Red Lipstick

They said I was too young to wear red lipstick, and to stick to my dolls and lipglosses, so I did not wear red lipstick.

They said red lipstick was for married women, and young girls should stay in soft pinks, so I did not wear red lipstick.

They said married women didn’t have time for makeup and should focus on their homes, so I did not wear red lipstick.

They said red lipstick was for a bride and I should not try to outstage her, so I did not wear red lipstick.

They said that red lipsticks were for young women, and I should wear more mature colours, so I did not wear red lipstick.

They said that red lipstick would look better on my daughter, so I did not wear red lipstick.

They said that I was too old for lipstick, and I should act my age.
I laughed at them and wore my lipsticks, pillar-box reds, rich scarlets, deep crimsons, blazing rubies, vibrant burgundies.

I bring life to my face with creamy sticks of red, embracing my feminine wiles, my brazen girlhood, and I will not be ashamed.

– Harlequin, 2017.

I wrote this poem with much deliberation, after reading a comment on my social media that someone made, which I thought was interesting. – the girl stated she had been told not to wear brightly coloured lipsticks because only married women should wear this. It brought to mind a few memories I have of being a teenager, and being told not to wear red lipstick by an Aunt who was a family friend, because red lipstick is for married women and not single young girls. I thought it was interesting that a specific colour had been relegated to relationship status, as if it would almost be vulgar to wear a bright colour, and even bring attention to myself. I’m familiar with this concept, the idea that you should not bring attention to yourself, not wear something inappropriate, as well as the many connotations which come with things like red lipstick.

Red lipstick, apparently, means that you are an attention-seeker. Loud. Inappropriate. Not religious. Not a ‘nice girl’. I like to think that these attitudes have changed a little over time – I’ve seen many girls see red lipstick as a staple in their makeup bag, and less something which is saved for their wedding day.

Nevertheless, I’ll admit, it did take me a few years to wear red lipstick – I think I was in my early twenties when I braved it, and then wondered why it had taken me so long. Even my husband, who is wonderfully open-minded and has never told me what to wear or what not wear, told me that if I lived in Pakistan I would probably have thought twice about wearing it. Coming from a fairly traditional, culturally-infused upbringing, my husband’s interaction with red lipsticks was limited to being something associated with married women, worn by women for their husbands, and rarely worn outside the house. Pink lips are so much more acceptable, softer, feminine and less sexual.

My own point of view is that while  I understand the intended view behind it – a woman’s image and her beauty is meant to be protected, and drawing attention to it can bring issues – it’s unfair to simplify things as if a women’s ‘honour’ and image is all that she is, and that she is ruled by them. I guess a lot of this stems from the whole South Asian culture of a woman’s image, the idea of honour, and how this can get mixed up with traditional values which now feel outdated to us.

I recently read a story told by a blogger that I admire, who told a story about when she visited Pakistan – she was told off by her mother for smiling at a man in a supermarket, and told that she should at strange men. She may consider it to be  friendly, but they may construe it to mean something else.
I could certainly understand her resentment – and what I dislike is that the onus seems to be on the women to limit herself, and hide herself. Whatever happened to the male gaze? Why not break apart the idea that the responsibility lies with the women and how she must take care in how she looks, who she looks at, and how her actions are responsible for her situation?

So I guess when it comes to red lipsticks, I resent the fact that there is a lingering mentality that to wear red lipstick is to be brazen, overly-confident and ‘modern’ – and it’s even worse to me especially, that a lot of the comments I have received, and other girls get, are from older women in our society. I believe there is so much more to women that shouldn’t be reduced to how much make-up they wear, that  being confident isn’t a negative thing, and that perhaps things like red lipstick shouldn’t be treated like a dirty thing.

Below, a picture of all the red lipstick I own.

redlipsticks

200 Word Story: Maze

I thought I’d try some spontaneous writing, that is, giving myself a certain amount of time, be it 10 minutes, 20 minutes or half-hour to write a story within the constraints of a certain number of words. It would give me the chance to practice story writing and hopefully force me to write something even if I didn’t like what I wrote (which happens a lot!)
This was meant to be a 50 words story but I got a little carried away, so here’s my version of a 200 word story, which was still pretty difficult because of the re-writing and editing I had to do. Have a read, and do let me know what you think!

She turns the corner, following the watery pinpoint of light leading her to a hazy freedom. A scuttling sound pings behind her, making her grope at her sides to the craggy wall to spin around in the now-silent dark. Waits, until the scraping sound comes again, she imagines its closer this time, making her legs urge her forward, her walking becoming a hurried shamble. She trips, stumbling over the rocky path, breathing louder until she hears that shuffling coming closer behind her.

She’s no longer hiding her fear, speeds up to a rushed jog, jagged breath while desperately praying that the thin stream of light won’t suddenly end – running now, muscles burning and eyes streaming with unwanted tears. The noise grows louder, it’s thundering in her ears now, the harder she runs the louder, each stamp of her foot feeling like it is bringing an ominous cymbal crash upon her.

Her eyes see more light, sees an opening, her precious stream of light growing bigger. The floor beneath her slopes up making her scramble, clinging and climbing upwards into a unforgiving brightness and onto a gravelly floor, soil and dust announcing her arrival.

Turns around.
To face what is coming.
To face?

Nothing. Just cold air and empty blackness.
She trembles, cautiously steps backwards, ready to run again.

There! That noise again.

Looks down…seeing a chain hooked onto her shoe.

Harlequin Stories: Snippets from Silly Stories

I’ve always loved writing and thinking up silly and serious story-lines, most of which I end up forgetting if I don’t write them down. My sisters and I were constantly writing silly stories for each other when we were younger, usually casting each other as evil witches or deformed trolls, and ourselves as the clever Princess who fought off the Greater Ugliness who was oppressing us.

I’ve been trying my hand at writing again (it’s my intention to become the next Roald Dahl one day. Okay maybe not Dahl, maybe a poor-man’s Shakespeare. I dunno) especially since it’s been a few years with studying and being lazy and not being sure of what to write (or having confidence in my writing!). I’ve not written much so far, but I’m busy motivating myself, and that’s half the exercise, right?

I’ve been looking at some of the gold *ahem*, yes, gold I wrote as a child and pre-teen, and have had great fun reading some of the nonsense which I used to pour out on paper (or on screen!)
Here’s a snippet of a very silly story I wrote years ago when I was a tweenie. Or is it called teeny-bopper these days? It’s no ‘Paradise Lost’ but it’s still worth a read :/

Meanwhile, Gran seemed to be peacefully rocking back and forth in her rocking chair. Everyone smiled at her content face, when she suddenly jumped up and pulled off her shawl, revealing a hot pink lycra bodysuit with metal pointy things coming out of it. “Screw the lot of you! I’m going to join the circus, you people never feed me properly!!” and she grabbed her electric guitar which mysteriously seemed to have come from nowhere, and ran out the door, jumping into a weird white van which banged and spluttered as it stalled all the way down the street. [Sadly, the family later heard that the whole circus thing didn’t work out, since Gran and the ringmaster disagreed about whether Gran should be fed to the lions. It turned out she is now is a rock band with a group of other failures called The Darkness, apparently disguising herself (unsuccessfully) as a man.]

Yikes. I like to think I’ve improved since then, but it is great fun coming across these silly stories again. I have no idea what I was smoking/eating that time, but clearly I had a rampant disregard for punctuation and a lot of imagination which probably took me about five minutes to perfect and type out. I do envy the fact that I was a lot less self-conscious about what I wrote too, which makes me wonder whether I should follow my own lead and write down whatever comes into my head!