On a warm spring afternoon, I slink into the bathroom. My clammy fingers fumble to get the door closed tightly behind me. I climb the obstacles; a step on to the toilet top, then the tank, making my way across the sink, straddling the basin – I stand. Slowly, I pry open the squeaky medicine cabinet. Each little motion evokes a suspenseful creak. I can’t be caught. Mom will have my head if she catches me in here again. Finally, with enough space to reach my chubby hand in, I grasp it.
An oddly small shape, one inch in length, the tube is covered with a clear cap revealing the vivid red stick. The red makes my young mind wander; cherries, fire hydrants, America. It is one of the many mini samples of colors in the cabinet but I am so intensely drawn to its striking beauty, I see no other suitable option. My six-year-old spirit bubbles as I hold the tube up to my round face, straight in front of my pursed lips.
I flip my ratty blonde hair as a pluck off the top like a sassy pin-up salon girl, smacking on a piece of perfectly pink bubble gum. Cigarette in one hand, lipstick in the other. “Pucker up.” I tell myself.
With a white knuckled grip, I draw the vibrant stick closer to my flushed, chubby cheeks. In a breath of confidence, I touch the stick to my pursed upper-lip. Instantly, I am twenty-five; beautiful yet brash, I am striking up a conversation with a woman who joins me in a smoky bathroom as we carefully reapply. She’s painting on layers of rouge while alternating with a spritz of Aqua Net to her perm. I’m slightly in awe of her unknowing grace as she puts herself together. We both lean in to our reflections, lipstick in hand, putting the final touches on our boozy bathroom masterpieces.
With my little, clammy feet straddling the sink basin, my confidence blooms. Another flip to my ratty blonde hair and instantly, it becomes a slick bun. I spin around in my office chair, finding the perfect light to gracefully touch a bold shade of red onto my lips. This red is deep, elegant, and sumptuous. It has just enough gloss to give it some sass but not so much as to confuse intentions. The color is far more intense but it goes on smoother with each precise glide over my soft lips. I stand, straighten out my pencil skirt and am off to pitch my latest proposal, carefully slipping my luscious red lipstick into my lacy bra – for good luck, you know?
I draw my young, round face closer to the mirror with a slow tilt. Lining the mini tube up to my puckered lips, another swipe lands me at the corner seat of a lowly lit restaurant. I sit perched with the same tilt, this time my blonde strands are neatly curled and I stare, awestruck into the eyes of handsome date. He excuses himself for the restroom and I slip my hand into my clutch to quickly touch up the ravishing red on my lips. Steadying my nervous hand, I swipe my lips before he returns. Instantly, I realign my posture, sitting graceful, tall and sure.
My love for lipstick was born straddling that sink with pudgy cheeks and clammy feet.
Sneaking into my Mom’s makeup took me to places the same way little girls are carried away as they watch Cinderella for the first time. From that moment, I craved the confidence I felt with a glide of crisp crimson. The way it blanketed me with assurance and grace. The guise of glamour it draped over my being. The subtle mysterious glow it painted upon my face. I knew from this very moment of play, that red lipstick would someday be my signature.
There is something so striking about a red lip. It’s lively, it’s vivacious, it’s powerful – with just a dash of mystery. From the most stressful of days in office to the nerves of a first date, my ravishing red lip has often given me just the boost I needed. Each morning, I rise when the clock strikes 6 and my tired eyes are instantly awoken by the vibrancy of red. Just like that little gal playing in her Mom’s makeup, my spirit still bubbles as I make that bright swipe over my lips.
Fast forward twenty years and here I am, sprawled out on my Craigslist mattress, wrapped in a hand-sewn quilt made by my lipstick-loving mother. After a ten hour day and three hour commute – I sink into my bed, still in my disheveled thrift store threads, a wrinkled blouse spilling over the top of a crinkled up pencil skirt and my hair almost as ratty as that pudgy little six-year-old girl straddling the sink in the spring of ’97; I can’t help but laugh at the looks of my twenty-something Tuesday night.
My filled-to-the-brim glass of cheap chardonnay is hardly the posh bubbly I’d imagined but the remnants of my daily rouge remind me of simple times and the
That little kiss reminds me of my first dance with red lipstick and instantly, I sit up a little taller – knowing that this headache tomorrow will be nothing that a little 6am ravishing rouge can’t fix.