“I came out of the womb waving a red lipstick.” -Rose McGowan
I love make-up. I love everything about it. I love the product names from my youth: Airspun, Moisture Whip, Kissing Potion. The packaging: crisp boxes gift wrapped in cellophane, the little molded clear plastic caps protecting new lipsticks and most of all, the promises.
I’ve been known to wander the aisles of my drugstore with no particular purpose and leave with $78.53 in new promises. I just say no to the plastic bag from the cashier and slip my new foundationeyelinerlipglossbronzer into my purse and mentally, my wish has been granted and I am already transformed.
I can trace the groundwork for the attraction. My parents moved my sister and me to Virginia where knowing no one, I decided I could turn myself into a new, better, OLDER looking version of myself. So, there I was in 1983, 14 years old and sitting in the front seat of the school bus, directly behind the driver. While all the cool kids sat in the back, smoking pot, I used the twenty minute drive to slip a hand into my LeSportSac and pull out the magic: Maybelline Great Lash mascara. I used the mirror over the bus driver’s head to sweep my lashes. Appraising myself, I would smile with achievement. I looked older. Since all the windows were closed, I was also a little high. When weeks later, on two separate incidents- grown men flashed me, I was shocked. But secretly impressed. Wow, this stuff really works!
It seemed to me that makeup was connected to power and I soon got another example to prove it.
My mom became a Mary Kay consultant. Makeup, which had been taboo for me, was suddenly OK. No more stabbing myself in the eye when the bus hit a pothole. I was shocked and thrilled to discover that I was not just sanctioned to wear make up, but also recruited. My mother practiced her sales pitch on my little sister and I. Our living room was being visited by the UPS man (for whom I would prepare by spraying myself with Babe perfume) and weekly would deposit carton after carton containing pale pink boxes of things I had never heard of: foundation, toner and my all time favorite: palettes of eye shadow. The eye shadow required mixing with a few drops of water and had to be applied to foundation laden eyelids with a little brush. The brush was a work of art. When you twisted the stem, the brush disappeared inside.
I was hooked.
I convinced my mom to pay me $30 per UPS delivery to open all the boxes, apply her gold embossed label and stack them on the matching pale pink shelving unit in her closet. I went with her on “complimentary facial” parties. I set up the little personal mirrors on the hostess’s dining room table and helped demonstrate to the guests the “upward sweeping motion of application.” I slathered on more face cream than Joan Crawford. It was glamorous. But more than that, I saw women sigh with satisfaction as they welcomed their newly transformed selves. I imagined my parents, sister and I driving around in a pink Cadillac, the sign of a truly successful Mary Kay Image Consultant.
While make-up didn’t get my family a pink Cadillac, it did get me a lot of other things: dates, jobs, an exciting interview with Barbizon Modeling in New Haven (I was pretty enough to pay for classes, not pretty enough to get signed) into college, married and a ten year career as an entrepreneur. Of course lipstick and blush didn’t GET me those things. I got them. Make up gave me the confidence to do it.
It seems that lately, as a woman over 40, I have noticed all kinds of little signs that I need to change, yet again. This time perhaps, from a heavy make-up user to one on probation. Last week my photo was taken in a group. Beforehand, in front of the mirror I thought I looked pretty good: short funky hair, a gorgeous print blouse, aquamarine stilletos and the cherry on top: red lipstick. When I saw the photo I thought, Who’s the old lady, squinting into the sun with neon lips? OH. NO. That’s ME.
It was a startling revelation. How do I go for less is more and retain the confidence, the transformation from the girl, no- woman without a face, to the NEW ME? Someone who is still taking chances, in fact has just recently thrown it all on the line, closing a successful business to go in a new direction, to be a Successful Writer of all things? Don’t I need new lipstick for that?!
In retaliation, I went naked. No mascara, no powder, no eyeliner. It was only one day, but it had results. I realized I looked OK with a little lip gloss and a good night’s sleep.
But I LOVE color. I need it to breathe. My face may have new lines where foundation likes to gather, but SOMEWHERE on my personal landscape I had to find the possibility of transformation, a sign to myself that I will be successful and someday make some money.
So, today I took stock of my body and ended with my feet. I appraised them resting on the coffee table. They looked positively pre-pubescent! I drove quickly (SPF 60 lavishly applied) to the drug store. I found just what I was looking for in nail polish: a deep gloss burgundy.
The name? Rich as Rubies.
It cost $3.99