There were ten minutes to spare before I was obligated to leave the house. My mind shuffled through the people I would see that day, and then the people I might see that day, calculating the likelihood of an encounter for each individual before measuring up how much I valued their perception of me. Seminar tutor? Dr. Bike? My former-potential housemate’s best friend’s coursemate’s brother? I determined an answer: makeup was mildly recommended.
So I rummaged through my assortment, withdrawing the basics like beeswax-infused lip balm, topic-green-with-frost-white-tipped mascara, Vegan eyeshadow, and kohl and then came across a tube of lipstick. I felt a spark of excitement. I’ll wear lipstick today!
But as I dabbed on the lipstick, I was reminded of everything else that had to do with lipstick.
The substance’s chalkiness dashed over the slit-like ridges on my lower lip, neglecting their natural, pulse-pink color. The dead-flower stench rose to my nose and I paused and waited for my olfactory system to adjust and neutralize the aroma. I puckered my lips and felt the material very keenly; its rubbery film, its waxiness, its foreignness that greeted the tip of my tongue.
As I speculated my reflection, I decided that it made me grownup-looking.
But then, my mind opened up to a past of lipstick-wearing experiences. As my friend Maria (featured in the photo) once acknowledged, spreading the mouth into a wide grin and then returning to a resting expression is an impossible feat with lipstick which, once moistened by the gums, treads across the upper teeth and leaves its mark. Thus, to successfully smile and then not smile with lipstick, one must add an extra step before resting the face. This consists of, after smiling, pursing the lips outward so as to create a distance between them and saliva, closing tight the mouth to result in lips that look like a tulip or cherry-tomato, and then relaxing them into a closed-mouthed position. Obviously, this is not an intuitive action and therefore, lipstick-wearing became marginally less appealing to me.
Additionally, I became aware of the cliché half-moon circle left on cups and mugs by the lipstick-wearing drinker. This rarely bothers me since it is a far more glamorous mark than saliva with food bits. However, this lipstick cost me an amount equal to that of two nicely-prepared meals (from Aldi) and it only occurred to me now that giving a cup or mug a kiss means stamping away an irretrievable layer of lipstick, not to mention resulting in a lighter, less effective shade of color which meant wearing it was pointless.
However, I refused to become fully convinced out of today’s cosmetic impulse – until something else came to mind. Surely, the function of lipstick is to coat the lips with a consistent color across its span so as, in effect, to diminish the visual reality of multidimensional, uneven skin. Lipstick, I realized, creates the illusion of lips that have an even distribution of color which, in turn, creates one less complicated piece of the face to confront. My heart sunk as I recognized this aspiration to be rather idealistic considering the human tendency to press lips together, like the closing motion of a Panini grill, during moments of speculation which are likely to happen in a day. This action, due to a difference of pressure in various spots on the lips, causes the fading of color in some parts but not others, leaving an ombre mouth; a hypnotic effect that is sometimes intentional, but never for me.
I grabbed some tissue paper and mopped off the lipstick.