sealed with a kiss

I Wish I Were a Lipstick Person

Photo: Photo Illustration by Stevie Remsberg/Photo Getty

The sides of my lips are not symmetrical. The left side is slightly fuller than the right, and although this is something I see every time I look in the mirror, in order to move about the world on a daily basis I have to tell myself it is something no one else notices. (Please, do not notice it next time you see me.) At a makeup event I attended a few years ago, a “lip reader,” which is like a palm reader for lips, told me, worriedly, this asymmetricality meant I had secrets to keep. It’s true, I do. I did not go to my college roommate’s choir concert freshman year even though I told her I did and that she was great, and also: I wish I were a lipstick person.

On other people, I love the look of lipstick. It pulls together an outfit, it takes you from day to night, it makes a hairstyle seem designed rather than disheveled. It makes its wearer look very on purpose, which is something I desire for my appearance above just about anything else. I believe it would say, of my daily look: “The frizzy-curly hair, the big old T-shirt — as you can see by my perfectly applied, complementary lip color, this was all part of the plan.”

However, I regret to report that I am not a lipstick person. I have tried. Oh, I have tried. I have purchased lipsticks from NARS. I have taken lipsticks from the free bin at work. I have put them on carefully, I have put them on hastily, I have put them on somewhere in the middle of those. Each time the effect I see reflected back at me is the same: someone who, unfortunately, should not be wearing that lipstick. (At that same makeup event I mentioned earlier a man professionally applied a coat to my lips, after which he said, lyingly, “… It looks great!” We both saw it, and it did not look great.)

I don’t know why, exactly, this is. My asymmetrical lips? I do believe they throw a wrench into it. A better woman would, I think, draw on some sort of line that made her lips look symmetrical, and then fill it in; or she would highlight their asymmetry like when Tyra Banks told contestants to embrace their flaws on America’s Next Top Model. (Tyra Banks’s flaw is that her forehead is slightly larger than model-average.) Unfortunately, I’m not sure how to pull such a maneuver.

Is it because the look of lipstick is just alien to me when it is applied on me? I’ve considered many times that the problem is simply that I don’t recognize the look of lipstick on my face, and that if I were looking at myself wearing lipstick on the subway I would think, “That is a normal woman wearing lipstick in a normal way, and she looks fine.” However until I learn how to astral project with amnesia I’m not sure how I will figure this out.

Is it because I just don’t have a face for lipstick? I don’t think so and, at least, I hope this isn’t the case. While I’m happy being a “tinted chapstick” sort of person, and a “Clinique Almost Lipstick in ‘Black Honey’” kind of person, I predict I’ll keep trying to become a lipstick person for rest of my life. But if it looks off to you, please, do not notice it.

I Wish I Were a Lipstick Person