Everyday carry

After I put up my most recent post, “War Paint,” I thought, “Now what was all that about? I didn’t even ask my readers to buy Russian Red, let alone Orgasm.”

“All that” was the shrill angst of the post.

I had said I had been prideful, but that was no more than a nod. I really had been prideful. I could have said to that man in the laundromat, “Sure, I don’t think anybody will bother your stuff, but I don’t work here, so why not ask the person in the office.” But I didn’t; I pushed back at him for having assumed I was in a different and lower social stratum than I am. That’s quite prideful. Tired and stressed as I was that night, it was completely unnecessary for me to puff myself up like that.

Lipstick yields many joys: the wide range of its tints, the varying feel on the lips, the subtleties of sparkle and gloss and matte velvet. It yields a high return of pleasure on the cost of investing in a tube.

Above all, it bears power. As Etelka Lehoczky wrote in a review of a book on lipstick, “It’s more armor than invitation, a deliberate subordination of phallic power (the little tube) to the looming female lips and tongue.” I am a plain woman and yet I have seen men hold their breath, lean forward, and stare at my mouth when I have applied lipstick after a nonromantic dinner where I was accompanied by my partner.

My behavior revealed the assertiveness I signal when I wear lipstick. When I spoke confrontationally toward that man in the laundromat, I had pushed back just as hard as I would not have had to, had I been wearing lipstick.

So while there is private joy in wearing lipstick, there is also public aggression. When I select a tube or two to pack in my purse each day, it is my version of the “everyday carry” of knife aficionadoes. Veronique Vienne drew this analogy explicitly when she wrote, “I never leave home without my Swiss army knife and a tube of lipstick. As far as I’m concerned it’s the only two weapons a woman needs. The knife I seldom use- the presence in my bag is mostly symbolic. The lipstick, on the other hand, truly empowers me.” It is even airplane-safe in this post-9/11 era.

A monk in the eighteenth century once asked a group of men if any of them were truly humble. One naive man raised his hand. The monk asked if his interlocutor was willing to shave off half his moustache and go around as if nothing had happened, and the younger person fell silent in humiliation. If you really want to be judged on who you are in the essentials, what you look like should not matter to you.

The same goes for lipstick.

And that is how I know it has more power on me than anything I have yet written about on this (admittedly young) blog.

So I am still not sure whether I can recommend to you the purchase of the makeup I described.


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One thought on “Everyday carry

  1. […] I have written about the topic of grooming and the material world before, particularly in relation to my reaction to someone who took me to be a laundress and my reconsideration of my harsh response. […]

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