I once had a friend who died while waiting for a heart and lung transplant. He was in his 30s, a DJ, a chef, a bongo player and all around lover of life. As he waited for a donor his life ebbed away, so – as you do – we would sometimes sit around and chew the fat. Yup, we talked and argued it all through, how he might get to Greece to meet the woman of his dreams, whether it was best to watch a game of cricket understanding or not understanding the rules – I preferred the latter, which reduced the game to a gentle thwack of of a ball and polite clapping from armchairs under the oaks. And he would tell me what he thought I needed to do with my life; keep traveling, have children, and wear red lipstick. “Red lipstick?!” I had scoffed, confused as to why he thought it so important “why”?
“Because you need to get out there and live!” he’d cried.
Over the years I have often pondered this conversation, and women’s lengthy obsession with red lipstick and all of its supposed sexual and other connotations. It apparently first graced a woman’s lips in around 3,500 BC when Queen Shub-ad of ancient Ur created her colourant from white lead and crushed red rocks. And during WW2, lipstick was marketed as an important part of the war effort and became a symbol of female strength. It takes an act of courage to move into the brighter shades. And, when feeling particularly bold or in need of cheering up even I will don a fiercer shade of vermillion.
Yet it’s only recently that I’ve begun to realise that red lipstick is just one way of expressing and connecting to the female in us, the part of us that wants to be able to live our life without fear, free of oppression, free to make choices, to love and learn, to love our selves and our bodies as they age and change, to value our ability to connect with our emotions, or as the wonderful Eve Ensler says so beautifully:
” …to value the girl in us, to value the part that cries, to value the part that is emotional, to value the part that is vulnerable, to understand that’s where the future lies…”