by Amy Kenneley
EVERYBODY was wearing lipstick, I argued. No, I don't think the boys are, she countered. You know what I mean, I nagged. Please, please, please-I don't want to be the ONLY girl who doesn't, I added.
Does Kathy's mother let her have lipstick? Yes! Let me think about it, then. And off she went to work.
Mothers can hold back your social life so much, can't they? And as an almost teen-ager I was aching to look like everyone else. Mother didn't care what the "fast" girls were doing, but she was swayed by what my friend's mom would do. Kathy's mom was even more ancient than mine, so I had a hope of getting Mom to consent based on the "what-one-mom-will-permit-another-will-too-just-to-be-fair" theory.
What I had neglected to tell her was that Kathy's mom had permitted her to BUY a lipstick, but hadn't let her wear it yet. She had to wait another year. I had my fingers crossed Mom didn't call Kathy's mom and compare notes. We had conspired to wear both moms down together.
Kathy and I would pull the big fat tube out of her top drawer and open it cautiously. It had an exotic name, like Dragon Lady. It was fiery red. Kathy wouldn't even let me try it on. Not because of germs, you understand, but because her precious lipstick would be diminished by that much more before she even had her solo smear.
When mom returned at night, her mood was pleasantly upbeat. "I've thought it over and decided you can have a lipstick to wear-but not around the house, and only on Sundays"
Hooray! I couldn't wait to dial Kathy's number, the SWeetbriar one, and tell her the good news. What kind? She asked. Don't know, I answered. When? Don't know, I said again. Oh, you don't know ANYTHING! We ended our shortest telephone talk ever.
Off Mom and I went to Neisner's Five-and-Dime on Saturday, ready for the great lipstick hunt. Almost a whole yard of table was devoted to the cosmetics industry's offerings.
I knew each section by heart-the black mascara that made everyone look like a gypsy queen, the Max Factor pancake makeup with the little sponge applicator--that was Mom's favorite. She chose a color she thought would cover her redhead freckles.
There was the rouge, too-it came in two powdery colors, Raggedy Ann and Bozo the Clown, I think. Either way, rouge was way down the line in my cosmetics list.
There, lined up heads-down so you could read the names of each color were the objects of my affection. Mom and I stared down. A fastidiously make-upped woman glided over to us.
In answer to her can-I-help-you, Mom admitted that the lipstick to be selected was for me. The woman gave Mom that "oh, how sweet, a rite of passage" wink.
The woman barely glanced at me. She had obviously dismissed me as a hopeless case. My hair but 3 months ago was in pigtails. Now I had acquired a shorter hairstyle and Mom had given me a Toni permanent. She left it on too long. I had what could only be called a Pre-Afro. Little did I know I was about 20 years ahead of fashion.
If she had only looked past the hairdo, the unibrow, the nearsighted eyes, she would have recognized a nascent woman who would return again and again for her ministrations and advice. Eventually I could have become her best customer.
But the saleslady knew who held the pocketbook that day. She glided down to the end of the counter. "This is where we have our teen products" she said. Yep. Teen products - acne cream, dusting powder and 5 lipstick tubes, all alike.
She selected one of the five, and deftly slipped off the cap, much as a swordsman would pull his sword from the scabbard. She presented it, held out and away from her, to Mom's nose. I swore she held her other hand up and behind. Touche!
No, Tangee. In the wide spectrum of the lipstick world, Tangee was the white sauce compared to turkey gravy of the rest. The woman put a smidge on mother's hand.
"See? It is barely there"
Oh great. I always wanted to wear something barely there, but it wasn't lipstick.
The saleslady went on to Mom about the glories of Tangee for girls. Blah-blah-blah.
As she droned on, I concentrated on the product I knew was going to be my lipstick.
How to describe it? Take a pale apricot Crayola crayon and melt it. Then add
about a stick of butter-you can use Crisco if you want-and combine. A little vanilla for scent, compress it for about 3 years until it hardens, then cut it off in little mini-cylinders and put it into a plain white plastic tube. It didn't have the heft of the other lipsticks. It was a light-weight. And it was barely there.
"I'll take it" said mom. Of course she would.
Home we walked, mother humming to herself, quite pleased. I dragged along, holding the tiny bag containing my tiny victory.
Only On Sundays
"Now dear, you must practice putting it on before you go outside, promise me"
"And only for Sundays"
"And not around the house-your Grandpa would be upset"
At home, leaning over the sink with the rusty circle under the faucets, I began to apply the tube in my first experimental "outing." The cabinet behind the mirror held the variety of nostrums used by my family-mother's Evening in Paris cologne, a blue cobalt glass bottle with tassels (!) Grandpa's Mennen talcum powder, and Great- Grandma's Sloan's Liniment-a smelly concoction she rubbed on her hands for her
The combination of each person's treasures made for a heady mixture, but I was forced to keep the door closed. No one needed to see my first attempts.
I took off the cap and the first disappointment was that the mechanics didn't even swivel. I had so wanted to twist my lipstick like Joanne Crawford or Barbara Stanwyck would, very sophisticated and worldly.
Hoisting My Colors
Instead of the swivel, the lipstick had to be pushed up with a tiny lever. You had to use two hands, one to hold the tube, the other to push the little knob upwards. Slowly the lipstick wobbled out of the casing. It was like the slow raising of a heavy sail in a pirate movie. Heave ho, me hearties!
I took a tentative swipe across my bottom lip. Smooth as grease, but no color at all. I tried my upper lip, making sure my hand was firmly held against my chin so as not to wobble. No color again.
Hmm. I had missed one corner of my upper lip a little, so I went over it. There was some color now. Hmmm. I swiped my bottom lip again and NOW I began to see a touch of orangey color. Several minutes later, after about 4 to 5 re-applications, my Mona Lisa smile had darkened to a not quite Dragon Lady one.
So that was the Tangee secret! One application was just the beginning--you could make your lips darker by repeated applications.
An older teen had confided over the lunch bags in the cafeteria about a month ago that every "decent" girl blotted her lipstick after applying it. It was apparently a serious faux pas to have lips that shouted "fresh paint!" to one and all.
But if I blotted this Tangee lipstick, all my efforts would become undone. The Barely There application No. 1 would win, not the No. 5 application of Spritely Pumpkin I had managed to make it.
Another teen dilemma-should I be a "decent" girl and blot my lips before going out or be "trashy" and leave them glossy-wet?
My Trashy Side
My solution was a no-brainer. In the morning I left the house without a touch of lipstick on. Hanging by the strap of the CTS bus bouncing over the road to Junior High, I learned to apply Application Nos. 1,2,3,4 and 5 of Tangee while swinging to and fro, at the same time tucking my books under one arm and managing to keep my babushka tied around my head.
Upon arrival at school, I walked as nonchalantly as possible up the sidewalk, accepting the second glances of boys and girls who of course noticed my new, older self.
Kathy, who still hadn't been allowed to wear hers, just stared. It was hard not to gloat.
My glistening lips, about 5 millimeters thicker than nature made them, glowed like fluorescent marmalade. Sweet Lips. Crazy, Man, Crazy!
I needn't have worried about the thickness, though. By mid-morning the Tangee had melted like a Fudgcicle in August, slowly sending little orange lava floes down the edges of my mouth.
In the girls' bathroom, I stared at my mouth. I had stayed too long at the fair…eating cotton candy. I had saved a tissue in my tiny cartridge purse, ready to wipe off my glamour in the afternoon, when I was homeward bound. Now, I used it in a preemptive swipe.
I took out the Tangee tube and ratcheted it upwards. Wow. Half gone already. I began to reapply. At this rate, I would need a new tube by Saturday. This glamour business was going to be prett-y expensive.
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