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Reflections September 2017

Gray Matter

Hot Mama – My Experiment with Red Lipstick

By Jody Lebel

Day 6: I alternated between feeling stupid and sexy as heck. If you wear red lipstick know that women will often ask you, “What are you wearing that color for?” (Men never ask that question.) 

I’m so tired of reading articles that say senior women have to tone down their style as they age. Although it’s true that with maturity comes an end to many things you probably wish you’d stopped doing sooner – like dating useless men, eating tacos for breakfast, and wearing costume jewelry that turns your neck green. But should maturity also mean giving up on makeup?

The answer is yes, at least according to 2,000 women over the age of 45 (and really what do they know about being 65, right?) who took part in a survey on the ins and outs of aging gracefully conducted by Nurture Replenish Skincare, a UK-based personal care company. According to the results of this survey, ladies should stop wearing high heels, glitter, tight clothes, and red lipstick by the time they’re 59. (Notice the 45-year-olds didn’t clip their own wings?)

To that survey I say pfft.

As a young adult, I recall my mom telling me that less is more and to go for a natural look. The nuns of my youth spit in hankies to wipe any hint of color off our faces in junior high. And I attended an all-girl high school in the ‘60s where makeup was not allowed. So it’s not difficult to understand why I had never worn red lipstick before. But for the sake of this article, I decided to use red lipstick for one week. And by that I don’t mean just wearing it inside my house or at night at dinner in a dark restaurant, but also first thing when I get up in the morning, and when I check my mail, and even when I’m at the supermarket at noon in my jammies (but that’s another story).

I chose a really red lipstick. No orange or dark pink. Fire engine red. Russian red. Cause-a-heart-attack red. The first thing I noticed is red lipstick is difficult to apply. You have to really have a good understanding of where your lips end and your skin begins. It took me several tries and a box of wipes before I nailed it, but when I got it right, I couldn’t stop staring in the mirror.

It was fascinating. I moved my lips and watched them form words like I’ve never seen them do before. I kissed the mirror leaving a mark that surely the cleaning lady will wonder about. For a brief moment I felt like a secret agent – and if I had had a trench coat in the closet I would have worn it. I knew better than to touch my lips because that color leaves its mark everywhere. Most of all though I realized that red lipstick would definitely up the ante – and I hoped I could handle it.

Day 1: Family and neighbors are not thrilled.

“Are you in a vampire movie?” (My granddaughter.)

“Is the Navy fleet in town?” (My mother.)

“Heels and red lipstick put the fear of god into your grandfather.” (My grandmother, winking at me.)

“Did you walk into a door?” (My 88-year-old male neighbor.)

“Wowsa.” (My husband, who is still grinning and following me around.)

“Does this match?” (My neighbor lady, holding up her husband’s red smudged shirt collar to my lips.)

Day 2: My fellow writers treated me differently.

Today I attended a writer’s group meeting and told my author friends I had to wear red lipstick for my article. One of them said, “You should consider not selling your soul for these stunts at the newspaper.”

Geez, you’d think a fellow writer would understand suffering for your art.

Day 3: Bartenders paid more attention to me.

I boldly walked into an establishment on Main Street in my red lipstick and sat at the bar. First of all, I’m sure they really hate to wash this red stuff off the glass rims, but nonetheless I did notice that the bartender kept drinks coming my way. Although he did switch me to throw-away cups. Of course I also got lots of drinks bought for me, so what the heck. Plastic it is.

Day 4: On day four I realized my friends were just jealous.

Someone in my acting group said, “Are we trying out for a clown part today?” Another woman at singing practice said, “Your job pays you to do this BS?”

Envy is such an ugly thing I said to myself as I twisted the applicator and Red Riot shimmied up the tube. I applied a fresh coat and held my head high. I closed my mirror with a sharp snap and walked out.

Day 5: My best friend up north judged me hard. I wanted to ask her, a woman who doesn’t wear any lipstick, what she thought about my experiment. My deadline was looming, so I texted her “Emergency! Call me now, must talk!!” She’s an OR nurse. She actually left the operating room to call me because she thought I was in jail or terminally ill or something.

Later that night I got an Instagram of a cancerous tumor that she helped remove from some women’s intestines along with a note that said, “Isn’t it interesting that we both have important stuff to do during the day.”

Day 6: I alternated between feeling stupid and sexy as heck. If you wear red lipstick know that women will often ask you, “What are you wearing that color for?” (Men never ask that question.) The answer is “For me. When I wore red lipstick, for the most part it made my day better. It’s like being a blonde; I just had more fun. Also the bagger at the grocer’s did a double take and dropped my bag of apples today.

Day 7: I thought about the “why: of it all.

Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner, psychologist and author of You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Say About You, says “there is the chicken and egg question when it comes to red lipstick: is the person who wears the red lip more daring, or does she become that way because of the external reinforcement after the fact?” You will never know until you try it.

“Lips without lipstick are like cake without frosting.” – Unknown (but wise) author.

 

To balance out her dark days as a criminal court reporter, Jody Lebel writes romantic suspense novels and humorous short stories.

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