Thursday, July 30, 2009

Toast of New York


I am not a makeup maven. I've never worn foundation, except the professional "pancake" kind for those handful of times I have performed on stage (a lifetime ago!). For everyday, it just feels like a slow toxic suffocation of crud in my pores. Ditto the blush. No fuss, no muss. Definitely no mascara; the wand is a serious hazard. The most I could cope with: eyeliner, some shimmery nude color on lids, and lipstick. The lipstick used to be bright red. At some point, I realized that my olive skin tone is hard to match to the right shade, though—all the reds I like when I see them in stick form end up making my skin or my teeth look yellow. Now, I opt for more tawny and brown shades, when I bother. I remember, though, a time when I loved to browse the cosmetics aisles and look at lipsticks and read the exotic, trumped up names of the colors. I would laugh at the outrageousness. Of all the hundreds of names I've read, and the dozens of tubes I've owned, I remember the name of exactly one lipstick, though. It was not the jazziest, sexiest name. It was a lipstick I found by accident, but it's the only one I ever went looking for in a store when it was time to replace the tube: Toast of New York, by Revlon. A creamy brown with undertones of red. I don't know whether Revlon still makes it—nor do I know if I'd still wear it (probably, but tastes change so who knows). Why I remember it is circumstantial, nostalgic. When I say I found it by accident, what I mean is this: In the bathroom of an infamous, grungy New York punk club in the late 1980s, I saw a black tube with a flash of gold trim rolling on the floor. The bathroom door opened and, after a blast of the band, closed again. I was with a friend—we were drunk, I'm pretty sure—and suddenly we were the only two there. Whoever dropped the lipstick was gone, not that it would have mattered much. I picked up the tube, dialed up the color, and thought it looked pretty good. And it was free: a five-finger discount, but completely legal. Did I even wipe off the end of the stick before applying it to my lips? I'm sure the thought never crossed my mind. To say that I was not concerned about germs in those days is a mild understatement. I pocketed the lipstick, and it was the only one I used for a long time. As I said, I replaced it when it wore out. I replaced it because it was a good color on me after all, but mostly because it reminded me of my friend, of our combat boots and scrappy, Guns-of-Brixton attitudes; our "finders keepers" mentality that grasped at any castoffs the world chose to let us have. Toast of New York. The name was, no doubt, meant in a high-society way, a socially acceptable way. To me at the time, though, it was just plain old New York—and a part of the city now closed down—and we were, if not the toast of the town, then certainly toasted. We left the club with mosh-pit bruises, voices hoarse with screaming and too much smoke exposure. But those hungry, youthful mouths of ours? They were at least well painted, beautiful—even if the beauty was not rightfully ours to begin with. Then again, isn't that what all makeup is: borrowed beauty? We can still toast to that.

1 comment:

  1. Somehow, I knew there were a pair (or three) of Doc Martens in your youthful past...
    I can't be bothered with makeup either, especially now, with small children to care for. At least you're fresh-faced, though. If I don't cover my dark under-eye circles, I'd be mistaken for their grandmother!

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