I always loved lipstick
I was five years old on that little farm in Rowena, South Dakota when I watched my grandmother putting on her makeup. I was fascinated by the bright red lipstick on her makeup table, but she wore only the tiniest bit on her lips. She and my grandfather raised me until I was eight. I called her “Dah,”
“Let me put it on for you, Dah, please.” She would always shake her head no, and, little girl persistent, I would ask again.
“Okay, Joanie,” she would relent, making her mouth into a little heart-shaped pucker. Unlike today, tiny Clara Bow bee sting lips were in vogue. “Not too much now.”
I would fill in the shape of her lips until it was dark red. She would peer at her reflection in the mirror and exclaim, “Oh, too much!” Over my protests that the red was beautiful, she would blot some of the color off.
In Los Angeles years later I watched the girls in my junior high school (middle school) gather in front of the restroom mirrors to primp and put on makeup and lipstick. I was ten and a half in junior high, having bounced ahead a couple of grades, and I was not allowed to wear lipstick.
When I insisted to my mother that I wanted to wear lipstick like the other girls, she gave me permission to wear Tangee. (If Tangee was before your time, you can actually find the original formula here.) I would paint the pale orange color over and over to make it as dark as possible. As soon as I got to school, my friend Verle Burkett loaned me her dark red lipstick to wear. After school I would rub Verle’s red color off and reapply Tangee before going home.
To this day I am addicted to lipstick and feel naked without it. I won’t go for a walk on the beach without lipstick on. It is a long, sweet, red trail I trace from my childhood to now.