Twelve years ago, while in college, I worked in a clothing store as a second job, basically trading my time for clothes. One evening, I found myself staring at one of the customers. I couldn’t help it. She had lips that belonged on a pinup, the most perfect shade of blazing red that somehow managed to look classy and not at all whorish. I complimented her on it, and she thanked me, explaining that she worked on State Street in Chicago at a very high end makeup counter and their makeup “uniform” not only included all black clothing, but red lips and minimal makeup everywhere else. I told her that I could never wear red lipstick because it looks terrible on me, to which she replied it was about finding two things: the right shade, and the right attitude, because when you wear red lipstick like you should be wearing it, no one questions you.
I smiled and thought “uh, yeah, no. I will stick to my rose colored glosses and Cherry ChapStick.” Wearing red lipstick was as scary as wearing a tube top, an act that cannot be ignored. Just think about it: no one remembers what Jennifer Lopez wears on her lips, but Gwen Stefani’s red lips are legendary, even above her outstanding clothing.
Most of the time, I feel like I’m walking a balance beam between wanting to be invisible and wanting to be noticed. I don’t want people to zero in on my faults and imperfections, which I think are glaringly obvious and visible from the International Space Station. When my ankles are puffy and my hair is Fraggle-ish and I just messed up at work, I am desperate to glide under everyone’s radar. However, when my resume is lost in a sea of resumes, and everyone is hanging out without me, and I’m having a good boob day, it’s all I can do to not walk around saying “hey! What about me?!? I’m special, dammit!!”
A couple years ago, I went to a department store to buy Chanel nail polish. It seemed like a nonsensical thing to get, but I was in a pretty low spot and wanted something over the top pretty. When I got there, I was bummed to find that they didn’t carry Chanel cosmetics. So I wandered around and came across Yves Saint Laurent Glossy Stain.
You know that first time you drove your first car? Or maybe when you got those earrings for graduation? Or the first time you had pizza at Lou Malnati’s?
That was me, meeting YSL Glossy Stain No. 5.
Angels sang. Stars shone brighter. The smell of summer enveloped me.
I was afraid, though. It was a far darker pink than anything I’d worn before. I couldn’t put it down, so I handed my MasterCard and left with a teeny little black bag of happiness in my hand.
I loved wearing it. It was just so pretty, even if I was a little nervous about people noticing my mouth. It would mean that they would notice me, even in a small and passing way. I couldn’t be invisible anymore.
Last fall, I went to dinner with my bff, Brandon, and afterwards, I was in a really good mood, high on laughter and chips and salsa. I decided to stop and see if there was another shade of the same stain that I’d like since I was up for something new. No. 9 was perfect, except for the fact that it was exactly what I’d feared: intensely red, glossy magic.
I feared it and had to have it at the same time.
The first time I wore it, I nearly shook. I wasn’t a red lipstick kind of woman. Those women were assured, confident, beautiful. I was just me, sometimes shaky, shy, and definitely plain. One of the best lessons my choir director taught me is that “this, too, is part of acting. If you present yourself like you mean to be here, no one will say that you shouldn’t be.”
In that vein, it became war paint. When I wanted to feel strong, in command of my universe, the red lip stain was one of my best tokens. When I wanted to feel gorgeous and anything but plain, painting the color on my lips went a long way. I am a different woman when I wear red lip stain. I get a surprising number of compliments when I wear it.
I’ve picked up a few more shades from other brands since then. Today, I woke up to a horribly anxious brain. I spent the day watching The History Channel and napping before heading to my niece’s choir concert. When I got ready, I pulled out a tube of stain that I haven’t worn in months and with one swipe, I remembered that this is the most intense color I have, and this brand doesn’t wear off easily at all.
Dang. I was already trying to fight through a scumbaggy brain and now here I was, with lips that are visible to the Mars Rover. Deciding to follow Max’s advice again, I took a selfie and stuck it on Facebook, declaring myself ready for the day. One of my friends commented on it, saying that I can pull off bright colors, but she looks silly when she tries. I found myself standing where that other woman stood twelve years ago, telling her to find the right shade and run with it.
Every woman can – and should – wear red lipstick, if not literally, then metaphorically. Find the courage to stand out. Draw attention to what you have to say. Even if you have to fake it, act like you are here on purpose.
Yves Saint Laurent changed my life. What will it take to change yours?
Posted on March 25, 2015, in Anxiety, On Being a Woman and tagged Beautiful, beauty, Change, Confidence, Lip Stain, Makeup, On Being a Woman, Power, Red, Yves Saint Laurent. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.