Makeover romances, a big fave of mine. I love them. It’s very satisfying to see someone renovate herself. All my life I have noticed women in public who are still wearing the hairdo of their teenage years, also the clothes and the makeup. This is fine if the styles actually do something for you, but fashion being what it is, they are often merely a collection of ways of decking oneself out that have long since become passé. This can happen to anyone and sometimes it hardly matters. When life isn’t going well, though, or a super opportunity presents itself, it’s time to shake up the old image and try something new.
Change is good. We all get complaisant, or worse, we get into a mindless habit about how we present ourselves to the world. Unfortunately, if we don’t care, the world doesn’t, either. People who make an effort are rewarded with many worldly prizes, whereas people who don’t may have to settle for the dregs of the world’s bounty. That said, there are no ugly people, only people without confidence and polish.
In romances, we often see young heroines get a makeover because they finally decide to MAKE THAT MAN NOTICE. The effort of changing from being a fashion-clueless wallflower into someone whose image commands attention is worth it to our heroine because she has a man on her mind. She might use high hemlines and eye-catching decolletage, or it could be a new hair style or color, a new way of doing eye makeup, and better-fitting clothing. Whatever suits her personality and life situation. Showing up for an office job in a pink ballgown is not a makeover. Arriving at the office very well dressed, with attention paid to every aspect of one’s look from head to toe, is. That guy who has been treating our heroine like a male buddy or an office machine might not notice overtly that something has changed, but he will react. And that’s the point. Women make big changes in their appearance to tell the people around them to WAKE UP and treat them differently from now on. Also, to give themselves the confidence to change the terms of their lives, to vie for that promotion or bonus or better job, or whatever.
What about married women who get makeovers? Usually, it’s a defensive maneuver, a response to some negative situation like in Candy Caine’s latest novel, The Reconstruction of Carla Millhouse. Just like Carla, it’s the heroine herself who wakes up. Her lover has strayed in some way. Or maybe they’ve both gotten into a rut, and the fun has gone out of life because of all the long hours at work and the many family responsibilities they each shoulder. Sometimes, though, the situation is more acute. Fidelity is in question. Then the heroine’s makeover is the female equivalent of a declaration of war. Not for nothing has full makeup been referred to as “putting on the war paint.”
If a woman learns her husband is cheating on her, whether merely in thought or actually in the flesh, she’s not likely to ignore it. At least, not in a romance. In real life some women may shut their eyes to cheating behavior, but our romance heroine takes action. For the married woman who has supposedly let herself go, the first order of business is to lose a few pounds, in essence, to become leaner and meaner. Our culture venerates skinny women. And blonds. So, she changes her hair color to something bolder and brighter. And women who dress somewhat slutty. So, out go the mom jeans, and in come the daring dresses cut down to there and up to here. With the sky-high heels, of course.
Okay, so the romance heroine has jacked up her image by a thousand points. What then? Payback time, of course. If the lover has only somewhat offended, the makeover might be enough to jolt him out of his complacency. Looking wonderful can remind that man of who this woman is and why he wanted to be with her all those years ago. For some relationships, that’s enough. The situation gets mended easily. Date nights and romantic vacations and other signs of remembering who they used to be together are planned for their immediate future. They basically renew their wedding vows and move on from the sticky moment.
What if the husband doesn’t even notice the makeover because he’s glued to his Internet romance with someone claiming to be a woman? Then it’s time to drag him to couples therapy to explore in neutral surroundings why he prefers a pretend person on a computer screen to a flesh-and-blood woman.
But what if he has been cheating, flat out? A romance heroine isn’t going to instantly contact a divorce lawyer, although her best friend might urge her to. That is, unless the best friend is the one her husband is cheating with. Uh-oh. It does happen.
The wife who gets cheated on considers options. First, she gets her makeover, taking great pleasure in spending her husband’s money, not her own, on the exorbitant cost of it. (Of course she has her own money. This is the 21st century.) Perhaps she hopes to win back his love. Once she feels the increased confidence that the makeover engenders, if she does not get immediate positive feedback from her husband, she’s likely to look outside the marriage for external validation. It could be any man, a coworker or boss, a neighbor, or an old friend. Validation leads to the realization that her husband, that louse, is not the only man in the world who could appreciate and love her. This is a crucial realization. Once the wronged wife validates her worth on the open market, the cheating husband has to make an effort to keep her, or she’s gone. We see this in Hollywood, where relationships don’t last, but both parties quickly pair up with someone new. Why? Because they look marvelous and they still have worth in the world’s eyes. A wronged heroine of a romance has to achieve those two goals: looking marvelous, and increasing her worth in the world. She might start that business she’s talked about for years (and her husband has pooh-poohed). She might finish those paintings she’s been working on secretly, and have a gallery show. Or she might go back to work after receiving the offer of a perfect job (in romances, fairy tales do come true).
Whatever the outcome, nothing is so entertaining as a story of a woman who’s in the throes of improving herself. She’s taking on a new wardrobe and a new way of behaving. At first she might regret those comfy sweat pants at the back of the closet, especially if her new shoes make her feet hurt. But the personal power and self-respect she gets from looking and acting her best can’t be beat. Whether it’s a new man or a new job, when a woman makes vital changes to her way of living, when she changes the way she struts her stuff, she gets back positive energy she can then send out to the world in the form of love for someone new, or work she is uniquely qualified to contribute, or more. Go changes!