Hi, all! First of all, I’d like to give major kudos to Melinda, for always having the best ideas. I’m really looking forward to checking out your blogs. I’m hoping that this exercise gets me more comfortable with the format and gets me thinking about using my words more often.

My theme for the new year has been beauty.

I grew up in a puritanical sect of Protestantism and often find myself siding with Judas in the parable of the sinful woman: why waste all that money? Couldn’t she have washed his feet with water, received forgiveness, and then given the money to the poor? Was wasting the perfume one of the sins that He forgave? What about all the beautiful things in my life?

You catch my drift.

I decided to challenge my existential guilt. For Christmas, I asked for an expensive bottle of perfume. ( Mon Paris Florale by YSL for those of you sniffing along at home.) I put it on every morning before I go to work. It makes me happy. I feel like I smell like I’m beautiful. I talk to the Theotokos, whose myrrh streaming icons smell like roses, and I feel like I belong to her.

I work as a cashier at a very busy gas station. There is no logical reason to wear expensive perfume to count people’s money. Half the time, the perfume is washed off, because I’m baking pizza or assembling hamburgers. I’m not trying to impress anyone, but I’ve gotten some humorous reviews.

“You smell like a rich person.”

“It’s strangely satisfying? I don’t know what it is, but I like it.”

I’ve noticed that young men are more likely to hit on me. Since I live in Good ‘Ol Country, which is simultaneously the meth capital of the South, and since I work customer service, I smile and I hope that they’re being sincere.

I wear dangly earrings. I wrap my hair in pretty scarves. I wear expensive perfume, enjoy my eyeliner and my sparkly shadow, and keep my $185 24k gold baptismal cross over my heart. Most of the time, I walk a treacherous line between loving the concrete beauty in my life and feeling guilty and ashamed that I have beautiful things.

My priest has advised that I don’t try and untangle the difference between loving beauty and loving the beautiful things of the world. In the meantime, I’ll keep trying to learn to love beauty for its own sake – and to not feel guilty for enjoying beautiful things.

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