Bliss Notes: Kiss and Makeup

Joy is the best makeup. Joy, and good lighting. If you ask me, a little lipstick is a close runner up. – Anne Lamott

I love makeup. Nothing makes me happier than buying a new pink gloss to mark the beginning of summer or a deep russet shade to usher in fall. At one point, I owned 62 shades of pinky-brown lipsticks that were slight variations of M.A.C.’s Twig. I own the book Read My Lips: A Cultural History of Lipstick. On my upcoming austerity trip to Italy, the only planned purchase is a new Chanel lipstick at Duty Free. I’m a big fan.

Now that the blog is becoming more about how to overcome hardship than how to arrange pillows, I was not sure makeup was a weighty enough topic. But Anne Lamott, a  left-wing, deeply devout, dreadlock-sporting mama writer, blesses this seemingly frivolous idea in her beautiful book, Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith:

I know women from every place on the lipstick continuum: some who wear none; some who wear a lot, who spackle it on, who could play Shakespeare in the park as soon as they drop the kids off. . . . It’s only when you think you need to be concealed, because you’re unacceptable, that makeup causes harm. 

Just because I believe that we are souls having a physical experience on earth doesn’t mean I can’t also want to rock the planet with a great outer shell. I know that on days when I rush out the door with no makeup, messy hair, and visible sunspots, I feel like I’ve had a run in with the ugly stick. Days when I take a moment to cover up the worst of it and throw some lip crayon (Nars is the best) I feel like I can take on the world. If you are going to survive a reversal of fortune, lip crayon, mineral foundation and very big sunglasses are essentials. (Just ask Little Edie Beale who would not allow the Housing and Sanitation Department into Grey Gardens until she’d applied a coat of lipstick.)

The odd thing is I’ve seen myself in TV studio applied slap and with no makeup at all and, well, I kind of look the same. The confidence given by makeup is really more about how we feel than how we look. We feel good when we value ourselves enough to take the five or ten minutes to do a little primping.

But let’s face it, the very best thing about cosmetics — particularly lipsticks — are the names. Designed to evoke a feeling or a mood, the names that appeal to us at a given point in time can reveal more about our inner state than a year’s worth of psychoanalysis.  Are we lusting after Grace or Vamp? Tender or Crazed? (When I started to wear products with names like Poison, Lip Venom, and Urban Decay to work, it was time to change careers.)
So, while we all know that developing our inner beauty is most important, I believe there is nothing wrong with an afternoon spent at Sephora every now and then. Makeup allows us to indulge in a little fantasy (I am a Park Avenue matron in my blow out and beige gloss, I am Dorothy Parker with a bold red pout, I am a chic Parisian with smudged black eyeliner). It allows us to feel a little better about ourselves. And as long as we abide by Seinfeld’s cardinal rule of lipstick application and “accept God’s final word on where [our] lips end” (you hear that Jerseylicious?) we are going to indulge our lipstick lust guilt free.


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