This Is Us

My So-Called ‘Addiction’ Dates Back 5,000 Years

Go ahead, poke fun at my little lipstick compulsion

Doreen Picozzi
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readDec 19, 2020

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Photo: Melissandra/Getty Images

I was one of 51 seventh-graders getting ready for the Marieville School dance. It was December, and this was to be our first introduction to society, right there in the gymnasium.

It was a big night. With her shiny black Singer, my mother had made me a gold satin, quilted, high-waisted, A-line maxi skirt with a matching bolero vest. I wore it over a black smocked blouse with poet sleeves and a pair of black patent leather shoes from Kinney’s. My hair was piled up with holly and baby’s breath. I was a brand-new person. A woman, nearly. I just needed that one last element… that something special.

My mom studied my face. She hesitated. And then out came the final touch. Lipstick. Pale, frosted, and pink.

Yesterday, as every day, I took off my protective mask and put it aside for washing. Beyond all the microbial life undetectable to the naked eye, a single long hair tangled into an ear loop, and a small accidental drop of dried toothpaste on the edge, there was a red smudge on the lining of the mask.

It’s because I wear lipstick.

Some of my colleagues have stated that Covid-19 has saved them lots of money on lipstick. But others of us just shrug, remain silent, and feel a little guilty. We’ve got shades of Jeffree Star’s “Unicorn Blood” and Kylie Jenner’s “High Maintenance” pleasantly brushed onto our vermillion zones and hiding underneath our masks. Though there’s no way to truly defend it, all we can say is that we must wear lipstick.

My sister and I recently wondered aloud why we are like we are.

There are plenty of reasons. Sure, you can point at us and talk about insecurities, unrealistic expectations of female beauty, and the power of advertising and marketing. Go ahead. You can poke fun.

I will be the first to admit that the most beautiful mouths in the universe — Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, even Katharine Hepburn (who had virtually no lips at all), and of course, my mom — showed us lovers of glamour and vintage cinema what a little color can do.

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Doreen Picozzi
Human Parts

Former journalist, former press secretary to a public official, now teacher of high school journalism and English, devoted wife, and mom of a true gentleman.