My partner, Skylar, is an incredibly fashion-forward human. Our shared love for style and crazy-colored lipsticks is definitely one of the many reasons we are a match made in heaven. As a lover of all things fashion and beauty, I'm grateful that my partner is equally passionate about the pampering abilities of beauty and the transformative powers of an outfit. We both identify as genderqueer, and with the deconstruction of gender roles (as well as gender identities) in our relationship, we don't feel that style belongs to either one of us more than it does the other.
Despite my previous occasional slip-ups of acting like I was the authority of all things beauty (probably due to the fact that I was assigned female at birth), I've quickly come to realize that the part of our relationship involving fashion and beauty is identical to the other parts: An equal exchange of ideas and contributions.
Skylar has taught me quite a lot, ranging from issues of body positivity and gender identity to the perfect application of liquid lipstick and how to successfully execute a pair of suspenders. Here are just some of the lessons I've learned from them over the course of our year-long relationship.
1. It's OK To Mix Patterns
Skylar is a huge fan of the power clash, and they wear it quite well. Personally, I hate wearing patterns at all, let alone multiple designs at once. However, after I let my partner dress me every day for a week, I quickly discovered that I too could look adorable with a little mixing action.
2. Remember To Pamper Yourself
As much as I love all things beauty, I don't often take the time I need to pamper myself, especially after a particularly tiring or anxiety-ridden day. However, Skylar always reminds me of the value of splurging on face masks and bath bombs.
To motivate one another and to inject some fun and laughs into our everyday lives, we do a lot of our beauty routines (like taking bubble baths, vitamins, and doing our nails) together. I feel grateful that my partner understands the value of beauty and relaxation as much as I do, including unwinding with a sheet mask.
3. Be Brave
My partner came out to me about their genderqueer identity during our first month of dating. I, on the other hand, stayed in the closet for a good five additional months. But watching them publicly embrace their femininity, especially around family and strangers on the street, helped me build up my own bravery in unapologetically embracing my masculinity. Skylar taught me to be brave with my gender presentation, and to disregard any rude questions or lingering looks that may follow.
4. The Importance Of Lip Contouring
In my opinion, Skylar is very good at executing the perfect lipstick application. My favorite part about it is the flawless way they manage to line their lips, even with a liquid lipstick applicator. They also take the liberty to create whatever shape they like with their lip lining, opening the beauty possibilities even further.
As someone who embraces lipstick as a body pos tool, I've learned to take more pride in my lip color application and have finally invested in some much-needed lip liner. They inspire me to reach new heights with my lip game every day, remind me that I shouldn't be limited by standard conventions of beauty in my lipstick application.
5. Suspenders Make Everything Better
When I first met Skylar, they came to my apartment door in this very pair of suspenders — and I never got over it. They got the suspenders in question at the merchandise table when they went to see Cabaret on Broadway, which we later saw together.
I personally have never known a human (besides my grandfather) to wear suspenders. But Skylar introduced them to me and showed me they can definitely work, all in one fell swoop (they can also rock the hell out of a bowtie, for the record). This accessory reminds me of Alan Cumming's character in the play, or my beloved 11th Doctor. It's my favorite accessory in their wardrobe, and I often suggest it when they ask for dressing recommendations in the morning. It's even inspired me to dig out my own pair, an accessory I'd only worn previously for a sexy Doctor Who costume a couple of Halloweens back.
6. Love Your Eyebrows, Despite The Haters
Thanks to years of bad wax jobs and extremely light hair, I am not a fan of my eyebrows in the slightest. This is where my beloved eyebrow gels and pencils come in. I never feel put-together without filling in my eyebrows, and I've told Skylar in the past that I feel somewhat sad or less valid when my brows aren't colored in to be thick and dark. Adding to my insecurity was the multiple negative comments I'd see on my articles or Instagram photos belittling my eyebrow application and arch-drawing abilities.
Recently, however, my partner has made a point of telling me that I am beautiful with or without my brow gel. Of course, this should be obvious for someone who strives to be body positive. But lately, I've been on such a mission to perfect my eyebrows that I did start to become pretty body negative regarding them. Thanks to Skylar's feedback, I remember not to wear the brow stuff on some days (and have been feeling better about myself without it) to keep the beauty practice I love so dearly body positive.
7. Comfort & Warmth Should Be Prioritized When Dressing
I'm an incredibly stubborn person, especially when it comes to adjusting my wardrobe with the changing seasons. I often used to feel that wearing layer upon layer caused me to sacrifice fashion for function, which is a big no-no for me. Skylar, however, is not shy about bundling up, and since I've been with them, I've acquired a huge puffy jacket, wool socks, cozy sweaters, and multiple winter hats. I am happy to report that I no longer have a hang-up about fashion versus function, and proudly don my multiple layers on the daily.
8. Men's Underwear Can Be Way Comfier
Skylar has helped me experiment at length with masculine clothing, thanks to granting me access to their wardrobe. One of the greatest lessons I've learned is that men's underwear can be way more comfortable, despite my fondness for Urban Outfitters' women's panties.
9. I Am Not The Authority On Beauty In The Relationship
In many ways, Skylar has helped me check my own internalized transphobia, specifically regarding beauty. In the beginning of our relationship, I would sometimes act surprised when Skylar did their makeup well or try to advise them of the "right way" to apply lipstick or eyeliner.
My partner does ask me for guidance sometimes, as I've spent more years doing my makeup than they have, but they don't always consider my suggestions for improvement. And they shouldn't have to. Beauty doesn't belong to me or any other person assigned female at birth any more than it does to people assigned male at birth, like Skylar. I understand that completely now, and I'm grateful that they were patient enough to teach me as much.
10. Body Hair Maintenance Isn't Gendered
Skylar has always been very supportive of my decision to keep my body unshaven, and I've always supported their choice to keep much of their own hair shaven. Anyone I'd been with previously had scoffed at my hair and pressured me to remove it. But the absence of gender roles and expectations in our relationship (largely because neither of us identify with a binaristic gender identity) has taken much of the pressure off. Additionally, Skylar has taught me to appreciate a shaven masculine body, expanding on my previous preference for hairier people.
11. Be Vain Without Shame
Thanks to their compulsive selfie-taking, the shameless way they admire their face in the mirror, and the way they love to strike a pose for the camera, Skylar has taught me the value of embracing confidence without fear of appearing vain. With my partner as inspiration, I try to find little ways to celebrate self-love every day in a less than private way.
12. Embrace Your Flaws Lightheartedly
Whether it be my insecurities about my skin or makeup application, or Skylar's personal trepidations about their feet or teeth, we make a point of helping one another be more body positive. Their love for joking around and showering me with compliments taught me to embrace my own "flaws" lightheartedly. Skylar's positive attitude about bodies grounds me whenever I'm feeling particularly body negative.
13. Gender Fluidity In Fashion Should Be Embraced
Above all, Skylar's own gender fluidity encourages me to act on my genderqueerness via my fashion statements. And based on their varying interpretations of masculinity and femininity, I feel confident expressing my own extremely fluid and ever-changing ways.
Images: Meg Zulch/Skylar Belt