46: Red Lipstick

46: Red Lipstick

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

Red Lipstick

When in doubt wear red.

~Bill Blass

Rolling around in the bottom of my make-up drawer is a tube of red lipstick. I bought it on a whim — hiding it between some mascara and a bottle of concealer like it was something dirty. Shame pinkened my cheeks. The clerk smiled politely when she swiped it across the scanner. I know she was thinking I would never wear it, so why was I buying it?

I looked away and grabbed a tube of lotion. “Do you like this brand? I’m never sure which kind to buy. I have super sensitive skin, and scented lotions sometimes set it off,” I said.

Distract.

Distract.

Distract.

She looked at me with a measuring gaze. “Sure, I think that one’s nice. I haven’t heard much about its sensitivity to skin, but that one there,” she pointed to another tube, “that one is gingerbread, and those holiday scents are to die for.”

“Fantastic,” I lied. “I’ll take one.” I gave it to my cousin as a Christmas gift. She always liked that kind of stuff. After paying for my items, I escaped to the safety of my car. I opened the bag, and sitting there was the fresh tube of red lipstick. Cellophane protected it from the rest of the world.

Protected me from it. From the repercussions of wearing something so scandalous.

Red always feels dangerous.

Beautiful.

Sexy.

Red always feels like the things I am not.

Things I’ll never be.

Like I don’t deserve to wear it.

I needed new glasses. Buying them online made avoiding salesclerk judgment that much easier. I still couldn’t shuck my own judgments, so I bought two pair. The first was black rimmed.

Simple.

Normal.

Me.

The second, red.

Adventurous.

Whimsical.

Everything I want to be.

The day they came in the mail was both exhilarating and terrifying. I hid them away from the world. Away from judgment. Alone, I slipped on the red pair. I let the strange new image in the mirror wash over me. Who is this girl, the one with the red glasses?

I don’t know her.

But I want to.

The first person who saw me laughed — a deep belly laugh, the kind that brings tears to the eyes and makes the face hurt. “What are you wearing? Oh, my god, please tell me that’s a joke.”

“What? These?” I said, pulling the red glasses off my face.

More laughter. “Oh, that’s too funny. Oh god, you’re making me smear my mascara. Is that like a gag pair? You’re not going to wear them, are you?”

I walked away, my insides pushing me to run instead — to hide and never show my face again. I slipped off the red pair and put on the black ones. I blotted my eyes.

I will not cry.

I will not cry.

I will not cry.

“Oh, that’s better. Those are cute. Those are you.”

I touched my black glasses and tried not to cringe. When she was gone, I took off the black ones and slipped on the red pair.

They’re bold. They’re beautiful.

They make me feel bold and beautiful.

Before I could change my mind, I grabbed my car keys and drove into town, where I was forced to wear them until I’d finished my shopping.

“Those are cute. I love them!”

“Have you always worn glasses? I never noticed.”

“I’ve been wanting a pair just like them. Where did you buy them?”

Bombarded for the next several days, I continued to wear them until they became part of my face. Part my personality. Part of me.

I am the girl in the red glasses.

Rolling around in the bottom of my make-up drawer is a tube of red lipstick. I think about it from time to time — like an old friend I haven’t seen or heard from in a while. The only times we’ve talked were in secret. I paint my lips the color of whimsy and stare at the girl in the mirror. She’s someone I dream of being.

She’s strong.

She walks with her shoulders back, unafraid of the world at her feet.

She doesn’t feel like me yet.

I grab my car keys and drive into town. Before anyone can stop me. I force myself to wear it all day. Maybe then, she will become a part of me, too. I am the girl with the red lipstick.

~Miranda Boyer

More stories from our partners