Wearing Sylvia Plath’s Lipstick 

BY PATRICIA GRISAFI

The dutifully hip woman behind the register on the Chelsea City Outfitters was sporting a ravishing shade of reddish, scorching pinkish lipstick. 

“That’s an awesome colour,” I stated. “Who makes it?” 

“It’s by Revlon. The colour is named Cherries within the Snow. You actually can’t overlook that title, are you able to?” 

I finished by Duane Reade on the best way dwelling and picked up a tube, understanding full effectively that the lipstick would find yourself within the heart-shaped field within the closet the place all my different lipsticks went to die. 

You understand how some girls put on lipstick daily as a matter of routine? They will apply an ideal lip whereas using a motorbike, strolling a tightrope, or herding ten unruly toddlers. I’m not speaking about beige-y pinks or fleshy nudes, however critical, vibrant, punch-you-in-the-face colours. 

I’m not a kind of girls. 

Time and time once more I’ve confirmed incompetent on the easy job of making use of a lipstick that isn’t the colour of my lip; often, I appear like somebody’s grandmother in Fort Lauderdale on her fifth Valium and third Mai Tai. Nonetheless, each few months, I’ll give a brand new colour a whirl solely to frown within the mirror and return to my trusty mess-proof staple for the reason that 90s: Clinique Black Honey. 

Would Cherries within the Snow convert me? 

I stood in entrance of the toilet mirror and punctiliously drew on a vibrant, pinkish-red grin. Then I fussed a bit, cleansing up the traces with a Q-tip and a few concealer. I cocked my head to the aspect, bared my tooth like a hyena. I imagined myself tooling across the East Village in white Birkenstocks and huge black sun shades, with a bouquet of bodega peonies in a single hand and a espresso within the different. I’d give a breezy, scorching pink smile and everybody would suppose I used to be quirky and stylish. 

By the top of the week, Cherries within the Snow was within the heart-shaped graveyard of lipsticks previous. 

The following time I heard of Cherries within the Snow was in a e-book. Ache, Events, and Work by Elizabeth Winder particulars poet Sylvia Plath’s harrowing expertise as a visitor editor for Mademoiselle in the summertime of 1953. Readers will acknowledge most of the occasions Plath writes about in The Bell Jar as based mostly on the main points of that summer time: getting meals poisoning, determining trend, affected by despair. 

There’s one mundane element that Plath doesn’t embody in The Bell Jar: her most well-liked lipstick: “She wore Revlon’s Cherries within the Snow lipstick on her very full lips,” Winder writers. 

I assumed I knew an absurd quantity about Sylvia Plath. As considered one of my earliest and long-standing loves, I’ve learn and re-read her poems and fiction, written about her work in my Doctoral thesis, visited her houses in each Massachusetts and London, even touched her hair beneath the cautious eyes of the curators on the Lilly Library, Bloomington. However I had missed this small, seemingly insignificant element. 

Revlon has manufactured Cherries within the Snow for the previous sixty two years; it’s often known as considered one of their “basic” shades, together with one other common colour, Hearth and Ice. It’s a cult merchandise, a relic from one other period when most ladies wore lipstick faithfully (a enjoyable however gross tidbit from Winder’s e-book: one 1950s survey revealed that 98 % of girls wore lipstick; 96 % of girls brushed their tooth). The colour isn’t precisely the identical because it was when Plath wore it due to modifications in business apply, but it surely’s fairly rattling shut. 

I scrambled for the heart-shaped lipstick field and sat cross-legged in entrance of it, fishing round for Cherries within the Snow. I held the shiny black tube in my hand like Indiana Jones held the idol to start with scenes of Raiders of the Misplaced Ark. The lipstick appeared completely different, modified. Imbued with particular that means. I swiped on a coat, this time imagining how Plath might need utilized her make-up, what she might need thought as she appeared again within the mirror. Did it change her temper, really feel comforting, bestow energy? 

Individuals are enthusiastic about discovering the mundane habits of their favourite singers, actors, writers, and artists. They may even buy a product based mostly solely on a celeb endorsement. I’ve at all times been enthusiastic about discovering out what merchandise my favourite lifeless icons used, as if I can entry part of their misplaced interior lives by slathering on Erno Laszlo’s Phormula 3-9 (considered one of Marilyn Monroe’s favourite lotions) or spritzing myself with Fracas (Edie Sedgwick’s signature scent). Sporting Cherries within the Snow allowed me to expertise a wierd intimacy with a author I admired, much more so than studying the very private issues Plath wrote about — together with how satisfying scooping a pesky glob of snot from her nostril feels. 

In the end, Cherries within the Snow didn’t turn out to be my lipstick, however I gained an appreciation for the shared ritual with and unusual connection to Plath that it allowed me to expertise. So most of the artists who’ve influenced our lives are gone; it feels comforting to discover a little bit of their essence in one thing as tangible as make-up. 

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