Bar and the Bad Dog Theatre, I cannot go to a show solo; sipping a beer in a claustrophobic bar before the show cranks my social anxiety up to eleven, as my bad brain hallucinates judgmental eyes lingering on me from across the crowd. Likewise, I will not go to local sex club Oasis Aqualounge unless I am meeting at least one person there; the libidinous glances and bold advances of disingenuous lotharios aren’t worth enduring, even to languish in Oasis’ beauteous heated pool under the stars.

One thing I do love to do alone, however, is go to the theatre. In particular: Soulpepper, in the Distillery District.

There is something classy, mysterious, and refined about attending the theatre alone, at least in my imagination. I select shows carefully every year, spacing out my tickets so I never have to go longer than a couple months without one of these pilgrimages. It’s a special, pre-planned night out, like taking myself on a date. I get dressed up, do my makeup, spritz on some scent. When I used to live in the east end, I would get on the King streetcar, clutching a little leather purse and walking with purpose, and ride it down to the Distillery. Once there, I walk along the dimly-lit cobblestone streets, sometimes wobbling in heels (the theatre is one of the only occasions I deem worthy of heels), until I reach the warm, bright, elegant lobby of the Soulpepper theatre.

The crowd is different there from my usual haunts; it’s a lot of older people, married couples, mature professionals. Whereas swilling beer alone in the crowded Comedy Bar makes me feel like people are staring at me and think I’m weird, sipping a pint of Tankhouse in Soulpepper’s lobby gets me almost no attention at all. Everyone bustles softly around the space, waiting for the house to open, cooing gently at the posters of coming attractions, greeting each other with warm enthusiasm. There is no culture of cruising, scoping, judging or partying. I am almost always the youngest person in the room, but am otherwise invisible.

Stripped of other people’s projections, then, I am free to be whomsoever I please, and to be that woman in peace. And at Soulpepper – a brick and wood haven full of quiet theatre devotees – I am a mature, sophisticated young woman, elegant in my little dress and little shoes. I am precious and put-together, confident and collected. I am a nonexistent but aspirational vision of myself.

Frederic Malle’s Carnal Flower is often described as a “dangerous” or “sexy” scent, but I don’t get that from it at all. On me, it’s floral, summery, and feminine in a way I have never quite been. Helena Fitzgerald describes the woman evoked by this perfume as “the kind of woman I had once thought could wear perfume while I couldn’t… I am not her; through perfume I could try on her life as a costume.” I feel this too: when I wear Carnal Flower, I can gather up my guts, my smudged eyeliner and scuffed boots and crooked teeth, and compress myself into a lither, lovelier little lady. A lady who might – for example – waltz up to the bar in the Soulpepper lobby, order a glass of white wine, and sit sipping it on a leather chaise without once worrying what anyone thinks of her.

“Acqua di Gio” by Giorgio Armani

I’ve told you before about my conflicted love affair with Acqua di Gio. It’s the signature scent of someone I used to love, who never loved me in the same way. My heart’s year-long tussle with this man was all wild hope tempered with crushing disappointment. One followed the other, like a dance. We’d have a good night out, laughing over beers and sandwiches – and then I wouldn’t hear from him for days. We’d share sex so intimate, it made me believe those who use “intimacy” as a euphemism for sex – and then he’d declare how much he valued my friendship. He’d tell me that we were on the same wavelength, that we were meant to stick around in each other’s lives, that our connection was special and deep – and then he’d go off grinning goofily on dates with random women from OkCupid, looking for “the one.” I remained the one he left behind.

If I’d never been in love with someone who wore Acqua di Gio, probably its inhalation would strike me only as mildly pleasant. It might remind me of oceans, cucumbers, or musky muscled strangers fresh out of the shower. But I have been in love with someone who wore it, so when Acqua di Gio crosses my nostrils, it’s a guilty hit of glee. An endorphin rush I quickly work to suppress. Wild hope, as I’ve said, tempered with crushing disappointment.

This is a problematic reaction to have to a fragrance as ubiquitous as Acqua di Gio. I rarely go a week without passing someone on the street who’s wearing it. Every time, every damn time, I’m struck with the pins-and-needles feeling that haunted me throughout that ordeal: Will he ever love me? Why doesn’t he love me? How do I make him love me? Why doesn’t he love me? That love has since faded, but the scent is a time trigger, dragging me back into that pit I spent so long clawing my way out of. It’s a lot to grapple with, on a street corner, surrounded by strangers.

So I became interested in reclaiming the scent, reworking its fraught associations, like exposure therapy. I read an xoJane article about this a while back, and the idea resonated hard. When friends go through breakups, I tell them to make new memories in the locations that remind them of their ex – why not do the same with a scent?

There are times, while I’m wearing Acqua di Gio, when I catch a primal whiff and sink back into nostalgic sadness, wanting that Prince Charming and the promise of happiness he dangled just out of my reach. But then there are other times when I breathe deep and realize I am that Prince Charming, I can be happy, and I can and will save myself. There is hope. There is always hope.

Review: Bargain Hunterz Sienna Cage Bra

Content note: there are boobs in this post! It is, therefore, NSFW – so don’t scroll down if you’re at work. Unless your workplace is unusually boob-friendly, in which case, kudos to the administration!

looove the aesthetic of cage bras. For me, they conjure up visions of modern-day witches: hard-nosed millennial babes in smudgy eyeliner and quartz point necklaces, sketching pentagrams in the margins of their journals and leaving vampiric lip prints on bone-white coffee mugs. It’s a look I adore, so when Bargain Hunterz offered me my choice of item from their cage bra collection, I was on-board.

The one I chose, after much deliberation, was the Sienna Cage Bralette. I liked that its design is ornate but not excessive, and that it evokes that mild witchiness I enjoy so much without being a literal pentagram.

It took me a few minutes to figure out how to put on my new bralette. Looking at the product image online, I was able to figure out where each of the two circles go, one on my upper chest and one between my breasts. From there, I slipped my arms under the right straps and did up the two clasps on the bralette: one in the back-centre, like a regular bra, and one under my right arm.

I custom-ordered this bralette in my size, 34DD, so it fits me well – but I don’t think customization is strictly necessary for a product this stretchy. The entire bra is made of an elastic material with a lot of stretch. You’ll be disappointed with this if you want a chest harness with more practical applications – i.e. one by which a dominant partner can grab you and throw you around – but if you just want the cage bra aesthetic without the kink possibilities, this will work fine.

That said, I think this product was designed for someone thinner and less busty than I. The two straps that go under each breast look clearly defined and cool on the mannequin in the product image, but on me, they tend to bunch together uncomfortably, like how the extra fabric under the bust of a longline bralette usually rides up.

Those two straps also create a strange situation on my sides and back, gathering the fat there into squishable mounds that look weird under clothes (and even not under clothes). The angles in which I feel babely in this bralette are few and far between.

My main issue with this thing is the shape into which it funnels my breasts. Though the straps under and beside each breast should theoretically push them inward and upward to create a pleasing, curvy shape, I actually just feel like this bralette squishes my boobs into flabby triangular pancakes. It looks odd when I’m naked and even odder under clothes: the effect reminds me of Madonna’s famous pointy bras in the ’80s.

However, if you’re cool with pointy boobs – or have boobs small enough that a bralette like this wouldn’t corral yours into a strange shape – you might nonetheless like the effect you get from this piece. I have to admit I find it sexy-looking from the front, if not from the sides.

The elastic material is soft-ish but does get a bit chafey if I wear it for more than an hour at a time. It’s definitely more comfortable to me than a typical bra underwire, but it’s also much less supportive.

Overall, at $15, I think the Sienna Cage Bralette would be a reasonable purchase if you want to give the cage bra aesthetic a try. It’s far less expensive than a lot of higher-quality versions of a similar idea, so it’ll give you a taste of what you could look like and feel like if you dive deeper into the world of cage bras.

I wish this one didn’t squish my boobs into such an odd shape or emphasize the fat rolls on my sides and back, but I still think it looks cute as hell peeking out of a tank top – so I’ll probably wear it to sexy events now and again. I just want to feel like a sexy millennial witch, okay?!

Thanks to Bargain Hunterz for sponsoring this review and for providing me with this product to review! As always, all writing and opinions are my own.

Devastated & Divine: A Week in Post-Breakup Fashion

On the day after her breakup, our lovely model Kate wears the same outfit she wore yesterday. 24 hours of crying, sleeping, and existential angst have rendered the ensemble charmingly worn-in – “heartbreak chic,” you might say.

Her green American Apparel tri-blend racerback tank is embellished with a chocolate stain from a Kitkat bar she bought because her best friend told her she needed to eat and chocolate was the only option that didn’t sound positively nauseating.

Adorning her black American Eagle leggings is a smattering of white hair from the cat belonging to her now-ex-boyfriend. The cat wandered in during the break-up conversation itself – sometime between “I don’t think we should see each other anymore” and “I still care about you a lot” – and though Kate mostly stayed strong, that was the one moment when she thought she might cry, because it wasn’t the cat’s fault she would never see him again.

Her turquoise Coach turnlock tote is stylish, yet roomy enough to fit a fistful of used tissues, a tearstained Moleskine journal, and a Kindle loaded with ebooks about the psychology of romantic rejection. The side pocket can even hold a plethora of condoms, as if she’ll have a need for those any time soon.

Kate’s royal blue heart-shaped sunglasses were a gift from a reader via her Amazon wishlist. Beyond just looking sharp, they also function as a shield to keep onlookers from realizing she’s just, like, constantly crying.

Her well-worn Frye harness boots are comforting and familiar, though now they are marred with the memory of how she clumsily crammed her feet back into them and practically tripped in an effort to get away as quickly as possible from the man who broke her heart. They need a shine, and maybe someday she’ll get to that when she’s no longer in a state of active distress.

Topping off the outfit is Kate’s Tarina Tarantino pink pavé heart necklace. Usually she wears a smaller purple and turquoise one, but the last time she had sex with her now-ex-boyfriend, he sidled up behind her afterward and fastened the purple pendant around her neck like the quasi-collar he understood it to be, and it was the last sweet and tender gesture he ever offered her – so, obviously, she couldn’t wear that one. Not today.

On the second day after her breakup, Kate wears a casually rumpled black tank top that was acquired at a local thrift store years previous and could probably use a wash. She defines her aesthetic goals today as “comfort” and “not wanting to fucking die.”

The red bandana tied around her head serves the dual purpose of concealing both her unwashed hair and her scalp infection, because depression is nothing if not glamorous. Red bandanas also symbolize fisting in the hanky code, a subtle, ironic sartorial nod to Kate’s ex, who would’ve been the first person to successfully fist her if he’d been decent enough to stick around.

Her red and black polka-dotted MeUndies boyshorts continue the color story from her red-rimmed, tearstained eyes. On her lips, Bite Beauty High Pigment Pencil in “Pomegranate” makes a bold statement: “I don’t intend on kissing anyone today. Or maybe ever again.”

On the third day after her breakup, Kate’s thrown on a black American Apparel tri-blend romper for her streetcar jaunt to an erotic massage downtown. The simple pull-on design and halter-neck ties make it quick to take on and off – ideal for getting naked on the massage table as well as navigating the bone-heavy apathy of depression. Easy-peasy!

On her radiantly unwashed face, she sports a pair of sunglasses she bought at a hotel gift shop the week previous, possibly the last purchase she made while happy. They seemed glamorous and eye-catching at the time; today they’re crimson-tinted armor. Pro tip: plastic frames are a smarter choice than metal ones while grieving, because tears don’t rust ’em!

Her heart necklace makes an appearance once again, because if a giant pink rhinestoned amulet can’t make her feel better, nothing can.

Ubiquitous Apple earbuds complete the ensemble, and rarely leave her ears these days, because what little emotional momentum she can gather is mostly enabled by the good-natured goofs of the McElroy brothers.

Later that day, blissed out and supple-skinned from coconut oil and orgasms, Kate slithers into a dark red Forever 21 tank top and tiny black H&M shorts for an evening at the local sex club. As she slings on a vintage Danier leather jacket and looks at herself in the mirror before leaving the house, she feels her first glimmer in days of something like happiness. Maybe she’ll flirt with a stranger tonight. Maybe she just won’t cry in public. Either would be a victory.

On the fourth day after her breakup, Kate’s ex is coming by to pick up the last vestiges he left at her house (a book and some bondage rope), so obviously she has to look good, even though she’s not actually going to answer the door because she’s either an emotional masochist or a massive coward – who can say! This is truly the ideal outfit for today’s activities: hiding under a blanket while rain pours down outside, and then trekking to a doctor’s appointment while blinking back hot tears. Busy lady!

Kate’s zebra-print fit-and-flare dress from H&M clings to her depression-dwindled curves in a manner that just screams “Help, I keep forgetting to eat, because my life is in shambles!” The wild-animal motif is an ironic twist, given that she’s barely left her house in days. So-near-y and yet safari, am I right?!

Today’s lipstick choice, Annabelle Twist-Up Crayon in “Vamp,” is the exact shade her mouth would be if she bit into the throats of the people who’ve wronged her and gnawed mercilessly until their pathetic heartbeats skittered to a stop, not that she’s planning on doing that or anything.

Her hair, still not washed, has achieved a strawlike texture that some people buy expensive salt sprays to achieve, probably.

On the fifth day after her breakup, Kate’s comfy-cozy in a Hole Punch Toys T-shirt she got on a road trip to Minneapolis. Wearing a sex toys shirt and headed out the door to write about sex toys at a café, she’s reminded of her competency, her talent, and the friends she’s made along the way. It’s perhaps too much to read into a T-shirt, but hey, when one is mind-numbingly depressed, one takes what one can get.

Her cheap H&M shorts are covered in dirt, food stains, remnants of her own sexual fluids, and the aforementioned white hairs belonging to the cat of her ex. She really needs to wash them, but when getting dressed feels difficult, it’s hard to part with something so sartorially versatile and easy to throw on for even as long as it takes to do a load of laundry. Plus she keeps thinking about how you could probably clone the cat using its hair. Not that she has access to that technology at present.

She’s finally washed her hair, but it’s been tossed up into a laissez-faire topknot, because today she can’t even.

Later that night, getting ready for an ill-advised OkCupid date, she slips on a lace bralette in “Lacklustre-Libido Lilac” and a Henley tank top in “Terrified-to-Try-Again Teal.” Her black velvet Forever 21 skater skirt creates the illusion of put-together elegance to impress her date, while really just existing to be comforting and comfortable. Joke’s on him.

Hours later, in a near-stranger’s downtown apartment, her Animal Hair internal clitoris necklace keeps falling into her mouth while she’s trying to give a blowjob to an unfamiliar dick. She notices herself falling back on the muscle memory of techniques her ex liked, purposely choking herself on this cock in a masochistic manner that is probably lost on this vanilla boy. It almost makes her cry, and then she almost cries again later when her one-night stand sees her necklace and asks, “Is that the Special K logo?” Her ex would have recognized it. And then he would’ve demonstrated his knowledge on her actual real-life clitoris. Ah, to date a proper sex nerd again.

On the sixth day after her breakup, Kate is so over it (over existence in general, you understand; definitely not over the breakup) so she pulls a hole-ridden, stretched-out, pilling Forever 21 V-neck tee on over her braless boobs. Free the Nipple, Free Women From the Shackles of Convention, Free the Chronically Sad Girl From this Mortal Coil, and so on.

Her berry lipstick creates the illusion of a confident, self-assured woman who has her shit together. Haha. Hahahahaha.

Her black faux-leather flats are practically worn through on the bottom, owing to the many long walks she’s taken recently, when it felt like she would fall into the earth and disappear if she ceased to constantly move.

Her wrists and throat are sparingly spattered with the Tom of Finland fragrance from Etat Libre d’Orange. On her skin, it registers as gentle, feminine, graceful and loving: all qualities she can’t quite remember, and hopes to rediscover in herself.

Today’s Tarina Tarantino heart necklace bears the image of Alice, as in Adventures in Wonderland – a figure with whom Kate strongly identifies, particularly now, as she’s a little girl traveling through an alien terrain without a Daddy to make sure she’s okay. She aspires to reach Alice’s level of confidence in that final courtroom scene someday.

One week after her breakup, Kate steps into a pink and turquoise Leg Avenue lingerie romper, ordered off Amazon back when she was happy. Her then-boyfriend would’ve liked it; it’s emblematic of the little-girl persona she often assumed around him, her Daddy. Maybe that’s the only reason he ever loved her. Maybe it’s the reason he left.

Her black ASOS skater skirt covers the lower half of the romper; the thought of going full-on little girl felt aggressively upsetting, so soon after being jostled from that role. Tonight her aesthetic is more akin to that of a grown woman who will someday tiptoe back into cathartic regression – when she once again has a partner she trusts to take her on that journey. Singlehood requires a fierce independence she feels she can’t cultivate when she’s little. Later tonight she’ll curl up with a carton of ice cream and a comedy podcast and allow herself to be gleefully small, but not where anyone can see her.

In her hot pink Kate Spade satchel, she’s got some business cards to pass out at the sex-themed variety show in which she’ll be a resident sexpert tonight. During the on-stage interview about vibrators and dildos, she doesn’t mention her breakup once. It’s the first time in a week that this recent heartbreak hasn’t felt like the central fact of her existence. Afterward, she even tipsily quasi-flirts with a cute co-performer. It’s not much, but it’s something.

Around her neck, she wears that Tarina Tarantino amulet again. It jangles and glitters when she gesticulates, casting candy-pink rainbows. Sitting on her chest all week, it’s come to feel like a part of her. Like a shield for her heart. It won’t guard her from future heartache – nothing can, not even staying inside her apartment, silent and uninvolved. But for now, she can pretend that she’s safe.

Femme Resolutions For Age 25

I turn 25 tomorrow! Aaahh!

Birthdays, much like New Year’s Eve or the start of a new school year, always feel to me like a time of renewal and overhaul. I often make lists of goals and intentions for the coming year when one of these milestones rolls around, and this time is no different.

However, a lot of the intentions that came to mind for me around this birthday have been fashion- or beauty-related. It makes sense: I’m noticing lately, even more than usual, how massively my presentation can affect my mood and demeanor. So I’m setting myself the following style objectives for the year to come – all in the service of feeling good moreso even than looking good.

Fuck pants forever. Look. You wear pants if you want to. I’m sure they look great on you. But I just don’t think I can do it anymore.

Oh, I own a couple pairs of jeans, for those once-in-a-blue-moon spells where I want to dress like Shane from The L Word or a male British underwear model on his day off. And I certainly own plenty of leggings, which I layer over and lounge in. But by and large, I am a skirts-and-dresses girl, and pants can fuck right off.

I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve sacrificed questing for the pair of pants that would change my mind on this matter. The closest I’ve ever come were some vintage skinny black slacks that made me feel like a chic German schoolboy, or some near-perfect skinny jeans from my local thrift shop. But pants never quite feel like me. They always feel like I’m playing a character. I find them uncomfortable both physically and mentally.

So this year, I will not shop for pants. I will not try to figure out how to shoehorn pants into my style. I will not wear pants, except on days when the notion of doing so actually excites me (a rare thing). I will rock my skirts and my dresses and I will not try to be somefemme I am not.

Big hair, don’t care. Now, admittedly, my hair is not “big” by everyone’s standards. Bigness of hair is a spectrum! But in recent years, I have mastered the art of making my hair as wide and wild as it can get. My routine involves curl-enhancing conditioners, DevaCurl gel, vigorous scrunching, and a Turbie Twist microfibre towel. When I do it right, it results in a fucking lioness mane.

I’ve noticed that big hair gives me confidence like almost nothing else. It doesn’t eliminate my social anxiety, but it overshadows it a little. Tossing my curls around feels flirty and babely in a movie-star kind of way, and I want more of it. So I resolve to wear my hair big and curly as much as possible this year!

Shiny boots, shiny heart. Black leather boots are a signature part of my look; I wear them almost every day. The ones in heaviest rotation over the past couple years are my Frye harness boots, Frye engineer boots, and L.L. Bean winter boots. They make my heart sing, the way their severe stompiness balances out my airy-fairy femme ensembles.

But keeping leather boots looking good requires care and upkeep. They need to be regularly cleaned, conditioned, waterproofed, and shined. With proper maintenance, a good pair of leather boots can last for decades – and I intend for that to be the fate of mine!

Every couple months, I give my precious boots a thorough cleaning with saddle soap, and then shine ’em up with mink oil. I also just got my harness boots resoled because four years of wear had ground the soles flat. They are looking so lovely, and I will keep ’em that way!

Lipstick love. Gahhhd, I feel so foxy in lipstick. Hot pink. Bright red. Deep cranberry. Intense violet. Whatever. I want it on my face.

But despite my love for lipstick, I often skip it, because I worry it’ll draw too much attention to me, or it just seems like too much work. So for the coming year, I want to make an effort to wear it more often. Like so many other things on this list, lipstick makes me feel better about myself – but only when I make it a priority in my getting-ready routine.

It helps a lot to wear formulas I know are gonna stick around with minimal reapplication necessary. Some current faves in that category: Giorgio Armani Rouge d’Armani, Maybelline mattes, and anything by Bite.

One new tattoo. I’ve had a couple tattoo ideas floating around in my brain for months now, and I wanna get ’em done. It’s just a matter of deciding to go ahead with it, sending some reference materials to an artist, and booking a consultation appointment. Aaahh, the very thought is giving me joyful heart palpitations!

I think I want to go back to Laura Blaney, who did my “good girl” bows. She made me feel super comfortable, and her work is stunning. I have a feeling she’ll be able to give me exactly what I want.

Do you have any fashion-and-beauty goals or intentions currently?

Kiss and Make Up: High School, BJs, and the Disappearing Act

Kiss and Make Up is my new series wherein I review makeup according to how it held up in a sexual scenario. I hope you dig it!

making kissy faces with my friend Cadence in 2010I sprung for Duwop’s Lip Venom in the winter of 2010, when I had a new boy to kiss and it seemed desperately important that my lips look good. I’d wear the cinnamon-y gloss layered over MAC Russian Red (as pictured) or just on its own, and it would do its signature magic of irritating my lips into a plumper appearance. I loved it: the sharp spicy taste of it, the telltale tingle, and most of all, those plush pillowy lips it gave me. What an amazing invention.

My boyfriend, however, was less enthused. “What is on your lips?” he whined one day, mid-makeouts. The Lip Venom, he said, was stinging his lips. I apologized and wiped it off, as if this pretty pink gloss was the only obstacle between us and high-quality kisses. Truth be told, he was a distressingly bad kisser (by my tastes, anyway), and I wished he could’ve upped his game as easily and quickly as I upped mine by taking off that painful gloss.


I wore NARS Schiap lipstick the last day of Playground Conference in 2015. It paired well with my blue dress, pink handbag, and pigtails. In fact, my outfit was apparently so good that when I walked into a panel session late, I immediately got a text from my dom fuckbuddy, sitting across the room: “Oh god, you’re wearing thigh-high socks and a short skirt. I’m going to be thinking about eating you out all day.” This is a very good text to get at 11 in the morning.

NARS semi-matte lipsticks smell like clean laundry (so sayeth Sofie, who is correct). They go on satiny-smooth, and usually look good for several hours, even if you’re quaffing coffee like I was that day at Playground. However, put to the makeout test, they cannot hold their own. I discovered this when, later that day, I gave a hotel-room blowjob which morphed into an impromptu threesome – by the end of which, there was absolutely no lipstick left on my face. I smoothed on some peppermint lip balm to soothe the irritation I’d accrued from kissing a scruffy boy all afternoon, and that helped.

In my post-sex debrief with Bex over mac and cheese that night, we talked about how kissing someone who’s wearing lipstick is a lot like going down on someone who’s on their period. It’s messy, and maybe embarrassing, and I can completely understand why you wouldn’t want to do it. But I’ll like you so much better if you do.


me in pigtails and Pink Pong lipstickI fell in love with Bourjois liquid lipstick in Pink Pong at a drugstore and bought it on the spot. It was everything I most want in a lipstick: an eye-gougingly bright cool-toned pink, an opaque formula, a pleasant scent (pink grapefruit?), even a punny shade name.

Unlike many liquid lipsticks, Pink Pong felt comfortable once dry, and didn’t render my lips dry or cracked, even after many hours of wear. However, that dry texture is what allows truly long-haul lipsticks to stay put (and why Make Up For Ever Aqua Rouge comes with a clear gloss you’re supposed to wear on top of it). My new Bourjois treasure passed neither the makeout test nor the blowjob test.

That was the month when I was seeing both a boyfriend and a beloved fuckbuddy, alternating between them like my life was a buffet of good dicks (which, let’s be real, it often is). I wore Pink Pong to boyfriend’s house one afternoon and blew him while he sat on his couch like a king, arms spread wide, head dropping back in quiet pleasure. When we were done, I ducked into the bathroom and saw that there was no lipstick left on my mouth. None whatsoever. There sure was a lot on my hands, though. (Uhh, my BJs are pretty handsy.)

Later that week, I wore Pink Pong to my fuckpal’s place and we made out like teenagers in his cheap, squeaky bed. When he served us a post-canoodlin’ snack of spicy salmon sushi and Magnum ice cream bars (quelle gentleman!), he wiped his mouth on a napkin and the white scrap came away pink. “Aww, Kate, look, your lipstick’s all over my mouth,” he said, with an affection I had never known any boy to feel about my lipstick before. It made me want to kiss him a whole bunch more.


me in Maybelline Rich Ruby lipstickIn the late summer I briefly had a “spanking buddy.” It was a sweet deal. I’d go over to his place, we’d talk about the Adventure Zone and MBMBaM and other fine McElroy products, we’d vape some weed, and then he would spank me. The spankings were excellent: rhythmic, firm, and merciless. He always left both my sets of cheeks blushing.

One such night, I showed up with a full face of makeup, and by the time we said goodnight, there was none left at all. My lipstick of choice for the evening was Maybelline’s Rich Ruby, a creamy, matte, cool-toned red that normally holds up pretty well through food and drink. But it did not hold up through a spanking. Granted, when I get spanked, I typically bury my face in pillows/blankets/couch cushions, and sometimes I cry, and that combination of friction and fluid is not kind to makeup.

“How’s my lipstick looking?” I asked my spanking buddy when I raised my head off his bed, post-beating. He peered at me curiously and said, at last, “It’s not bad… it’s just… not there.” Indeed, it was not. My lipstick was gone.

After I left his place and went home, I got a text from him. “I found your lipstick,” he said. “It’s all over my blanket.” I laughed and apologized, and we said goodnight.


When my FWB came over to our sunny Airbnb in July to shoot BJ porn, I was nervous to the point of pacing and raving. “Hey, shh, it’s gonna be okay,” he told me. “You’re gonna be great.”

He had brought some underwear options, and asked for my help deciding which ones to wear – possibly as a tactic to distract me from my own jangling nerves. We eventually settled on some turquoisey boxer-briefs. “They’re moisture-wicking,” he commented, for no apparent reason, because he is a weirdo.

Just before filming was to begin, I knelt in front of him, my face all done up. On my lips was a combo of ColourPop’s lip pencil in Heart On and Bite’s fruity lipgloss in Bellini. I wasn’t at all confident it would stay on my face, but then, smeary lipstick is a selling point of BJ porn for some people. “I’m gonna kiss your dick through your underwear a bit before I start,” I jabbered nervously at my FWB. “Sorry in advance if I get lipstick all over these beautiful boxer-briefs.”

“It’s okay, they’re moisture-wicking,” he replied, and so there is a moment in the final porn scene where I giggle like a dork, and that is what I am giggling at.

By the time we finished, my face featured almost no lipstick but a euphoric, nervous-no-more kind of smile.