She sashays into the room wrapped in a scarlet sheath. Her nails are the same colour… and her lips? What would this image of feminine allure be without lipstick?
Some people’s favourite images of femininity might revolve around lingerie, perhaps, or high heels. Mine are firmly focused on the lips. I think, for example, of Robert Palmers ‘Addicted to Love’ video. The women on the instruments, in their black dresses, wore make-up which seems to obliterate their facial features – except the lips. Their bright red lipstick holds my eye. My favourite pop video – I love it!
An equally memorable lip image is the opening sequence of the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’. Lips, tongue and teeth occupy the screen against a black background, just red lips, pink tongue and white teeth.
Other kinds of make-up have their place of course, but lipstick is special. I feel that wearing it lies close to the heart of who I am, and what I do.
If I was in a balloon sinking slowly towards the ocean, with all of my feminine trappings aboard, what would I throw out first to gain a little height? Sure as there are no eggs in my basque, it wouldn’t be a lipstick. And I feel sure that my final pair of stilettos would go before my last lipstick…
As ‘last lipstick’ implies, one lipstick is certainly not enough for me. I like to have a choice of different manufacturer’s products. No two are quite the same – the textures are different, they go on my lips differently, and they don’t look quite the same once applied.
I like to have more than one type of lipstick – both the ‘stay-put’ kind, and the ones that leave their mark. Above all, perhaps, I need a choice of shade – the more shades the better in fact.
Last night, for example, going out in a green skirt and yellow blouse (a pleasingly spring-like combination, I think) required a muted lip colour. I picked one called ‘Strawberry’, which may suggest a bold red, but is actually a dark pink. In fact, ‘Strawberry’ is quite similar to the natural colour of my lips… but, in spite of the similarity, it doesn’t leave me looking as if I had forgotten to put my lipstick on – that would never do!!!
Going out the week before, I strutted my stuff all in red. Strawberry would not have gone with my outfit, I needed a proper, full-blooded red. The one I selected is called ‘Poppy’. It is just about the colour I’d expect a poppy to be, just a little darker than ‘Scarlet’, another lipstick generally to be found in my handbag.
The colours are lovely, but the names of theses lipstick shades strike me as being a little dull. Of all the shades which have passed through my fingers, I think that my favourite name was ‘Hearts Afire’. If I recall correctly, it was a Max Factor one. The name was enought to banish all doubt that this was a lipstick – there is no ‘Hearts Afire’ in the Dulux range!
I don’t know whether the the names of the shades are, in general, becoming more dull – or whether it’s just the ones I’ve been buying. Either way, I look forward to them perking up…
I always look forward to applying my lipstick, and enjoy prolonging that pleasurable anticipation. When I was a child, I liked to leave the best bit of my dinner to last. It was the same with a packet of fruit gums – I ended up with a pocketful of fluff-coated black ones. I’m still much the same, at least when it comes to getting ready, that is: I now eat my dinner in a more sensible way, and haven’t had a fruit gum for years!
I have a regular routine for my process of feminisation. I enjoy it all, but some parts are inevitably better than others. First of all comes foundation, then powder, blusher, and eye makeup. With almost all of my makeup on, I dress, then put on my shoes. The wig is almost the last item, an important moment – inspecting myself in the mirror, nearly ready. Finally, the crowning stage, and in many ways the best of all – lipstick.
Like any pleasure, putting on my lipstick is not to be rushed. I apply it slowly, lovingly. I roll my lower lip over the upper one, then contemplate my reflection. I apply a little more lipstick… the process can last for quite a long time. Why hurry when I’m enjoying myself?
Sometimes I use a lip brush – I have a retractable one which is a very satisfying little gizmo. Once I have finished putting on the lipstick in the usual way, I work round the outline of my lips with the brush. It extends the process a little bit further, makes it last a little but longer, and adds to the enjoyment.
Of course, it wasn’t always like that. While I have been attracted to, even fascinated by, lipstick since my early teens, I was well into my twenties before I applied it to my lips. In spite of my writing: ‘Why hurry when I’m enjoying myself?’ – there are limits. My lack of hurry in first sampling the delights of lipstick now seems crazy.
Perhaps I was (at least a little bit) crazy when I was a teenager… I handled my sister’s lipsticks, removed their tops, slid the lipstick itself out of the tube and then back in again. I would have loved to apply it to my lips, but it would be years before I found the courage to do so.
A large part of the problem, I think, was that I didn’t know how one went about removing it. Putting on my sister’s clothes was one thing, I had a fairly good idea of how they would come off again. If anyone came home unexpectedly, undressing might be a rushed process – but I felt confident I could manage it. But how did girls remove their lipstick? Would washing remove it entirely?
Did it require some make-up removal product? If so, which? My sister had a selection of liquids and creams, of whose function I was unsure.
There was a nightmare quality to the idea of trying to discover how to remove lipstick – desperately and in a hurry – as I heard a key in the door. Did I dare risk that possibility? In the end, with much regret, I emphatically did not dare.
My not daring to try my sister’s lipstick was compounded by the layout of the house. My sister’s bedroom and mine were off the same upstairs passage, next to each other. While dressing in her clothes, moving from room to room was no problem.
However, I suspected that removing the lipstick might involve using the bathroom, which was downstairs and reached via the kitchen. To get there from my sister’s room (or mine) involved going downstairs and past the front door (a likely spot for running into someone entering the house), then through the dining room and into the kitchen (with its back door, the other likely spot for encountering people coming home).
Thinking about that now, the solution seems obvious. Take the lipstick down to the bathroom, put some on my lips, and then see how easy or difficult it was to remove. There was no need to wear a skirt in order to experiment with make-up. Oh well, I’ve thought of that solution three dozen years too late!
In fact, of all the things which give me a lot of pleasure, I think that lipstick may be the most recent to have really grabbed me. After my teenage era of feminine experimentation, I grew a beard. Goodness knows why I did it – I was still dressing in private. It was during this bearded period that I first wore lipstick.
I was living on my own then, and no longer worried about family members returning unexpectedly, or even paying me the occasional visit. Alas, the effect of the lipstick was far from flattering.
My reddened lips served only to emphasise the beard. My reflection was grotesque… well, it was probably always pretty grotesque during that period, but usually I didn’t notice the beard. I had developed a sort of beard-blindness, but that selective blindness didn’t operate when I looked at my lips… I still can’t think about my reflection that first time I tried on lipstick without a little shudder. Ugh!
Unsurprisingly, it was only when I lost the beard that I started to enjoy my lipstick. By this time, I was a Transformation customer, and had ‘come out’ to one of my friends. I took to decorating my letters to him with lipstiuck kisses, I got a lot of a kick out of that. It seemed a continuing ‘coming out’ process, and also had a slight hint of danger. What if someone else saw the letters?
Another pleasure in those lipstick kisses was the realisation that no two people’s lip prints are identical. The marks on the paper were as individual as my fingerprints. Just me, and nobody but me.
Here is one of the basic pleasures of lipstick – leaving my mark. I think it satisfies primal instincts – other creatures such as cats and dogs do it with scent. Wearing lipstick, it’s visual, but it seems like a very similar thing.
Seeing my lipstick on a glass for the very first time gave me a tremendous thrill. I had noticed women leaving such traces many times, but this time it was me. Wow! Leaving my mark continued to give me pleasure, I suppose, but there’s nothing like the first time.
A different way of leaving one’s mark with lipstick is the message on a mirror. I gather that it’s an approved way of makeing one’s farewell… This is the kiss off, Buster… Or, if one is leaving with the contents of the sap’s walletL So long, Sucker… Or even: So long and thanks for all the fish…
But I’ve never used one of my own lipsticks (or anyone else’s!) to write on a mirror. It could be that I don’t live the right (or wrong) lifestyle for that sort of thing. It could be that I’m too concerned with the condition of my lipsticks. If I see someone in a film using my favourite kind of make-up for that purpose, I do worry about what it’s doing to the lipstick.
Perhaps I should have been someone’s mum: “Look at the state of your lipstick! It was a really nice one too. Whatever have you been doing to it, you bad girl!”
Sticking with bad girls – and marks – I have a slight regret that I gave up smoking before I really took to wearing lipstick. Smoking is a vice of by bearded era, and I’ve never been very sorry that I gave up the habit. All the same, there is an attraction to the idea of seeing lipsticked cigarette ends in the ash tray, and knowing that they’re mine.
Another pleasure of lipstick is the taste. There is a slight (and sometimes not so slight) waxy taste which remains for as long as the lipstick is on my lips. I enjoy this constant reminder – I don’t forget about my lipstick in the way I do, say, my eye shadow.
Not the least wonderful aspect of the taste has to do with kissing. Kiss someone wearing lipstick and there is at least a hint of the taste. (This depends on the kind of kissing as well as the kind of lipstick – some kisses carry a lot of flavour!) Kissing someone wearing a different lipstick from me, I realised for the first time that not all lipsticks taste alike.
That was interesting, but the real revelation came with kissing someone wearing the same lipstick as me. I had a slight taste in my mouth – so slight that I was scarcely aware of it. Then, our lips met, and the taste suddenly intensified… Hearts Afire! This is something of which I have never grown tired.
Enjoying, as I do, both the taste of and the marks left by lipstick, it seems almost unaccountable that I have taken to wearing lipstick with the minimum taste, and which resists leaving marks. I refer, of course, to the ‘stay-put’ varieties, available from several manufacturers.
I’ve tried several brands of these. One of them, I bought purely on the grounds of it being recommended by Cosmopolitan. I suppose I figured that if Cosmo didn’t know which lipsticks were which, who did? In fact, it didn’t prove my favourite and I only bought it in one shade (unlike the ones I prefer, where a single shade is certainly not enough for me!).
So, what is the attraction of the stay-put lipsticks? I think that it has something to do with their seeming new, glamorous, in the fashion. There is a novelty in the colour not readily coming off. But, above all, I think that I like the shape of these lipsticks. They are longer and thinner than a conventional lipstick, almost like a tube of mascara. They seem to me to have a lot of style.
Touching up my lips in a pub or club, I feel pride in producing my elegant-looking lipstick. It seems a piece of class. This is important because not only is lipstick the kind of make-up I most often touch up in public, but doing so gives me a lot of pleasure.
There is a kind of paradox in touching up my lipstick. Colouring my lips is essentially an out-going activity, primarily it changes my appearance to others. Yet, gazing into my handbag mirror, applying the colour to my lips, is an entirely self-absorbed activity. The contrast between the outgoing and inward-looking aspects of doing this seems to me deliciously feminine…
Wearing lipstick is something I seem to do for the benefit of others. Unless I look into a mirror (which, vain as I am, is something I only do occasionally) I cannot see my lips. But this appearance of it being for others is an illusion – I wear it for myself.
Perhaps that’s why I so treasure the feel of lipstick on my lips, and its slight taste.
A part of the pleasure of redoing my lips in public is that it means closely contemplating my lips in a mirror. Nor is this a small part of the pleasure. I enjoy looking back at what lipstick does for my lips, I enjoy lipstick period…
…I sashay into the room wrapped in a scarlet sheath. My nails are the same scarlet colour… And my lips? What would my conjuration of feminine allure be without lipstick?