Creamy and with that clean grandmother smell
like a little girl's dream of
what making up must feel like.
Shimmery of course, as the name suggests,
but not grainy like most sparkly shades
which are thick with glitter
like flour-heavy pancake batter.
The doctor prescribed something new,
warning me that it's known to cause nightmares, but
I don't know if I've ever dreamt something worse than real life.
Instead, the pills made me dream of the past
(which I suppose is slang for nightmare)
but I'm not afraid of things that are over, not anymore.
Anyway, the pills made me dream of Beige Shimmer.
I was in third grade when I started wearing lipstick daily.
Most kids in the global north have their clefts surgically repaired
before their eyes learn to focus
before they ever get to know themselves as broken,
but I had comorbidities
and if I'd gone for the surgery I could've bled to death.
It was the only time in my life I've seen anything prioritized over beauty.
The surgery isn't considered cosmetic when it's on an infant
because we aren't supposed to be concerned
with the beauty of infants.
It's regarded as a necessity.
Fixing a cleft palate from a practical perspective makes sense.
A gap inside the gap inside your face can make it difficult to
eat and drink and can result in
failure to thrive.
But the lip,
the lip you don't fix for survival
the lip you fix for --
Beige Shimmer didn't erase the cleft
but it at least made my mouth appear all the same color,
a vast improvement on the lavender-gray upper and pink lower lips
which resulted from some weird circulatory stuff I couldn't begin to explain even if I cared to try.
With my Beige Shimmer armor
I was less likely to be asked
whether I'd been injured in a fire or
whether my parents beat me or
whether I realized I had something on my face.
I'd put it on while riding the bus to school
a pearlescent green Cover Girl compact in my left hand.
After a while I could do it without the mirror
even when the bus bounced over bumps and stopped short
as school buses love to do.
To this day I know my lips better than any other part of my body.
And the satisfaction of wiping the excess from the corners of your mouth!
Digging in real good with the edge of a fingernail.
Bury me in that feeling.
Sprinkle my ashes in a vat of a shade of lipstick that no longer exists.
smooth like you want your skin to be
smooth like the plastic surgeon who finally fixed me
at age twelve.
Twelve was the magic number.
From the time I was old enough to want a different face
they told me it would be safe to reconstruct at age twelve.
Imagine the authority to make such assertions!
Twelve years would be enough time for the blood-filled birthmarks
that stained half my face
to shrink with the help of lasers,
so that a cut to the skin would no longer be
a near-death experience.
Some girls have bat mitzvahs
I had all four of my extremities strapped to a table
my mouth cut apart then sewn back together
I could feel the blood run up my face,
the tears run down
and I couldn't wipe away the excess.
Sometimes I would cry.
Jesus, cut me some slack,
I was a little girl with a face cracked down the middle.
I can't have been expected to keep it together all the time.
My big sister would hold my chin in her hand
and tell me, like she was telling me a fairytale,
how women all over would kill for full lips like mine,
even if they were lopsided.
She hated her nose, but there was nothing clinical about it,
nothing you could find in a textbook.
Most of our self-hatreds go undiagnosed.
Beige sounds so much more beautiful than it is,
that exotic diphthong whooshing by like a jetsetter.
Meanwhile it's just light brown.
What do you do when you get to twelve?
After the glass slipper fits?
After the spell is reversed?
After you are discontinued?
After a while, I got used to wearing other shades (gloss was big for a while)
and even sometimes leaving the house with an unadorned mouth,
but I never got used to my corrected reflection.
Beige Shimmer, I'm sorry you weren't enough for me.
Only at the mountaintop of experience
can we see what we had when we had it.
Down in the foothills are daffodils with a buttery balm in the center.
When you kneel down to sniff them,
they kiss you gently,
like your big sister kissing away your tears,
and turn your lips a color that exists only in memory.
Addendum (Beige Shimmer Resurrection)
My sister found it on eBay (of course she did)
and had it shipped to my house.
How rare it is to receive messages in my own love language.
We live in and out of packages these days,
the skin on our hands chapped and scraped
from alcohol-based irritants and little paper cuts.
So I am no longer surprised to receive a box without knowing its source.
This one was no different,
I figured it was something I ordered impulsively
while dizzy with the effects of the nightmare pill.
When I got it open - the case!
They really don't make them like that anymore.
Square-edged and beige and so adult,
not a trace of girlish softness to be found.
The smell of being so much older then,
(I really am younger than that now.)
Nothing about it is spectacular, I can see why it was discontinued
it's a color for lips with something to hide,
lips aspiring to anonymity,
witness protection lips.
But my face looks more like myself to me than it has in years.