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.


“Physician steal thyself” – A Doctor Disappears

Richard T. Kelly’s ‘The Possessions of Doctor Forrest‘ implies, at first, a straightforwardly ordinary, although puzzling tale. The novel’s central character is a Scottish cosmetic surgeon, who, from its very opening, has gone missing – much to the concern of two of his closest friends. And the clues he has left behind are sparse, leaving not much insight into his lifestyle, the people he loved, or the possible reasons for his disappearance. But this is a horror story, and one which creeps up on you slowly, and Kelly creates a eerie atmosphere which leaves both the readers and the doctor’s friends unsure about what has happened, but very aware that something is very wrong. drforrest

Always throughout this nove, is some form of reference to an Other, a supernatural influence in the story, which the grounded best friends are unable to accept with their sceptical minds, yet they are unable to ignore that fact there are surreal acts at play which cannot simply be explained away. As they begin to delve into their old friend Doctor Forrest’s life, they begin to realise how his personality is but a mere mask for his real feelings and intentions, and hides a persona they never knew.

And of course, as with these revelations come the Faustian motif – as life, youth and eternity which are constantly being examined are valued, so is emphasised the price that needs to be paid – a theme of life and death which are always inevitably coupled. Doctor Forrest’s secrets and his thirst for more in life are slowly unravelled, layers of which lie with the various encounters he has with people and with relationships he has with not only them, but with the journeys he takes to reach his ambitions.

And of course, as with these revelations come the Faustian motif – as life, youth and eternity which are constantly being examined are valued, so is emphasised the price that needs to be paid – a theme of life and death which are always inevitably coupled. Doctor Forrest’s secrets and his thirst for more in life are slowly unravelled, layers of which lie with the various encounters he has with people and with relationships he has with not only them, but with the journeys he takes to reach his ambitions.

Without giving too much away, suffice to say that Doctor Forrest and his companions are slowly drawn into the world of mystique, darkness and the supernatural. And just as the disappearance of the doctor is not explained away simply, nor is his descent into his final destination any less complex. There are familiar gothic literary devices peppered throughout, the use of landscape to create an eerie atmosphere, the symbolism of blood, the theme of isolation throughout the novel, and so on.

The Possessions of Doctor Forrest is not a novel which rushes, it builds up tension gradually, reflected through the prisms of each narrator’s concerns, as family-men, career-men and as spiritualists. While the settings are of a modern landscape, that of present-day Scotland and London, the behaviours of the characters and the feelings which are emanated feel classic and timeless – that of the idea of sin, of wanting to live forever, of love and of what it means to be man. This novel harks back to the styles of classic novels, that of Dorian Gray, Dracula and Frankenstein, where the quest to be something greater is bound up with not only the spooky supernatural, but the premise of man’s fallacy and the inevitability of choices which must be made.

Or, as one blogger summed up:

 “The Possessions of Doctor Forrest” wears its learning lightly, and creates something dark, modern and terrifying from it. Brilliant.”

The ‘Tea-Trolly’ Culture and what it means today

There appears to have been some backlash amongst critics and journalists about a recent advert which has been aired in Pakistan by tea company Tapal, which depicts a traditional ‘tea-trolley’ culture – that is, the procedure in which a girl meets a potential marriage partner when he comes to her house by bringing in tea for the guests. I wasn’t aware that some journalists in Pakistan have apparently been campaigning against this ‘tea trolley’ process, but this advert has certain sparked some indignant responses, such as this writer, who questions the message being portrayed to young women, and the idea of “a fairy tale romance” being borne from a single meeting in which the potential ‘bride’ meekly hands tea to her potential in-laws and converses with them about her lifestyle:

For only a fraction of Pakistan’s female population does marriage follow education. For others, it is a long and dreaded journey of carrying tea trays and pushing tea trolleys, having to answer awkward and downright insulting questions, being looked up and down rather obviously and then, a long string of rejections that destroy self-esteem and lead to depression.

So is this an unrealistic take on the rishta (proposal) process? Admittedly, this is a (I assume!) well-intentioned advert, cleverly glamorised in a rich setting, glitzy outfits and a soft, romantic view, yet the reality is far from this scene, which may only happen in Bollywood films (picture, for example the girl shyly hiding behind in the kitchen. Does that sound like something you can relate to? Exactly.) As someone who has had to see her sisters and several friends go through this process, the ‘tea-trolley’ anger is, in my opinion, at least partly justified. Where for some women, this is an embarrassing process where potential guys and their families file into their homes and judge them purely on superficial aspects, it’s easy to see why this is seen as an outdated process which enforces certain roles on women and perpetuates expectations on women’s roles in the household, and how they are ‘supposed’ to be.

Another point of contention is how modernised society is becoming, both in the West and in Asian areas. While this is largely a process which has been handed down from earlier generations, in which marriages for some were decided for young couples by their parents, wer are now in an age of technology, where ‘meeting’ the right guy can happen over the internet without ever meeting him, or where women are afforded more opportunities to meet a potential life partner through work, social gatherings or even through the ‘match-maker’ figure.

So why, then, do we still see this ‘tea-trolley’ process amongst the Asian population?

Admittedly, this process is dwindling somewhat compared to the various outlets that are available for women to meet their potential partners. There are also some who have argued in favour of this process, suggesting that in a Pakistani, and largely, Islamic culture, it is just one halal way to interact with your potential spouse, protecting both parties, as well as their emotions if the meeting doesn’t lead to a successful match.

Also, while this advert is may not be a true representation of Asian society and women’s feelings about meeting prospective in-laws, it can be argued that it does (unintentionally) show the reality of the situation – where some girls may come home from work or school and be shoved into a situation where they serve chai to strangers. Also, it’s an unsettling fact that although women’s education is certainly progressing in places like Pakistan, there may be some cases both in the East and the West, where young women may leave their work or education due to family pressure, in order to get married and please their families.

What then, if the girl doesn’t go through this tea-giving process, can she do? Due to the nature of rishtey processes (and it’s limits), there doesn’t seem to be many accepted venues for a man’s family to meet his prospective bride, and whether the marriage is an arranged one or not, there are bound to be awkward moments like these at the initial beginnings. Additionally, it has been argued that the girls don’t need to go through this ‘tea-trolley’ debacle to still be judged by the guy’s family in order for them to assess her – there are stories from all sides of the spectrum in which Asian women have their own opinions on the archtypal Mother-in-Law figure!

Yet don’t think that this is a male-bashing article – both parties get judged in this situation, and more often than not, the guys in these situations and their feelings often go unvoiced as they are expected to sit quietly with their families. I’m sure for many men who  have had to go through this same procedure but on the other side of the fence feel just as awkward and embarassed as the women do – first impressions do count for some (imagine his worry about spilling crumbs or tea on himself, trying to pretend he can’t hear the girls in the kitchen giggling about him…!)

In all seriousness, my opinions about this process are mixed – while I can see that some parents may view this as a tried-and-tested procedure which allows them to meet prospective families without getting too emotionally attached, I also very much sympathise for the girls (and guys) who feel ristricted or self-conscious with this process. I suppose the real gripe in all of this is the actual tea-serving which takes place, which seems to be incumbant on the girl being expected to submissively busy herself with serving tea so that she can appear as a ‘traditional’ good girl who is happy being a feeder of mouths in the household.

I’m sure the creators of this ad didn’t have any agenda (except to sell tea!) behind this ad, and I do like the fact that it is making people question the role of women in the rishta process, as well as their rights, particularly in countries like Pakistan where this is such a changing process. I  would like to hope that changing attitudes in today’s society, and the newer generations’ willingness to merge their Islamic beliefs with their family values will make this less of a problem, and that they are able to reconcile the two fields successfully.

You can see the ‘Tapal Tea’ advert which is being debated below:

Glueguns & Craftiness: My love for golden Tealights & Lanterns

I do love lanterns and tealights, especially where they look traditional or intricate. So I couldn’t resist snapping up these (very cheap may I add) tea-lights when I saw them:

And decided to give them a make over…

Until they ended up looking like these pretties…

I’m very please with the results! And best of all they’ll go with the the lanterns that I already have (and which I have spray-painted gold already), and which has proved very useful for mehndi nights and party decorations. Don’t you think they look lovely? They make great showpieces and really feel like a luxuy piece : )