Red Lipstick | Teen Ink

Red Lipstick

October 7, 2018
By ashthenerd1 SILVER, Brooklyn, New York
ashthenerd1 SILVER, Brooklyn, New York
7 articles 1 photo 3 comments

When I was thirteen, I decided that I needed a tube of red lipstick. I had never really worn makeup before, but I decided that red lipstick was going to be my thing when I got to high school. I was living in New York City at the time, where most of my friends wore full faces of makeup to school on any given day and had cute boyfriends who complimented their perfect faces. I had always felt very plain standing next to them, so I decided that when I got to high school, I was going to wear bright red lipstick every day and be the most perfect human being on the planet. My parents had just informed me that we were moving to Israel, so I seized the opportunity to guilt trip my mother, who was vehemently opposed to me wearing anything other than mascara, into getting me a Sephora gift card.

One day in June, towards the end of the eighth grade, my best friend and I took the subway into Manhattan to visit Sephora. As I walked around Times Square, I could almost hear the models calling out to me, begging me to look like them. I walked into the store with a sense of purpose, deciding then and there that I would walk out feeling as ethereally beautiful as they were. Sephora, to my cosmetically inexperienced eyes, seemed like paradise. Rows and rows of products in every shade for every use imaginable called out to me as I stood in the entrance, enthralled by the sheer amount of things I had been missing out on. My attention was drawn towards a display that said: "SEXY". "BOLD". "CONFIDENT". "YOU". I went immediately to the enormous display of lip products and picked out the sexiest, boldest and most confident red I could find. The box was covered in daring adjectives that I so wanted to describe me, and I purchased it without a second thought. In my hurry to be beautiful, I didn’t even try it on. I showed it to my best friend, and we joked about how some boy whose name I don’t even remember wouldn’t know what had hit him.

I remember very distinctly trying on the lipstick that night. I put on a little black dress and heels, following a "look" that I'd seen in Cosmo Magazine. I carefully applied mascara and magenta eyeshadow, from a pallet called "Seductress" that I was obsessed with. I made sure every other aspect of my outfit was perfect, before taking out the lipstick from its box. I unwrapped the cellophane from the tube and spent at least ten minutes admiring it before I had finished opening it. At last, I meticulously applied the lipstick. It smelled like cherries and vanilla, and I could feel tiny particles stuck to my teeth as I turned towards my mirror, eager for the first glance of my new self.

My reflection was overwhelmingly disappointing. My lips were overdrawn and the garish red that I had chosen leeched the color from my skin, making me look like a half dead clown. I studied my face, trying to figure out why the thing that was supposed to make me so beautiful had turned me into something so ugly. I started to cry and watched as my mascara ran from my eyelashes, dragging thick black lines through my painted skin. I peeled off my pretty dress and heels and got into the shower, watching the cascade of bright colors bleed from my face and swirl down the drain. I climbed into bed and woke up the next morning with the last dregs of my mascara smeared on my pillow. I gave the red lipstick to my friend and decided that I would just have to be ugly for the rest of my life. Of course, this was a touch dramatic, but at the time all I could think about was how I didn’t look beautiful like everyone else. I felt like I had failed some hidden test of beauty that everyone else had the capability to pass. I spent the next year experimenting with makeup, trying in vain to attain the coveted “red-lip-classic” look. In hindsight, I cannot recall why on earth I wanted the lipstick so bad. Was it really because I wanted to be sexy? Was there really a boy I was trying to impress? Was my thirteen-year-old self really so insecure in the face of other girls' beauty that I felt the need to compare? These reasons now seem trivial, but they must have been momentous enough at the time if I spent $20 because of them.

Looking back two years later, I am still trying to figure out why I wanted to be sexy. I know that I desperately wanted to be one of those women who made men fall at her feet with her sheer feminine appeal. From a very young age, especially living in a place like New York, I had been bombarded with images of sexy women whom I and every girl around me strove to embody. The stereotypical image of a seductress is embedded into the way our society perceives femininity and sex appeal. The manipulative power that the seductress seems to hold calls out to young girls as it did to me. I wanted to be a seductress, which seems very silly looking back two years later. I have since realized that there are other ways to feel beautiful, and I no longer feel myself relying on things like makeup to make myself feel like the models in magazines. I no longer see other girls' beauty as a threat, rather, I find myself appreciatively curious as to how they attained a certain look. I still feel the need to emulate the seductive power of supermodels, but I recognize how to make myself more confident in my personality before I go straight to the physical aspect.

I now own a new tube of red lipstick. It's a very different shade, one that is significantly more flattering than the one I had when I was thirteen. It does make me feel beautiful and confident, but I have learned that my red lipstick is an enhancement, not a supplement. I like the power that I associate with it, but I understand that power comes from me and not it. The seductress, in all her power, is no longer the person I want to be, rather, I integrate her into who I already am. Red lipstick, contrary to popular belief, won't solve all your problems, and this revelation is one I think a lot of girls could benefit from if they took a moment to appreciate themselves for who they are, and not for how they look.

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