Lipstick, Life and the Queen
May 2, 2013
Lipstick is more than a cosmetic product containing pigments, oils, waxes and emollients. It is the one and only thing I never, ever go out of the house without. If I don’t have my lips on I ain’t traveling.
Lipstick is perhaps one of the oldest cosmetics known to woman (and man – Marilyn Manson, an American rock musician known for his controversial stage persona, is a prime example). In Medieval Europe it was banned by the church and was thought to be an incarnation of Satan. Cosmetics were reserved for prostitutes. Lipstick gained popularity in 16th century England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, when the fashion for women was to have red lips and a white face, which brings to mind a visual of Japanese Kabuki makeup. Of course, by the 19th century the Brits had done an about face, promoting the idea that obvious use of cosmetics was not considered acceptable for a “respectable” woman, alluding to their use primarily by prostitutes. For true natural beauties I’m sure that was not a problem, but to be seen in public with no cosmetic enhancement at all probably left many a “plain Jane” out in the cold.
Leave it to the French perfumers to invent the first commercial lipstick in 1884. Guerlain, a French cosmetic company, began to manufacture lipstick for mass consumption the same year. American women did not come to view lipstick as acceptable until 1912.
Personally, lipstick caught my fancy in 1960. I had seen my beautiful young mother twirling what looked like a big red crayon up out of a gold tube and artfully apply it to her lips each time she headed out into public. She never left the house without it. She would always say, “We need to look presentable in public. You never know who we may run into. We may see the Queen of England today.” I would of course believe her. As we piled into our old Plymouth to run errands I would pester her. “When are we going to see the Queen mama? Huh? Will we have tea with the queen today? Huh? Mama…Mama…can I ask Santa for a crown like the one the Queen wears? Will she be in her royal carriage Mama?” (That’s the kind of conversation you get when you try to dupe a 4-year-old.)
One day whilst mom was occupied with her daily household chores I happened to spot the gold tube of lipstick on the dresser in mom and dad’s bedroom. Well mates, the temptation was oh so very great for one little Sara Elizabeth Mawyer. I trotted right over to the dresser, snatched the tube up with my grubby paws, twirled the stick up and slathered it round and round all over my lips and portions of my nose and chin as well. Needless to say I looked like a midget clown.
I was so enamored of the cosmetic I thought I might try my hand at doing a little artwork on the wall with it. That’s about the time I got b-u-s-t-e-d. My mom came through the bedroom door with a laundry basket in her arms and when she saw me her jaw dropped and her eyes got big as saucers. She moved toward me so fast I don’t think her feet even hit the floor. She snatched the lipstick out of my hand and surveyed the damage. The carefully angled tip end of the red stick had been obliterated. Back then I had no idea what the big deal was. Now, of course, many years and hundreds of tubes of lipstick later I know you don’t mess around with the tip end of anyone’s lipstick except your own.
She smacked my hands until they stung and uttered one sentence over and over: “Wait until your daddy gets home!” Times were tight and she only had that one tube of lipstick so I was sent to purgatory until Dad got home. The afternoon turned to early evening when I heard the sound of wide white wall tires pull into the drive. Dad came in the house wearing his business suit and a tired, workday expression. He hardly made it past the front door before hearing all about the great lipstick debacle. I was subjected to a mild lecture and from that point on the lipstick was kept out of my reach on a tall chest of drawers.
I’m a semi-old lady now and I can have as many tubes of lipstick as I like. Some women indulge in shoes, purses or jewelry but the allure of lipstick has always been my weakness. When I need a little pick-me-up I’ll indulge in a tube of lip color. And, the choices are endless: Simply Spice, Perfect Plum, Red Brick, Pink Bouquet, Mystery Mauve, Rich Ruby, Velvet Vixen, Caressing Coral, Red Embrace, Uptown Pink, etc., etc. I have a bathroom drawer full of tubes of lipstick, each one to be used for a special occasion or season. Ironically, I don’t own a single tube of red lipstick. While I loved the way it looked on me at the age of four, it really clashes with my complexion now.
Sometimes I’ll spot elderly women who love their lipstick as much as I love mine. Funny thing is they seem to apply it in much the same way I did at the age of four because they have a hard time coloring inside the lines I suppose. “That’s me when I get to be their age,” I think. If I live to be 100 and never go any farther than the front porch of the rest home, I’ll still have my lips “sticked.” After all, you never know who you may meet!