Listen to or Download 'Coffee Cup Lipstick' read by the author
Lipstick stains on a coffee cup. One of the images I loathe. One of the images that haunts me. One of the images that surrounds me.
As soon as I see lipstick smudged onto the rim of my coffee mug, it is a near compulsive move to wipe it away. The moments I allow the stain to remain are an act of defiance. A challenge to my self-control. Though...
I never take my eye off of that stain.
And then it's gone.
When I was little, dark mauve lipstick stains on coffee cups were the bane of my existence. A shade of mauve that insisted "Estee Lauder!" in my mind. They seemed to be everywhere. At school, on the desk of my most-fearsome teacher. At home during visits from a flighty aunt.
Lipstick stains on a coffee cup always signaled impending doom. One way or another, grief was headed my ten year old direction.
Lipstick stains on a coffee cup indicated a lack of care to me. They symbolized bitter older women, hell-bent on misunderstanding me and not granting the benefit of the doubt. Women who muttered to themselves, "I don't care what people think" and therefore refused the simple act of wiping their lipstick from their coffee cups.
Lipstick stains on a coffee cup smell bitter in my memory, laced with cigarette smoke.
I picture loosely pinned buns, most of the important pieces of hair that seemed to necessitate a bun never actually cooperating. Yellow teeth. Crows feet. Falsely patient smiles belied by snickers.
I swore that if I ever wore lipstick, I would sooner lick an ashtray than leave a lipstick smudge on a coffee cup.
I am 32 years old this month of December. I leave lipstick stains on my coffee cups.
But never for more than a moment. Mostly just in private. As a test to see if I can do it.
If I can be that woman and not turn evil. Not immediately begin snickering and throwing backhanded compliments at small children about their parents. Not begin pacing and tapping chipped nail polish fingernails against that same coffee cup as I spout off about things anyone older than nine could easily see through.
And I can.
But only for a moment. Then I feel the urge to suck my teeth and I know I just have to wipe that lipstick away.
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