I remember the exact moment I stopped wearing red lipstick. It was 1990, I was 18, and me and my newly scarlet lips were at university. As I walked into the uni bar, the guys there stopped, looked up from their beers, fell quiet and stared.
The curious silence was finally broken by one male undergrad who murmured appreciatively, “Red rings.”
Do you get that?! I didn’t until, pressed, he mumbled it was something to do with blow jobs and lipstick marks. Got a visual? Ewww! Embarrassed, I removed the lipstick the next chance I got, jammed the tube deep into my backpack and stomped off in my 501s and Doc Martens listening to The Breeders on my Walkman.
Fast forward 21 years and I’ve spent the last 7 days wearing red lipstick from morning till night. For a Dare. And I loved it. My red lipstick renaissance began when I picked up a book called Anonymums. It’s the story of 3 mothers with young children who, bored with the monotony of their lives give each other dares to spice things up a little.
It made me think about how easy it is to fall into a fashion rut when we become mums; where we give in to the sartorial monotony of our "mummy uniforms." That is, we start to wear the same type of outfit day in and day out.
Keen to mix things up a little myself -- and always up for a good dare -- I decided to challenge myself and the readers of my blog with one of the dares from the book that particularly stood out to me: The Red Lipstick Dare.
The rules were simple. Wear red lipstick every day, from when you get dressed in the morning till you brush your teeth before bed at night. So that’s what I did. Turns out, not that much has changed since the 90’s -- but I sure as hell have.
Red lipstick still has the power to make people sit up and notice you -- but this time around, instead of being embarrassed, I quite liked it. All of a sudden, I became more noticeable. The Barista who makes my coffee most mornings freshly regarded me with an approving glint in her eye. The mums at school drop-off did a double take (in a good way). People kept asking me “Where are you off to?”
But more importantly than other people noticing me, I became more noticeable to myself. Red lipstick demands extra time, and an element of precision on application, and that effort is poorly offset by a scraped-back messy bun and a pair of old cargos or tracksuit pants.
So over the week of the dare, I found myself carving more time into my manic mornings to be able to make more of an effort with coordinating my outfits, and styling my look. And it felt bloody great to give myself that extra attention. Wearing red lipstick made me feel more ladylike. It made me feel more spontaneous. I snuck down to the beach to dip my toes into the water when I should’ve been working, and I grabbed a blanket and laid it in the backyard with my little one to watch the clouds make shapes in the sky.
Wearing red lipstick made me feel more glamorous. Ever worn red lipstick to the beach? I did, and it rules.
And it made me feel indulgent. I indulged all week! I indulged in a chocolate croissant for breakfast, I drank an extra glass or two of wine, I watched "The Bachelorette" without shame and I popped into a florist and bought a bunch of brightly-coloured roses -- not as a gift for someone, or to decorate the home, but for just for me. For me!
All that happiness left a trail of smudgy red lipstick marks all over coffee cups, babies’ cheeks, wine glasses and, until I got the knack of it, my teeth. Not quite the kinds of red marks the boys in the uni bar back in 1990 were suggesting, the dirty buggers.
Interestingly, the guys in my life reacted similarly to my mates at the uni bar back in 1990, in that the sight of me in red lipstick jolted them into a slightly shocked silence. But naturally their reactions came from a very different perspective: “It looks like your lips are bleeding” squeaked my son.
Yet this time around the less-than-flattering response failed to send me running for the make-up remover wipes. I liked my ruby lips. Damn, I loved them! And I wasn’t removing that lipstick for anyone.
Doing the Red Lipstick Dare shook things up a little and made me do a double-take on myself. It took me out of my mummy-rut and gave me a swift reminder that it’s OK to be a bit of a vamp, with a little sprinkle of camp. And it confirmed for me that, when it comes to a dare, I’m definitely no chicken.
So unlike the embarrassed 18-year-old girl who buried her red lipstick in the bottom of a drawer after the attention it brought her – from now on I’ll be wearing my red lipstick whenever I want to make my mark.
Wanna take The Red Lipstick Dare yourself? Click here for the details.