My Lipstick and Me
By Carine Fabius
From Fifty Is the New...
Published 19 May 2010
From Popular Science Monthly, May 1939
And now for something really important amidst all the issues in our world.... My artist friend David Gibson and I were hanging out the other day when the subject of lipstick came up. He'd noticed several small, colorful bottles on my desk — a new line of herbal lip dyes that I sell through my temporary body art business. Anyone who knows me is aware that I never go a day without lipstick.
Our fearless leader, Cathy Fischer (who started Fifty is the New), likes to tell people about the time she asked a bunch of women gathered at my house to count the lipsticks in their purses. The one with the most lipsticks wins.... I clocked in at 17 tubes. (That was then! I only carry one at a time now.) I even wrote a recent blog for Huffington Post called "Lipstick, I Can't Live Without You." What can I say? I'm serious about Lipstick. But, back to David.
"I don't really like that stuff," he said to me. I nodded understanding; he continued. "I hate it when a woman gives me a big hug and I'm left with lipstick on my collar for the rest of the night." I nodded some more; he kept going. "And what about when a woman with lipstick takes a bite out of an apple and then hands it to you." Want a bite?
"Ewww," I said, "Gross!" You don't have to tell me the hassles of wearing lipstick. I'm constantly wiping lipstick stains off my coffee cup, wine glass, any glass, even when there's no one around to notice. And what about lipstick on teeth, napkins and on the chin after said bite of apple? I once had a boyfriend who preferred me sans lipstick. I ignored him, of course, but he still remains an indelible spot on my heart for that stance. He and my father. I'm sorry, but I just look better with it on, okay?
If people knew lipstick's history and what women had to endure to wear it, even bare-lip aficionados might start a political movement to honor the waxy stick. Hello National Lipstick Day! For instance, did you know that the desperate need to vivify the lips started circa 3500 B.C., when a Sumerian queen donned a white lead base with crushed red rocks to achieve some kinda, any kinda, hue? How about such mind-numbing ingredients as the deadly poisonous vermilion, sheep sweat, and crocodile excrement? Mmm, Mmm, Mmm. And then there were the vile accusations suffered by women who dared to wear lipstick — prostitute being the kindest. In fact, the Greeks punished prostitutes for not wearing it, lest people confuse them with ladies. By the middle ages, the ever-reliable religious nuts decreed women wearing lipstick to be incarnations of Satan (why else would anyone mess with the God-given? Come to think of it, it's downright bizarre that cosmetic surgery has not been declared a sin punishable by stoning).
Eventually, things took a positive turn for the reviled lipstick when, in the 1300s, the English came to believe that it carried magical powers and could even keep death at bay! But, you guessed it, this really pissed off the church again. Magical powers?? Using lipstick was declared a mortal sin (to be divulged during confession), unless it was by horribly disfigured women — for the purpose of relieving their unfortunate husbands. Around then pictures of devils applying lipstick on women were rampant. You can imagine how much worse it got during the Victorian age.
Because you are busy and we endeavor to keep these blogs short, I have to stop here; but the lipstick's fascinating history goes on, even becoming a tool for the feminist movement in the 1900s when the suffragettes endorsed it as a sign of emancipation.
As my grandmother always said, Il faut soufrir pour être belle (one must suffer to be beautiful). So, all I can say to my friend David is, if I have to suffer, so must you. ♦