I remember the smell of my grandmother’s lipstick, back in the days when it was perfumed, and came in pretty metal tubes that had real weight. I remember the way she would stretch her mouth and paint the lines of her lips with such care, bright red, smashing pink, and then blot, leaving smeary kisses on pieces of tissue which would then be carelessly discarded. I remember the way she always smelled like perfume and powder and how my grandfather used to hate it when she kissed him with a freshly painted mouth.
(She had the best powder puffs, too.)
I remember my bubbie telling my mother and me that lipstick was her only makeup since she was widowed. “You can’t go out without it,” she said, and we looked at her with expressions of incredulity, especially my mother, who never wears lipstick at all, any more, because her skin is so dry it bleeds right off, leaving her with spaghetti mouth. Better just to coat her lips with barely-tinted balm, and have healthy skin, if not a colorful smile.
(Her smile, when she looks at me, is what I call her “gushy mom look,” full of love and pride.)
I watch the women I work with reapplying their lipstick after lunch, standing over the bathoom sinks like so many college girls in a communal bath, except we’re not, and they aren’t. I don’t reapply mine, and these days have been only slathering on balm myself, as my lips are bruised and dry from dental trauma and not enough water.
(I will never learn to drink enough water.)
I came home tonight to find that my dog, Miss Cleo, had done her own explorations with lipstick, choosing to eat a tube of Aveda tinted gloss (in “Berry”) that had fallen out of my bag. Her lipstick kisses are all over the bed and the rug, and she was sheepish and apologetic. But for the first night ever, she didn’t reach up to give puppy kisses, so maybe when she does that, she’s not telling me she loves me, but rather trying to taste the stuff on my lips.
(I forgave her, because she’s adorable.)
My mother always teases us with the notion of applying lipstick to Miss Cleo’s overlarge lips, and we always refuse…perhaps Miss Cleo wanted to be one of the girls, too.
(I remember, I remember)
I remember Auntie Annette giving me little tubes of samples from ages long since gone, with matte reds and burnished coppers, but also one tube of truly disturbing silver left over from the 60’s, and when I put them on, for fun, I would feel mature and leave my own trail of tissue paper kisses.