And her sweet red lips on these lips of mine
Burned like the ruby fire set In the swinging lamp of a crimson shrine,
Or the bleeding wounds of the pomegranate,
Or the heart of the lotus drenched and wet
With the spilt-out blood of the rose-red wine.
– Oscar Wilde
Isn’t that imagery just orgasmic? Oscar isn’t far off – we all know that red lipstick is the stuff of dreams, Marilyn Monroe and a whole new level of badass. When you sport a lip shade that bears a meaning equivalent to that of a samurai’s sword on your lips, you’re quite literally a different person.
I always hesitate. Every single time I decide to put a red lip on, I stare at myself in my full length mirror for a good few minutes. I deliberate about god knows what, going back and forth like a makeup addict in Superdrug (because I have NEVER done that). And then I put the red lipstick on.
Or sometimes, I don’t.
It’s like having a little angel and devil on each of my shoulders. Let’s do a show of hands – any potential reasons I would decide not to do the red lip that day. I’ve got a few – it’ll look horrendous if it smudges, I have such a habit of rubbing my lips together, it’s not appropriate for work, I lost my lip brush – the list goes on and on.
Let’s take a step back. Why does that little angel (or devil, depending on how you perceive it) win so often? Is it really laziness? Or is it a much more deeply rooted sense of… je ne sais quoi?
I feel different when I wear a red lip. There’s no beating about the bush on that one and I’m going to cut right to the chase. People see me differently. You get all sorts of looks darting your way, from admiration to others that may not be quite as welcome. You’re immediately thrust into a spotlight that never existed in quite the same way before and it all feels alien and dynamic. Metaphorically and literally in HD rather than 240p.
You might start off being hyperaware of everything around you, with particular regard to people’s glances and body language. Subconsciously, you might be a little nervous and all your senses are on edge. You’re like a finely tuned instrument in all its glory, yet so vulnerable that its strings could snap at any moment.
Yet somewhere along the way, you begin to enjoy it. You stand a little taller, speak a little louder, and sway your hips down the street with enough swagger to rival that of Beyonce herself. You make eye contact with every single person who looks at you without flinching, and smile when they turn to look a second time. You put your hand up to answer a question from that tough lecturer who preys on the timid. At work, you voice your opinion in a meeting and look your boss right in the eye whilst doing it. Later that night, you tell a joke in the funny voice that nobody knows you’re capable of because you’ve always been too shy to do it, and you volunteer to sing karaoke SOBER. Okay, I’ve never done it sober, but it takes courage – often the liquid kind for most people. Nevertheless, you’re suddenly living life in technicolour and you’re loving every minute of it.
All because of a lip colour.
Maybe I’m exaggerating. Maybe I’m just delusional and making this all up, but if I am… what’s so wrong about it when it helps you (dare I say it) become a better person at a relatively non-existent cost? What if I love standing out from the crowd and looking good – and knowing it?
The wallflower can only become the beautiful bloom if it gets out there in the sun and gets the best spot in the garden. It gets the most fertile soil, plenty of water when it rains and plenty of sunshine when the sky clears. In order to do that, it needs to get past all the other plants vying for that prime spot. It fights for what it wants.
That is perhaps the best phrase that comes to mind when I think of everything associated with a red lipstick. Be a fighter. Fight for the things and the people you care for most. Fight with the courage of a mother lioness, and with the fear of not being able to fight anymore one day. And maybe, just maybe – your life will get that bit more colourful and things that you never thought could happen to you, might just start happening for you.
And wear that red lipstick. You go girl.