Two plumbers showed up on my porch recently to fix a problem with the shower. I was cleaning house when they unexpectedly knocked on the door, so while I tackled my to-do list, they went to work inside the tiny space that is my bathroom, clanking away.
All of a sudden, I heard a loud crash and my heart sunk, knowing immediately what it must be. I raced over and peeked inside to find hundreds of dollars in skincare products shattered to smithereens. Miracle serums and overnight salves peppered with tiny shards of glass from the jars they were once contained in were all over the tile floor amid the men’s clunky work boots. Eye cream had fallen into the trashcan, double lash mascara and hazelnut lipliner were nestled against the base of the toilet, and a bomb of beauty products had simply exploded and the remnants were lodged into cracks and crevices all over the place.
Neither of the men spoke English very well and I have not yet mastered Papiamento (the native island tongue, derived from African and Portuguese with influences from Native American, English, French, and Dutch), so we were all left to communicate how this disaster came about in broken Spanish. I never did get a straight answer. “Muchas cosas todas partes,” they scornfully repeated to me over and over while emphatically waving their hands up at the now bare glass shelves my prized potions had been sitting on just moments before.
Yes, guys, there were “many things everywhere”. Sigh. Was this somehow my fault for being a woman who buys and stores cosmetics in excess? Since they made no effort to stop working and were already crushing palettes of eyeshadow beneath their boots, I went for the broom and started sweeping up all of the broken pieces, stoically fighting back the tears. The calamity of this scene can only be understood by women, and especially so by those who live on rocks. As island women, we can’t easily replace this stuff, and we most likely spent a good deal of money, time, and effort just getting all of it to our island home from stores far away in a distant land.
I have finally accepted the unfortunate loss that occurred that day and am trying to learn the graces the island has to teach me about my primping standards. These thoughts come to me mostly while I am hanging clothes on the line because this is the one chore that has the power to make me keenly aware of just how much things have changed in my life since I moved to my rock. It’s during this time that I realize how much time and money I once spent on beauty and fashion. I cringe at the dollar amount spent at the salon on hair color alone. Whisked from station to station and slumped back under hoses and hair dryers for hours at a time, I secretly longed for more time to be outdoors in nature or to just pursue a new hobby. Hadn’t I been told somewhere along the way that true beauty grows from these kinds of things?
Although I certainly do not long for many aspects of that life again, my girlfriends and I recently lamented to one another over drinks that shopping for clothes is what we miss the most. Aruba has shopping, of course, but it is at luxury stores like Gucci – places a teacher like me can’t afford on a teacher’s salary. Every other store is stocked for tourists: flip flops, tank tops, and overpriced, synthetic summer wear and transparent caftans. And a whole lot of t-shirts that say “Aruba” on them.
It’s not just shopping for clothes we miss, it’s also shopping for seasons, which can cause us to wistfully remember a time before our entire wardrobe was made up of sandals and sundresses. Don’t get me wrong though – as much as I miss jeans, jackets, and boots, I am fully aware that nothing compares to a new life where you can designate an entire drawer of your dresser exclusively to beachwear. Sarongs, cover-ups, bikinis, floppy hats, and sunglasses all mix and mingle together in the happiest drawer ever – it’s one big beach party in there! Thankfully, it is easy to shop in Aruba for all of this kind of stuff.
Thinking back to July when I was packing a wardrobe to live and work in a tropical climate, I remember setting aside a few pairs of pants and a couple of cardigans. Maybe it will cool down a bit at night in December, I thought to myself. Meanwhile, I’ve only worn pants twice since I arrived. I put on a long sleeve wrap for the first time last Wednesday when we went to the movie theatre because it’s the only place on the island that will give you an actual chill. The truth is, I don’t need most of what I brought – including the expensive eye cream. Something about that is very liberating.
There is beauty in the simplicity of one season style. And who really needs a lot of beauty products when you spend most of your time in the Caribbean sea? All you truly need is sunscreen. The sea and sand have a way of working some kind of magic over you that can never be found inside a jar.