(Originally posted: 2/23/17)
My Lip Gloss is Plottin‘ (a Holistic Dismantling of the Patriarchy)
I had a bunch of fun things I was going to recommend this month. A thrilling, pulpy take on female vengeance. This Murder, She Wrote baseball tee. Print-at-home protest signs designed by my friend, the genius behind Raging Bush (all proceeds of which go to organizations like The National Urban League, Trevor Project, Center for Reproductive Rights, and ACLU). One really good pasta sauce. A classical music house party (just like “Aaron’s Party (Come Get It)” but the Aaron is Copland). This woven Lisa Simpson pillow in a pleasing caramelized melon hue (and/or matching print). Painting.
But I’m just going to focus on one:
You heard me right. Better yet, I'm not even going to recommend a specific lip gloss, just the concept of lip gloss.
The last time I wore lip gloss, Bush was president.
In middle school, there were Lancôme Juicy Tubes—shiny, fruit-flavored globs of lightly-tinted spackle. Extra tacky. Could double as glue or decoration for a cereal box book report in a pinch. Absolutely inadvisable on windy days, unless you wanted to play cat’s cradle across your face with your own hair.
Then in junior high there was Lip Venom by DuWop, which came in a vial protected by cardboard, so you knew it was the good shit. It promised you full, bee-stung, kinda porny lips. It tingled and plumped them—much like how, if you were to be fanged to death by a viper, your body would bloat with gas, swelling your features and popping out your tongue several days into decomposition.
In high school came a fixation with Chanel Glossimers, specifically a pale pink with gold flecks. Its slim tube felt like the height of luxury. My lips—nay, my whole face—sparkled.
And then, around the time I decided it was very important to be sophisticated, I switched to lipstick.
The idea that I ever decided to be sophisticated may come as a shock to many of you, who've heard me quote Bob’s Burgers like Virgil or sprinkle C-words throughout a dinner conversation or watched as I spilled any number of cocktails, sauces, broths, etc. down the front of my shirt (of course, I always blame the twins—Drake and Striker Ramoray—for sticking out too much, even if I know it isn’t really their fault).
Nevertheless, around 17 or 18, sophistication became very important to me. An aspirational possession of good taste and intellectual curiosity was the foundation on which I built my understanding of modern womanhood. And lip gloss, I ruled, just wasn't sophisticated.
I began to notice the women who wore lip gloss. Glossy lips were for Real Housewives, strippers, other women who (as I now understand it) managed to construct tunnels of profit and mobility through a system that will always, with or without their consent, commodify their body parts. I say as I now understand it because of course, I didn’t then. Then I just saw women in Beverly Hills salons, slicking glassy goop over their Restylane-d lips, being vain, being unsubstantial.
Lipstick, on the other hand, was for strong, substantial, sophisticated women. Women who wanted to be taken seriously, to intimidate, to run companies and campaigns and countries. They needed the power, the durability, the strategic opacity that a swipe of creamy lipstick affords. The armor of matte, indestructible pigment.
So I started wearing lipstick because that seemed like the kind of woman I wanted to be. And as we all know, there are only two types of women.
I’ve worn lipstick nearly every day since. For a decade. Usually red. Sometimes peachy pink.
Recently though, I've been trying to unpack the ideas behind the grooming rituals that shape and color and contour the way I present myself to the world. This is an exceptionally hard and ultimately futile endeavor. To separate what you like from what you’ve been told to like by the beauty industrial complex (located deep in the pink ghetto of The Patriarchy, LLC, division of Halliburton Enterprises). But I am trying.
Something I've realized through this process is that I like lip gloss. I genuinely like lip gloss. And I missed it. I like that it makes you look like you just ate a really good, really greasy slice of pizza. I like that sometimes it's tacky and sometimes it's soft and smooth and you can never tell from just looking at the tube. I like that it doesn't give you the illusion of control—it's going to settle wherever it damn well wants to on your mouth, your face, your hair and you're just going to have to deal with it. I like that it's silly and it's not shy about being silly, that it knows that sometimes you want to sparkle.
And I like that, while putting on lipstick feels like telling the world who I want to be, applying lip gloss feels like remanifesting who I was and have, in some ways, always been. Because lip gloss is transportive. It takes me back to being 11 and 13 and 15. To being oily, bracefaced, in love with the boy on the basketball team who will go on to have a very public and very scary breakdown on our high school’s alumni Facebook page. But not now. Now he’s flying down the court which is shiny. Just like him. Just like me.