I remember the first lipstick I bought for myself — a spicy, brown tone. Bold lips and browns were on-trend when that particular tube enraptured me. The case was slim as a pen, with a little switch to slide up the lipstick and flip open the cap. It looked like a sleek lighter, or a laser from a sci-fi movie. Before that purchase, my beauty products fell into two categories.
I had a small collection with Bed Bath and Beyond glitter roll-on lotion, pastel lip frost (including a blue tone), and white eye shadow. They were pretty, girly selections of a middle-schooler playing with makeup.
On the other hand, I had caked, matte, mature makeup (probably from Mary Kay). Negative feelings swirl in my just thinking about that pouch. The colors were yellow and dull — formulated to mask imperfections on my young skin. I hated the tones, even as women swiped them across my face saying, “You look so much prettier with makeup.”
Yet my new brown lipstick was mine. My mother would never wear that tone — and neither would her friends. Something as simple as choosing a lip color became a rebellion against beauty norms — a defining (if tiny and inconsequential) moment of identity.
My mom let me wear it, even though I’m sure she thought it was too dark (because it was). And all my friends (boys included) agreed that the little switch on the side was pretty darn cool.