LIPSTICK

CATEGORY: GRASS VALLEY
PHOTO: AD FOR TANGEE LIPSTICK

In our childhood years the emphasis for women and young ladies was not on physical beauty.  “Pretty is as pretty does” we were told.  So you can imagine our surprise when one day we came home from school to find our mother looking especially radiant.  There was something extra-special about her.  She was smiling and happy–and glowing.  We looked at her suspiciously, and yet with excitement, as if some lurking secret was ready to explode into our lives.  Then she slyly told us that a woman she knew was selling cosmetics and had given her a facial and put make-up on her face!  We were breathless.  It was so very daring!  Even the word “cosmetics” had an other-worldly sound.

Up until then, the only women we had ever seen with “painted” faces were two women in town, who’s names I have forgotten, but who were always seen together, who smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol and about whom everyone stopped talking suddenly when we children entered the room.

But the “make-up” on mother did not look like the MAKE-UP on those women.  You couldn’t really tell she was “painted.”  It was subtle.  Mother was so pleased.  She said she had asked for an afternoon appointment, so her face would be fresh when our father came home.

She had done another daring thing.  She had actually purchased, for one whole dime, a tube of lipstick!  A DIME? For LIPSTICK?  This was the depression, and a dime was a lot of money to spend on anything, let alone something frivolous.  She showed it to us.  It was called Tangee, and it was one of the most dream-like realities I had ever seen.  It was in an unbelievably perfect round tube-shaped gold metal case.  The high round shiny lid pulled off smoothly with a little swoosh-pop; and then, wonder of wonders, a slight push on a tiny gold knob protruding from a slot in the side of an inner case, projected outwardly a perfectly formed bullet of pink wax.  It was so like magic that we could hardly speak.

She gently put a little on our lips just to celebrate the occasion.  After that, all I can remember about it is that getting into mother’s lipstick tended to lurk in the back of my mind as something extremely desirable, and this desire sometimes manifested itself in stealthy excursions into her bedroom followed by furtive immergence with a new pinkishness about the mouth that did not come from eating berries.

Mother soon got tired of lipstick, and she never wore eye make-up, but her short escapade into the world of paint was enough to shock her mother into vehement disapproval.  Grandmother would say, “What is this world coming to?!”  She thought that the next thing my mother would do is start playing cards, a sin almost too terrible to mention.  The furor over mother was short lived and nothing compared to the distress and dismay of both women when, at the age of 13 my sister Mary started wearing bright red lipstick AND black mascara AND eyebrow pencil.  Grandmother threw up her hands and said “Land o’ Goshen!  What IS this world coming to?!!”, and told Mary that she looked like a clown in the circus and like her mouth was bleeding–as indeed she did.

Has there ever been an age in which the teens of that generation did not find something with which to shock their elders?