Mar 28, 2011


Part of the daily routine of a large percentage of women - at least those like me who work at an office in metropolitan areas - is the make-up ritual. (Have no statistics at hand about how women who live their lives in other regions, work in other industries or areas, have different levels of education relate to their make-up, but that certainly would be a very interesting research!) It's like those first minutes from the movie "The Devil Wears Prada", where we raise from bed, alone or leaving there a lover, hubby, boyfriend who can get ready in a fraction of the time we do, and thus can afford to raise later, run to the bathroom, shower, rub soft, scented body milk or cream into our skin, from toes to the base of the neck, put on the deodorant, body splash, comb our hair, pin it up, dress into something that has taken us time to plan almost as if we've had been strategizing for war, and then go to our face. Cleaning cream, then wash it off with plenty of water and face wash special liquid soap - because every woman knows that body soap doesn't go on the face - then dry, rub with tonifying liquid, put on the medicated creams for pimps or protection against all sorts of allergies, or that cream the doc send us for a certain blemish nobody can see but us, moisturizer, eyecream, face cream - the day cream, mind you - and the sunblock. This all to prepare the skin for the make up.

Where to perform the next part of the ritual depends on culture and the woman herself. Still at home, replacing breakfast time for make-up time, in the car, jugling poweder and mascara with a cup of coffee and a bagel, or at the office, either bent in the cubicle using the camera of the computer for mirror (it happens not only in "The Devil Wears Prada", but also in real life and it's great because usually you don't have a mirror fixed to the wall in your cubicle and the camera allows you to use both hands while doing your make up insteand of occupying on in holding the mirror, and when eyelining that counts a freaking lot!) or in the bathroom, a place that can look more like a locker room in the morning than anything else, where a rather large number of women nearly fight for a square inch of countertop space for their make up bags and another square inch of mirror to see what the fuck they are doing. Yes, being a woman in this society isn't all laugher and songs, it's a long sequence of preparation. It starts with concealer to erase imperfections, followed by foundation to turn our human skin into a porcelain doll complexion, twizers to shape our eyebrows into arches so sharp and so perfect like you'd hardly see in nature, most of us already unable to remember what our real eyebrows look like, eyebrow pencil to mark up these formed creations, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, sealing powder, blush and then the pièce de résistance: the lipstick.

Though not a few of us leave out this step, or put on some chapstick or lip gloss, truth is that a large number of women hold this last item as an iconic element of womanhood. It's the one part that smears and wears off quicker, the one that leaves our mark on water bottles, coke cans, coffee or tea mugs, the cheeks of the people we greet, the lips of those we kiss, spoons and forks and the edge of sandwiches, if we don't care to eat in a particular way, keeping lips from food. At the same time, lipstick is the mean through which women also express their sexuality. Lipstick is what allows us to leave that sensual, trademark kiss brand of a napkin, a shirt collar, a letter, a mirror. It's an unmistakable sign of femininity and sexuality. The tomboy girl refuses it often or wears only chapstick, the young girls play with lip gloss, the shy with light pinks, the sober with nude tones and beige, the femme fatale with cherries and ruby tones, the dreamy with violets and chocolate browns, the rebel with blacks and  deep purples. Back in my days, then in the 90's the electronics wore blues and greens. It's said that among lesbians, those who dress and behave very femenine, and are difficult for the average straight fellow to set apart from the average straight woman are called "lipstick lesbians". Be it as it may, the applying of no other piece of make up holds such a sensual aura to it as the lipstick. No man or woman would think as a woman of particularly sexy or seductive when outlining her eyes or applying blush, but the image of the parted lips patiently still as the colored, creamy bar rimms it does have some effect over the desire of those inclined - even if passingly - towards the pleasures a woman's body can yield.

In a way, the tone of lipstick a woman picks tells to the world how she relates to sex, perhaps to the point of telling them openly she doesn't think of it too much or doesn't feel the need to broadcast it (nudes, beiges and chocolates), if she's shy and romantic (pinks, light violets), if she's dreamy and rather go for kissing (lip gloss, and shimmery lipsticks), if she's unafraid and in your face telling you she loves it and wants it a lot (reds, cherries, rubies) or if she likes it but keeps it to herself, doesn't request it because she has out-of-the-norm tastes (dark tones like purples, burgundies, coffee browns). If you ask me if there's a particular lipstick that shows which woman is lesbian, I'd say there isn't any, I believe they relate to their little tubes the same way straights do. Perhaps the only tale tell would be the mingling of two shades in a way that doesn't seem specifically planned. ^_^ No, there isn't any particular color - to my knowledge - that would give a heads up about the sexual orientation of the wearer. Though the relation of the woman to sex is often symbolized through it. Not one of us have heard and can recognize in a dark room the infamous "whore red" lipstick, or would look down on the well known husband-stealer who wears baby pink and think "does that bitch really thinks she's so innocent?". Lipstick sets the tone, so you wouldn't feel comfortable with a woman in a sober power suit with big fire red lips at a meeting. You'd hardly take anything she says seriously. It would look like a prostitute dressed up as an executive.

A movie I resently watched again places this connection between the woman and her sexuality shown through her lipstick is "Niagara" by Henry Hathaway, with Marilyn Monroe. In it our beloved sensual blond is always depicted with luscious, bright red lips even in bed when allegedly sleeping. Against her fair, pale skin, pale hair and general pale make up, her sensual lips stand like a flag of her desire, her wanton for affair, for a handsome, passionate lover who can spin her head. Whatever she wears, from the white night gown, going through the mauve dress to the black suit and white scarf, it all plays with the image her lips give. In the end, as a reminder of her Joseph Cotten (plays George Loomis, her husband), picks up from all the scattered things that have spilled out of her purse her lipstick. Jeweled, cherished, he opens it up revealing the color she wears, as a reminder of the woman she is: beautiful, exhuberant, out of reach and full of passion.

Some women have trademark tones, but most of us have several shades for different occasions. Sober for the office, lighter for day events, darker for night events. We usually carry some in our make up bags, but if any were to get into our bathrooms or to our dressers, the number of lipsticks found would send their heads spinning. From tiny lipbalm pots and tubes of lipgloss to those trademark lipsticks they run across our things and lives in a large assorted range of shades far bigger than anyone could imagine. The irony of it is that often we can find ourselves at loss, missing that exact shade we love, or get disheartened when our favorite color is discontinued by the brand we use. Wonder how many of us still remember the name of that shade we loved so much, we missed so dearly when it was taken off the shelves. I can't recall the names now, but I had back in the last millenium two Revlon lipsticks, one with a name like Deep Diamonds or something like that, which I loved to madness. Those two were my first serious, expensive lipsticks, the ones with which I set my determination that would push me through life: it doesn't matter how poor or how rich I am, I will never settle for anything but the best. Two lipsticks that cost me what could have cost me 20 of a no name brand, and yet those I loved and with those I made my mark.

Since then I casted away that brand, particularly due to the unreliability of the brand to be provided in any of the two countries I'm most often in (there was a period in the begining of this millenium when you couldn't simply find a single piece of Revlon make up in Costa Rica or Hungary. Running out of make up, desperate to get my supply and utterly hurt by the loss of them, I tried with other brands finally settling with the two I have trusted since: L'Oreal and Oriflame). Since then my collection of lipsticks have always hoovered in the lower tens, and though I may not wear lipstick so often, whenever I get to a cosmetics store or get my hands on a make up catalogue, the one think my eyes linger the most, the one thing I buy the most are, precisely, lipsticks. So fetiche, plaything, tool, or symbol for a whole gender, just as much as high heeled shoes and skirts, but even more because it states more sensually the sexual element of the woman, the seductive shades of the lady, the lipstick reminds always of us, more than an eyeshadow or an eyeliner.

No comments: