Thursday, 8 December 2016
Objects of Happiness 4: Lipstick
"Rose perfume from Jo Malone," said B.A.
"Russian Red lipstick from MAC!"
We are into small gifts at the Historical House, for we are saving to buy a less-historical cottage or flat. Also, I have just returned from a two week "working-holiday" in Poland, and even the eye infection I brought back has not entirely assuaged my feelings of guilt. There was that sad incident when I dropped my brand-new MAC lipstick on Łysa Góra. I wasn't heartbroken, for "Viva Glam 2" turned out not to be a wonderful colour, but the waste, the waste, the expense, the expense.
Make-up is a funny sort of thing. I thought it intensely glamorous when I was twelve, and now I find it a tad annoying. Part of the problem is my Main Audience, who says he doesn't like it and persuaded me to stop wearing the thick mask of foundation I thought appropriate to middle-age. Another problem is the ability to create believably visible eyebrows and eyelashes for myself. Once in a blue moon, I hie myself to a beautician and get them dyed brown.
Bright red lipstick flies in the face of the near-impossible challenge of wearing make-up without looking like you are wearing make-up. It is pure artifice and practically symbolic of 20th century femininity. I was very happy when I was given my first lipstick, which was a shimmering pale pink from L'Oreal. I was either 12 or 13, which goes to show how not strict my mother was compared to other Catholic mothers.
This is just as true now as then, and I had an interesting moment recently when a lipstick-deprived teenage girl looked on with envy as I took a split-second in the ladies' loo to pop on a fresh layer. She remarked on how little time it took me to do that, and I said something like "Thirty years of practice." Naturally I would prefer to look like the teenage girl than to have Olympic class lipstick-applying skills, but I recognized the fascination. My niece looked at my face like that when she was three or four and said "I like your lipstick" in positively voracious tones.
Because little girls are discouraged from wearing it, lipstick is thus a female symbol for Adult Female Life, which appears rather glamorous before you're mired in it. I suspect this is why little girls love Barbie Dolls. Barbie is obviously a Grown-Up and therefore much more attractive than, say, Skipper. I also sacrificed half a week's allowance to buy a monthly Seventeen magazine from the age of twelve because the concept of being seventeen was so glorious (and grown-up), even to someone already allowed to wear shimmering pale pink lipstick from L'Oreal.
Lipstick is a way in which women differentiate ourselves from men (and how female impersonators differentiate themselves from other men) and also from the dreary background we fade into as we age. Don't get me wrong: the anonymity being just another middle-aged women of limited interest to men is quite comfortable. However, there are times when I want to look smart and like I might be interesting to talk to, e.g. at parties.
To escape accusations of frivolity, I will repeat that these Objects of Happiness are not in any kind of order, but merely whatever first strikes my mind when I sit at the computer and am tempted to blog about Pope Francis. It may be a small joy, but is a joy none the less, when a woman tries out a brand-new, just-bought lipstick and discover she likes (or still likes) the colour on her.
I am of two minds as to whether I would give my twelve year old daughter (if I had one) a lipstick; given the contemporary sexual climate, I'm not sure that is still appropriate. As a trad, I think I would delay all the freedoms I was granted by the age 14 to 18 or maybe even 19. Well, except for school dances. I loved school dances so much, it would just about kill me to stop a teenage girl from going to a school dance.*
Imaginary Teenage Daughter: How can I go to a school dance if you don't let me wear make-up?
Imaginary Mother Self: You can wear make-up to school dances if I can veto your outfit.
This reminds me that my mother's primary objection to my school dance outfits was that I wore too much black. Ah ha ha ha ha. Contemporary mothers-of-teenagers should have so little to complain about.
*This assumes, of course, that she was not being homeschooled by me and a cast of friends straight out of My Family and Other Animals.
Question for the Homeschooled: Dances? Do they happen?