The summer that I turned 21, I had an internship in Boise, Idaho. For this Jersey girl, Idaho (even relatively liberal Boise) was a major culture shock. The internship I had was ridiculously underpaid—I think I made $100 per week, plus free housing—and there were some weeks when I lived on cigarettes, grapefruit and beer (oh, was I a thinner landismom then!). I was living far outside my comfort zone, and struggling to get by from week to week.
There was one week, though, that I splurged and bought a L’Oreal lipstick. I think it was an exorbitant price like $7 or something. Every time I put that lipstick on, I felt a little bit better about myself. I might be riding a bike everywhere, but dammit, I had lipstick!
I still wear L’Oreal lipstick every once in a while, and the smell of that lipstick still gives me that feeling. The day of the primary this year, while I was driving back and forth between various Get-Out-the-Vote staging locations, around lunchtime I stopped at a drugstore and bought myself a new one for luck (while it didn’t help that particular day, at least it no longer represented 7% of my weekly income). Even at 40, there’s still a newly-independent 21-year-old woman inside me, and the easiest way to reactivate her is to take a whiff of L’Oreal.
I’m not a big lipstick wearer on the daily. I tend to put it on only for formal occasions—mostly, I’m a lip gloss kind of girl. I wear lipstick on the days when I need a little bit of extra confidence, or when I’m going to be projected onto a big screen or be on TV—although I guess those days fall into the first category too.
I think I’m like many women in that way—women who don’t dress up and put on a full face everyday, but save the makeup for special occasions. (I did break down and start wearing mascara every day, earlier this year.) If 2008 isn’t the Year of the Woman, the way that 1992 was, it might be the Year of the Lipstick, with both of the female candidates (and attendant animal references) having brought a little tube of makeup to the forefront of the presidential campaign.
There’s something very emotionally charged about the wearing of makeup. Whether it’s taking us back to the moment when our first girlfriend lent us a bottle of nail polish, or the day that our mom showed us how to put on eyeliner, or the first time we opened a brand-new lipstick that we bought with our own money, makeup has emotional valences for many women.
I cast my vote for president today. As a political organizer, I rarely get to vote in a polling place on Election Day. I almost always vote absentee, because “of the nature of my employment on Election Day.” I’m not always happy about that (and it means ceding the cool “I voted” sticker, which this year, sadly, will also keep me from getting free Ben & Jerry’s!).
I voted, of course, for Barack Obama. My lipstick will be making a reappearance on Election Day, which is another day that I’m going to need a little extra confidence. But my lips will be talking about Barack.