Seeing red and being seen: How I learned to stop worrying and love lipstick, part 1: The Bad Beginning

All the red lipsticks

Yeah, so this still life ended up a bit 80s-tastic-vaseline-on-the-lens. It was my first attempt at one!

Make-up used to squick me out. I’m not kidding. Especially lipstick. When I tell you that the above is just a small selection of the lip colours I now own, and that of those about 75% are red, red, red, the fact that for a very long time I didn’t wear any may surprise you.

I blame ballet. 

Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I blame the stage mothers who used to volunteer to help with the ballet concerts my dance school would put on every second year. Somehow, it didn’t matter which of the Mums I got doing my stage makeup- and stage makeup was my first experience with putting stuff on my face that wasn’t just itchy-scratchy face-paint crayons. The result was always the same- they felt the need to lay on the greasepaint with a trowel. And that wasn’t something they did to everyone. 

This told me, aged about 6, two things. One: that makeup felt absolutely disgusting, thick and self-conscious-making and Too. Much. Two: that I wasn’t as pretty as the other girls. They didn’t have huge balloons of bright pink blusher on them, or inch-thick deep pink lipstick. Yuk. 

My mother almost never wore makeup. In fact, I would bet you could look in her makeup bag now and she would still have the same makeup in there she had back in the 1980s when I used to, occasionally, out of curiosity, take it out and look at it. And I mean the exact same- not thrown out and replaced. The Almay eyeshadow in ‘Peacock’, the ‘Honey Beige’ frosted lipstick, the concealer. I can remember the precisely two times she wore it when I was growing up. Both times I got upset- I wasn’t used to seeing her with makeup on. It didn’t look like her. She certainly didn’t encourage me to wear it either. I tried on lipstick only once growing up, and that was my Nan’s. A mistake- it was the same bright pink as that greasepaint and I wanted it off halfway round our shopping in the town where my grandparents lived but couldn’t take it off until we got home. 

I’ve since realised that what put me off wearing it was, at least in part, being terribly shy. I was often told off for being too loud- being seen and heard was a Bad Thing. Makeup made you seen and heard. Therefore, I avoided it. 

But I still longed for it. And then, as you’ll see, came being a teenager.