I’m reviewing this lipstick because my little sisters told me to.
This column will be two years old next week. I’ve missed three weeks of this column in those two years; I review a different lipstick every week; I test lots I don’t review, and in consequence, I have a lot of lipstick. I have enough lipsticks to wear a different shade every day for months, and a very, very little house. I also have three younger sisters.
And so, of course, I capitalise on this lipstick abundance absolutely shamelessly for Big Sister Brownie Points. Come to stay? Take a lipstick! We’re going out to dinner? Have a lipstick for each course! You’re meeting friends? They can have a lipstick too! I’m the lipstick Santa Claus of East London.
This is also very useful because, despite writing about make-up, I don’t actually know very much about it. My youngest sister is a make-up aficionado: she watches tutorials, she knows what’s in, she WhatsApps me to tell me when I’ve gone wrong. She recommends things, and can raid a box of lipsticks for the perfect shade in three minutes flat.
She's been staying with me, and the first thing she does is go through mine.
She collects up the usual array of big hitters – the expensive lipsticks I am sometimes sent and never wear, which is (I believe) double Big Sister Brownie Points – but she also dives for a cheap-and-cheerful looking Barry M.
“This,” she tells me “is the best lipstick. I wear it every day.”
I look at her armful of Tom Ford and Mac and Sephora, and then back at the plastic casing of the Barry M doubtfully. “Are you sure?”
“Yep. Goes on, stays on. Good pigments.” Our middle sister agrees with her, and actually, they are right. It is a nice lipstick.
I’m a person who listens to people now. Or I’m trying to be. I’m trying to see my friends; to listen to them; to accept their offers of dinner
It does go on and stay on, and the pigments are truly lovely. It’s a bit waxy – which is fair, at under a fiver – but the colours are vivid and bright and wearable. The shade my youngest sister favours is a deeper plum colour, but I like this one, in Sunset: a good, wearable, everyday orangey-red. It’s not too heavy for July, and brightens up the drizzle.
I like this lipstick a lot, but what I like more is the sense of being able to learn something from my sisters. I never used to be able to take advice on anything. If there has been a single theme throughout the two years of this column (apart from lipstick and sickness), it’s been this: a slow, determined project to learn to accept help.
I’m still not great at it. I still retreat into myself as often as possible, and regular readers will probably be familiar with the cycle these weekly bulletins fall into: efforts to improve, duvet day, repeat. But I am better than I used to be. I must be: I’m taking advice from all kinds of people these days. A therapist. Self-help books. I’m even thinking about joining a support group.
I’m seeing my family even when it’s hard to get out of bed, and I’m taking steps to make it easier to get out of bed: I’ve cleaned and organised the bathroom (and got rid of half my lipsticks!) so that showering feels like a treat not an obligation; I’ve mended and pressed and ruthlessly purged my wardrobe so that I have plenty of clothes I don’t mind getting dressed in. I’ve worked out how to set an alarm on the radio so that I can stop sleeping with my phone in my hand, and scrubbed the kitchen to within an inch of its life so that I feel more cheerful about making a cup of tea. I didn’t realise before the way that depression and dirt feed into each other, and in cleaning my house I have, in a small but real way, lifted my own sadness a little too.
I know this is true because my therapist told me, and I’m a person who listens to people now. Or I’m trying to be. I’m trying to see my friends; to listen to them; to accept their offers of dinner and not ignore their messages in favour of crying under a blanket. One thing I have learned, over two years: we have the most extraordinary friends. We have the kind of friends who do not give up. We have the kind of friends who deserve to be listened to; who do not deserve my prickly, hermittish I-can-do-anything-that’s-
It is perhaps the hardest and most useful lesson I have ever had to learn, and I recommend it to you with all my heart. As I recommend – if you’re looking for a reasonably priced splash of brightness in a grey July day – this lipstick.
ABOUT SOMETIMES IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS...
I’d never been much of a make-up person before 2015, but strange things happen on the cancer ward. When my partner, the Tall Man, was suddenly diagnosed with a rare, aggressive lymphoma, I found myself reaching for a battered tube of Mac Ruby Woo – part armour, part warpaint, all crimson defiance. This is a column about lipstick, and about caring, and about cancer, but most of all it’s my lifeline and it’s proof – for me, at least – that putting on a brave face is half the fight. Read my story so far here.