Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Inheritance

Lately I’ve taken to wearing very bright lipstick, in particular, two that had been in the bottom of my makeup case (okay, cases plus annexed corner and wall of small bathroom.) Nars Funny Face and Chanel Premier Rouge #1.(self-portrait, above.) Bright lipstick with just mascara.

My bright-lipped reflection in the mirror or subway glass always reminds me of my paternal grandmother, the woman for whom I am named. (Lillet was her maiden name. It was a toss between that and .. get ready ... Charity. Can you believe it? I wonder how different I would be today with such a different name?!) My grandmother’s usual maquillage consisted of a bold lipstick – a bright coral, brick, or rose -- and powder. We look very much alike, and when I wear a bright mouth I also see her in the mirror, and it is her I also see when I have freshly painted toes, for we have the same feet as well. When I gave her pedicures, I would meditate on this very sameness. The photograph my grandfather took of her 80 year-old feet -- with an underwater camera in their backyard pool -- is framed on my dressing table.

These mediatations may spring from a desire for a coherent personal mythology. Regardless, my grandmother is the one ancestor I have always willingly drawn upon: the bright mouth reactivates my connection to her. It recalls the never-before-experienced sense of peace and belonging I felt when living with her and running her house after my grandfather’s death. That time awakened in me a nascent somatic understanding of “family” as something whose fixity could be a source of solace rather than existential despair. That awakening began the long process that led me to the hard-earned, unmediated adult place I have reached; to my life with Trey.

In a family where nearly every single other member divorced at least once, my grandmother Lillet and her husband were always in love and I like to believe they are still. A dashing, retired Army general, he still chased her around the kitchen in his 80s, "catching her" to steal a kiss in the garage. They were happy. I know I wasn’t privy to whatever inevitable dysfunctions existed in their life, but regardless, they were palpably happy. Like scarlet macaws, they mated for life.

That's what bright lipstick reminds me of: my connection to my grandmother, and that I, like her, have mated for life.

6 Comments:

Anonymous zeebah said...

I'm glad she turned out a Lillet. It's funny how one experience with a name will turn you off forever- I feel that way about the name Charity. :)

Go you with the bright red lipstick! I never have the nerve to go bright...

12:22 PM  
Blogger Lillet Langtry said...

Go for it! You can do it!

xoxo L

12:39 PM  
Blogger Terri Kloth said...

Very few can pull off bright red. you go girl!

On a side note: you write very well. I will keep your blog in check as my weekly English grammar lesson.

4:17 PM  
Blogger spillah said...

More and more I find models in the unexpected past that help me construct a sense of my own future-- if they weren't accessible in the generation immediately preceeding mine.

Lately, it's not feminism and marrying for love (as recent-seeming movements) that make sense of my commitments, but a sense of self and of hope... to which your observations also contribute!! Thank you for that.

7:28 PM  
Blogger -GK said...

I love hearing about your grandmother… it reminds me of my favorite lipstick related story.

I worked for an architect whose wife's maternal grandmother had escaped Nazi occupation and later survived bombings in London.

She was never seen in public without a coat of beautiful bright lipstick.

When his daughter was born, the little girl was named after the great old woman, as had been planned. But, the baby was born 3 months premature and a bit under 2 pounds – and, would need to undergo heart surgery. The old woman appeared for a hospital visit, not a hair out of place. In the waiting room, he and his wife, both tired and disheveled from sleepless nights, saw her apply her lipstick before they were all to enter the viewing area-he finally had the nerve to ask why she always had to re-apply her makeup.

"My darlings, a woman can face anything as long as she has a fresh coat of color on."

She saw the baby and declared that her great-grand daughter would be just fine.

PS (The baby is now a beautiful and brilliant, rambunctious eight-year old).


I am glad you turned out Lillet too.

3:20 PM  
Blogger StillWater said...

Wow, thats interesting that a woman consumes over 4 to 9 lbs of lipstick in her lifetime! Here is the link that I found that shows all of the research:

http://www.lipink.com/lipstick_wax_s/6510.htm&Click=33586

1:10 AM  

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