Having run out of toilet paper, I’ve been wiping my butt with paper towels for what feels like three weeks, my dirty laundry bag is the size of a spoiled four-year-old’s bouncy castle she got for birthday party, and my apartment is plastered in “encouraging” Post-it notes, not so gently reminding me to finish a fellowship application. Everything is a mess and I’m terrible at being an adult. But my mouth looks fantastic.
I’m wearing red lipstick, and not a sheer balm you can apply with your fingers in the back of a cab. I’m wearing the kind of red lipstick for which they make tiny brushes and YouTube tutorials; the kind that requires teeth checking and reapplying; the kind that is there so you notice it.
And in this lipstick, I’m in control. Even if I’ve picked up my jeans from the floor to run out the door late for the third time this week, even if I feel like I need not only a therapist but also a babysitter, wearing red lipstick reminds me that self-determination is within my reach. And I look the part: questionably wrinkled mom jeans and a fire hydrant mouth—or maybe yours is more an expensive wine—is the perfect mix of relaxed and glamorous. You have the self-esteem to try, but the humility not to try too hard.
Red lipstick is purposeful; it requires at least 30 seconds of application and in those 30 seconds I think about the pigment and my lips. I do not think about the deadlines or the chores or even the Big Questions: what my values are, who I am trying to be, why no one realizes Solange is way better than Beyoncé. There is a forced stillness in the ritual, just as there is an unmistakable bad bitch quality to a girl with a crimson mouth. Because painted lips belong to women with foresight, with agency, and probably more than enough toilet paper to ever have to worry about using paper towel down there.