Saturday, June 12, 2010


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For the first time in my life I have perched on one of those high cosmetic-counter stools and let a young woman have her way with me. 

It's a dismal day outside - cold, dark and damp - so after my coffee I headed down to Lambton Quay with the vague idea that the right lipstick might brighten the day. I've been thinking for a while now that, given my almost entirely black tango wardrobe, I should break away from the brownish lipsticks I usually wear (Mac's Fetish and Satin are my fallback position) into something ... well, redder.

I bought tights in Kirks (black opaques with a thick red back seam), so you might think I'd have investigated the lipsticks on offer there. But I've always been intimidated by their bright lights, the hundreds of unknown products and all those shiny surfaces, not least the radiance exuded by the assistants themselves. So I ducked over the road to Farmers where I expected to be able to safely dab endless samples on my hand and be left alone.

Not that one's always safe in Farmer's, either. A few years ago, I was accosted by an assistant my own age, her skin caked in supposedly flesh-coloured gunk, lips a slash of horror scarlet. It was wrong, so wrong. But that didn't stop her proceeding to share with me the information that as "we" aged, browns didn't suit "us" so well, that "we" should consider reds like the one she was wearing, and (given, presumably, the rate that "we" were ageing before her very eyes) "we" should return to the cosmetics counter every six months or so to have our lip colour "checked".

I left empty handed.

No evidence of her today. I was left in peace to play around until both hands were lividly striped and I was none the wiser than when I started. I needed a second opinion, and preferably an informed one.

Lucille looked 12 but was probably 20. Her plump milk-white skin was accentuated by the glossy black she had coloured her hair. Her eyes were rimmed in black and gray, and her lips exactly the same red as the woman who alarmed me the first time. But because Lucille was young she looked cute rather than scary. And that was why I needed her - scary was precisely what I had to avoid. Lucille was neither snooty, patronising nor painfully bored - just plain sweet and helpful. (My propensity to thank shop assistants for their attentions once spelled the end of a brief but intense love affair. But that's another story.)

Lucille and I did a bit more dabbing at my hand then she asked if I'd like to try the one we both thought the nicest. My dears, it came as a revelation to me that if you play your cards right you can get to see what lipstick looks like on your actual lips before you pay for the damn stuff and leave the shop. I had no idea! I don't know what I thought women were doing on those stools while other women in white coats emblazoned with important-looking badges fluttered about them. But whatever it was, it was something that up until today I had not considered I might be eligible for.

I perched and Lucille painted. A magified view of my face in close up under harsh lighting wasn't good for morale. Lucille kindly suggested I look in a mirror further off for a better effect. Which it was.

Inspired by my Kookai shocking-pink tee-shirt, Lucille offered to apply a shocking-pink lipstick. She said it was fun. I thought it made the face around it look as if it had had too much fun, rather a long time ago. I bought the red. Plus a grey eyeliner pencil, after an application lesson from Lucille.

I'm now taking my glaring red mouth off to tango. If anyone reels back in dismay and/or I get no dances, I shall be back to see Lucille forthwith.

1 comment:

  1. You'd think the cosmetics counter runners would have figured out by now that scaring the average woman witless is not the best way to attract customers! I may look for Lucille myself, she sounds very unscary.