When I was a teenager, I was a model in Chicago. 5’10 and 115lbs of blond hair, blue-eyed beauty. The agency I worked for taught us how to apply make-up and how to walk and dress and one thing that stuck with me was that models should never wear red lipstick because that meant you were the trampy kind of model.
Since then I’ve always downplayed the make-up, wearing neutral colors and going light on the lipstick and eye make-up.
Then, last month, I was having a particularly bad day and I went to run errands at the local drug store (pharmacy, not dispensary :P). I walked down the aisles aimlessly until I saw it, the tube of red lipstick staring me down, saying things like ‘why don’t you like me? I’m not just for whores anymore’.
I picked it up and felt like a tramp in church on Sunday. I grabbed a magazine, lotion, vitamins and the red lipstick hidden in the middle so no one would see me carrying it.
I took the lipstick home and hide in my bathroom. Turning it over and over in my hand, I contemplated the reactions people would have.
“Slutty, nice,” was what I imagined my husband would say.
“Weird,” is what my daughter would say.
“Tramp” is what my grandmother would say.
I looked at myself in the mirror. I saw a woman that rarely took risks and then thought, to hell with it, I’m gonna be a rebel!
The color slid across my tiny lips. I looked at myself again. I don’t actually know if it was the color of the lipstick or how it made me feel but suddenly, for the first time in a long time, I liked what I saw. I didn’t just see a mom and wife, overworked caregiver, part-time writer and Girl Scout leader who worried about bills and grades and cleaning the bunny cage. I saw a woman. A beautiful woman with a twinkle in her eye and a rebellious streak.
I cut my hair, curled it, put on black eyeliner (a no no for my skin tone according to the modeling agency), mascara and a little blush and walked out of the bathroom.
My husband’s eyes popped and I waited for the words.
“Wow, you look pretty.”
“I like how your eyes look,” my ten year old said.
“You look pretty, Ms. Tania,” every one of my Girl Scouts said.
I saw that people were seeing me differently too, not just as the wife, mother, etc., they were seeing me as a person and all because of the red lipstick. I learned that lipstick doesn’t define me. I define the lipstick. Nothing gets to define me. I define me.