My First Time: Red Lipstick

Like many women, my makeup routine is unchanging. I start with foundation, then a touch of blush, followed by a medium smoky eye made by lining my lower lids in dark brown eyeliner, and then apply a few coats of mascara. For the lips, a simple pink stain topped with Rosebud Salve. So, it’s really a wonder that I have an entire bathroom filled with unused eye shadows in every shade of the rainbow and lipsticks to last me a lifetime. The occasions these do get used? Once or twice a year when I decide to fashion a “bold” look, or during experimentation sessions that inevitably end with the makeup remover bottle.

However, there’s one little item in my arsenal of beauty products that I always come back to: a tube of classic red Chanel lipstick. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve applied this in preparation for a night (or day) out, and wiped if off before leaving the house, never once getting real use out of it. It’s not that it looks bad on me. Not at all. But it seems to throw off the balance of my look somehow. Sometimes I feel too slutty, or think I look like a teenager did my makeup, just going a bit too far with everything. Other times, the red lips staring back at me in the mirror seem to say something about who I am, or want to be. There’s a go-to gal. Am I a go-to gal? Or: There’s an insecure girl who read in some lady mag that wearing a coat of red lipstick makes you more confident.

It was after the Golden Globes this year that I became so in love with January Jones’ perfect lip hue (what some have been calling “the new red lip”), that I decided to hell with it. So last night, I lacquered up my mouth with my bright Chanel lipstick, took myself to a party, and decided to see what would happen. If I were writing about this for a lady mag, you’d probably be reading about how I transformed myself into a sassy vixen, was the life of the party, and walked away with a handful of phone numbers.

Clearly, that didn’t happen. But, a few rewarding things did. The first people to notice my makeup change were my two girlfriends, who, upon seeing me, immediately said, “Ow, owwww, hey sexy red lips!”

“Ha!” I replied triumphantly. “I’m glad you noticed. I made a very conscious decision to wear red lipstick tonight. It’s an experiment.”

“It’s very distinctive on you. You can pull it off.” Phewf. That put my mind at ease.

Unfortunately, the nature of my experiment didn’t have a control. (Wouldn’t that be cool, though, if you could re-do an event, and see if one adjustment would change everything?) So, I’m not sure if the success (yes, success) of the evening had anything to do with my daring beauty choices. Walking into the party with my two friends, the host, a guy I’d managed to really insult the last time we met, picked me up and spun me around. I was shocked. The one time we’d talked before, we’d gotten into some feminist debate, and he had been such a complete ass, that I said it to his face, and then left the bar. When I greeted him this time, I smiled, and before I could even finish saying, “I’m sorry, I think we got off on the wrong … ” I was off my feet and spinning through the air. The f**k? Maybe he wasn’t such a bad guy … and far cuter than I remembered.

As for the rest of the night, I’m not sure it would be entirely true to say that I was more outgoing than normal, but I certainly did talk to more strangers (not necessarily attractive ones) than I usually do. It had more to do with feeling prettier and more dressed-up. I found myself going to the bathroom twice to do a makeup touch-up, not wanting to lose the boldness of the look.

Upon leaving, I said goodbye to the host last. “Thanks for inviting me; I had a nice time,” I told him.

“Yeah, you know, you’re pretty cool. We should hang out sometime.”

“Yeah, I know I give you a hard time, but … ” I decided to go with my gut and say something completely honest: “I like you. I actually like you quite a bit.”

He smiled, and patted his pockets, looking for a pen. “I should give you my email or something.”

“You know what? No. Here’s my card. I’ll leave the work to you. If you want to hang, we’ll hang.”

Would all of that have happened without my berry-red lips? Probably. But it definitely seemed more special with them.