Nine months ago, I brazenly and a bit haphazardly declared that I would be wearing red lipstick (almost) every day for a year. How did I do? Well, I gave up in July so I guess I failed but not before learning a few lessons that only red lipstick can teach.
Lesson One: Others Used Red Lipstick to Define Me
There is no other color lipstick that is simultaneously revered, adored and feared. Putting it on is complex and uncomfortable. Once I started wearing red lipstick on a regular basis, my friends started referring to it as my signature. What seemed like such a little choice soon became one of my defining features. It struck me how one simple change in my makeup routine quickly became part of my persona. And even more–it was others using it to define me.
As a teenager, I made a conscious decision not to let clothing define me. Later on in my twenties, I made the same decision about makeup. To me, what I choose to wear on my body or on my face has nothing to do with who I am. That’s why it was so disorienting to have red lipstick become such a big part of my identity to the point where people didn’t recognize me without it.
Lesson Two: Red Lipstick Increased Harassment
As an American female in my twenties, harassment by men is sadly part of my life. Luckily not every day, but enough to where I, like many women, have learned to deal with it. I found that wearing red lipstick was an invitation for more harassment whether it was on the street or in bars. I expected that people would stare at me because, after all, I was wearing bright red lipstick. But I did not expect the increased harassment.
Comments ranged from, “Look at that face!” to “I like them red lips!” One night while out with my girlfriends, a man grabbed my wrist, pulled me and said, “Your lips!” If this is awkward to read, imagine how awkward, weird and disturbing it was to experience firsthand.
Lesson Three: Red Lipstick Inspired Other Women
The more I wore red lipstick, the more women wanted to talk about wearing red lipstick. At a friend’s wedding, I was stopped by a woman in her fifties. A bit tipsy, she grabbed my arm and said, “My whole fucking life, I never tried that,” and pointed to my red lipstick. I told her it wasn’t to late to give it a go and recommended Maybelline. It wasn’t the first time that a woman lamented never trying red lipstick, to which I will always say it is not too late. The amazing thing about red lipstick is that it is timeless. It’s one of the only shades that can be worn by women age 16 to 80. It will look great. I promise. Don’t be afraid.
Wearing red lipstick almost every day for six months really changed the way I saw makeup. The color itself is an extremely powerful statement both about myself and the world around me. It changed the way people interacted with me for better and for worse. Though the moments of harassment were painful to deal with, the conversations my lipstick sparked made the experience worth it. Whether I liked it or not, red lipstick changed the way I carried myself through the world.
I’ve been scaling back my use of red lipstick, but still wearing it enough that I see it as one of my signatures. The magic is still there, inside that little tube.