Apparently there is such a thing as NATIONAL RED LIPSTICK DAY so, naturally, I had to honor that with this…
the incendiary choice of women and their red lips
“Why do you wear red lipstick?” he asked, implying it somehow offended him. The answer is technically simple. She wanted to say, “Because I like it” and leave it at that, simple and snarky. What more was there to say? As a short pause blossomed into a tingling silence it became clear that ‘because…’ didn’t quite encompass how she felt. An answer was in the wings. “Lots of reasons,” she started to explain. There wasn’t a big secret to reveal, but really the answer was more complicated than she realized.
She hadn’t yet discerned, for example that her ten year aversion to cherry lips was birthed somewhere between being told it made her ‘look old’ and being asked why she ‘needed to look like a whore.’ Could she recall who had inflicted such venomous comments on her dormant psyche? No. Spite-filled kernels like that had simply piled up like rubies over the years, some distilled from the condescending comments of jealous teens (‘omg your mouth looks huge’) or extracted from the omniscient mouthpieces of the media (‘its way too loud’). Perception. That was the word that caught on her lips better than the sanguine shade. How did it make her look? Was it really what others thought or it was all in her head?
“Skin white as snow and lips red as the rose…” a simple, poetic line from a Disney classic that seems, like the many others that came afterward, to equate pristine beauty with fair skin and a blood-red mouth. Somewhere along the line she had absorbed the idea that one came with the other, not noticing that they weren’t mutually exclusive. Perhaps the hormone-fueled teenage years had distorted the ideas of what looked good on darker skin and what didn’t into fact-less, fear-based insecurities peddled by bratty gossip mongers. She had dodged the spotlight intentionally, she surely rationalized, afraid that donning a rosy shade might attract the wrong kind of attention. Or perhaps much more so, it was the fear of truly knowing oneself, and stepping into shoes you already own.
She hadn’t realized really, that it was indeed all in her head. That it was a self-branding of the Scarlet Letter. There was no reason to deny that the shade gives women a certain je ne sais quoi. That you suddenly don a cape of self-confidence and power. And the question, the one men ALWAYS have to ask, the challenge of WHY DO YOU NEED TO WEAR IT is simply a way of dismantling the assertiveness it gives you. Why do men insist on making us revolve around their whims? If they say it looks hot, its implied that its sexual— your plush red lips are simply attractive for their use in some sex act that pleases the man. If they say its fake, or garish, it means you’re an attention whore— implying you are not a real person and your choices are wrong, unsightly, and unwanted by “real men” for not being pure and virginal— again a state existing to please HIM— not anything to do with wearing lipstick…
“It just depends,” she finally explains, “I guess it’s how it makes you feel. Or really on how you’re feeling. Maybe it goes with your outfit. Maybe you need something to pop, to take it up a notch. Or dress it up. I dunno. Sometimes you put it on to make yourself feel better, a little diva boost, you know? Or if you’re feeling a little edgy and dangerous. But its kinda classic too, timeless. Goes with everything. You can’t go wrong with a red lip.”
“But I can’t kiss you,” he replies endearingly, playfully disarming the rouge’s ammunition.
The plethora of emotions that arises from such a statement is nearly impossible to accurately catalogue. On the one hand there is a certain flattery… an excitement at being so wanted. There’s a feeling of wanting to please, to give what the other wants. There’s a sense of challenge. Why do I care what you want? A sense of wanting the freedom to choose what you wear, a liberty from it mattering to someone else. Why does it matter? It’s not for you… or is it? A spring of mischievousness bursts forth… you could succumb to the request OR you can tease, you can fuel the fire in a flirtatious way— not denying that you want the kiss, not shutting down the prospect, but not acquiescing either. There’s pride too as you realize that you have the power to do both… or neither… the whim is yours to control.
She gets a toddlerish pout of protest when she wears the crimson shade, but the allure of cerise is there, and later, when the heat of the night rises and the rose has sung it’s siren song, his face gleams with the scarlet brand— and she wins.
A woman in red is bold. She is strong. Fearless. She doesn’t care what you think. She’s okay with the spotlight. She’s sensual and she knows it. Look all you want, but that’s all you get. She is confident and doesn’t need to be reminded of it. She holds her own. She buys her own drink and can pay for yours. She’s beautiful, captivating. Soft, yet assertive. Formidable, but seductive. She’s in the driver’s seat. She holds the reins. And she doesn’t care what you think. She’s in charge. And you better get used to it.
Society is afraid of a world full of women like that. Why else would a little tube of lipstick elicit such ardent debates? Why does society insist on contradicting itself? Were the carmine lips of Cleopatra so meticulously questioned by advisors and courtiers? Did Marilyn resent the cardinal hue she’d become famous for? Perhaps, but we’ll never know. Wear what you want. After all, was the rose ever concerned by the opinions of thorns?
Some of my RED Must-Haves:
Classic Red— Estee Lauder
Russian Red— MAC
01 By Kate Moss — Rimmel
Pirate — Chanel
Jungle Red— Nars
Viva Glam! — MAC
RiRi Rihanna Frost — MAC
Spanish Red — Estee Lauder
Fire and Ice — Revlon
Lady Danger — MAC
And by far my all time favorite and greatest ever… Ruby Woo — MAC