Seeing red

If only I were wearing some lipstick, maybe I would look better?

sexy lips (photo credit: courtesy)
sexy lips
(photo credit: courtesy)
My life is a study in insecurity, from what I do to what I say to what I wear. But mostly, my insecurities are manifested in what I don't do, what I don't say and what I don't wear. I won't do anything that may in some way let down my guard - I'm scared of what other people may think. For instance, I don't drink any alcohol, not even a sip. Perhaps I'm scared of what will come out (a person with an imagination like mine needs to be careful). And mostly I limit what I wear to such an extent that, at times, I think a nun's habit would be more alluring than, say, 75 percent of the clothing in my closet, or the makeup in my toiletry bag. But don't despair - there is an uplifting and happy core to be found! About two weeks ago, I found my four-year-old sitting on my bathroom floor with all my makeup spread around her. Tubs of moisturizers, eye liners, lip glosses and mascara covered the floor. As I calculated just how much damage my darling daughter was about to cause, I plastered a smile on my face, and like a sales counter employee in a store you obviously can't afford asked, "Can I help you?" Unfortunately, four-year-olds don't get sarcasm. She turned to me and with a pout said, "Mommy, you don't have any lipstick! I need lipstick!" I was intrigued. "Do you want it for yourself? Has your red crayon run out or are you just making a shopping list up for me?" No. She needed the lipstick to paint the dolls' mouths as they were getting ready for a party, and how could they go to a party sans lipstick? The following day, I bumped into one of my husband's colleagues. Unfortunately, on that particular day I hadn't gone to any extraordinary lengths to look presentable. In fact, the nun's habit would have come in handy at that point. My husband's colleague, a business/life coach whose work entails helping people through what he calls "pathetic insecurities," looked at me as if I were the most unattractive person he had ever seen. He lamely shook my hand and his look sent me on my way. Somehow, in my mind these two episodes - the life coach looking at me as if Nikita Khrushchev would have been more appealing, and my daughter pointing out that I had no lipstick - were linked. If only I were wearing some lipstick, maybe I would look better? Maybe people wouldn't see the exhaustion (I have children) and the anxiety (the children, again) in my face? Perhaps the lipstick would hide the insecurities as well as the worry, and I would look fresh and appealing? Conveniently, I was at a shopping mall during the pathetic handshake incident. I ran straight into the MAC cosmetics store and bought myself the reddest lipstick they had and, though the sales girl gave me a strange look (and, perhaps, I should have been cautious when she told me to think about it), I still refused to leave the store without my lipstick. As I walked out of the shopping mall, purchase in hand, I already felt more confident. I got home, took care of the kids with a smile and even read a bedtime story with added voices. That evening, while getting ready for a movie with friends, I let my hair down from its ponytail - a very rare occurrence - painted my lips in bright screaming red lipstick and felt secure. We were on our way to the movies and it was dark out. I felt confident that no more than half-a-dozen people, most of whom I don't know, were likely to see me so I was going to take my pout out for a test drive. As it turned out, we were late for the movie and ended up going out to dinner instead. Loads of people saw me and I felt ridiculous, like a clown let out of the three-ring circus. I was laughing too hard, I was glowing, I was... wait, I think I recognized the feeling: not in total control of the situation. I couldn't control who looked at me or what they thought of my appearance. As I reluctantly wiped off the lipstick on the dinner napkin, and pulled my hair back into a ponytail, I felt a little sadder, as if I had experienced something special and new and liberating, if only for a few minutes, and now it was gone. We spend our lives catering to insecurities, feeding them, nurturing them to the point where the insecurity has become the personality and the personality has taken a back seat in the car called Life. Somehow, I have trusted the part of me that makes me feel small and pathetic to drive my life, to make decisions for me, and I think that this road is littered with others just like me. The following day, despite a slightly traumatic evening, I put on the red lipstick again, and this time I was slightly more comfortable. I smiled a little more and laughed a lot more. In an effort to improve driving conditions within my sphere of influence, I challenge you to try something new, even if it is uncomfortable at first. You never know what changes might occur. Buy a pair of stilettos, treat yourself to a beautiful coat, go to a great movie on your own or simply take an afternoon off. Go for a stroll, buy yourself a great big coffee with whipped cream, indulge yourself. And all this because you're worth it.