August 26, 2011

The Good-Bye Lipstick

Beautiful Is ...


A memory: It was sixth grade and I was in Catholic school. The prettiest girl in my class – who will remain nameless, because she has since Facebook-friended me, still a coup, even now – showed up in hairline-to-neck make-up.

She was pretty already, but with blue eye shadow, black eyeliner (done Lady Gaga style – could she have been a prophet too?), rouge, and mascara, Pretty Girl looked almost goddess-like; just like Aphrodite, Artemis, Maia and the rest of those beautiful Greek goddesses we happened to be studying in class at the time. My commute to St. Mary’s was around the corner, hers was from Mount Olympus.

That afternoon, I told my mom I wanted make-up because “everyone else was doing it.” The ensuing week was full of tears and arguing, and we finally compromised on lipstick. We went to the drugstore and I made my way to the wall of Revlon green lipstick containers.

It was so intimidating – this huge wall that was destined to finally make me grown-up, make me beautiful. There were so many colors and I tried them all. The backs of my hands were streaked in salmons, reds, burgundies, and tans. Finally, I chose the hands-down, out-of-the-park favorite: Zinc Pink.

Zinc Pink was my best friend for many years. I wore too much of it. I applied when I was tan, when I was nervous, when I was going out, when I looked in the mirror and was having one of those ugly days all girls do. Some boy had it on his lips during my first kiss – which came many years later.

Sometime around college (I think) I went the drugstore and discovered that Zinc Pink was discontinued. The college versions of Pretty Girl were sophisticated Europeans and prep-school educated girls who wore Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent cosmetics and didn’t grow up in places like Milwaukee. One of those girls took me to an expensive department store and convinced me red was my color. It wasn’t.

I never found anything I liked as much as Zinc Pink.

Or did I? I wonder now if maybe Zinc Pink was my best friend during a time when all girls need a best friend. During adolescence we’re always looking for an instant vehicle for beautiful. But now we know better. Beautiful can’t be bought in a tube of lipstick. It comes in other ways: For me, it’s reading something I’ve written. It’s a deal closed, a couple thrilled to buy their first home, dinner at Ozumo alone with my Kindle, a three hour phone conversation with my best friend, more site traffic than yesterday, a compliment from someone I don’t know. And, of course, beauty can still come in the form of a guy looking at you across a room, but we’ve learned not to rely on that because guys, like lipstick colors, often come and go.

I write this not to be sentimental, but because Tom Ford has decided to discontinue some of his past lipstick colors (including my favorite) in favor of new, fresher ones. This was catastrophic for me in the Zinc Pink days; even a few years ago it would have flustered me a great deal. Now, I’m calmly recommending that you pop over to Bergdorf’s site and stock up on your favorite colors before they can’t be bought anymore.

And, more importantly, after you do, do something this weekend that will make you feel beautiful. It may involve lipstick, but my guess is it probably won't.



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