“Love that Red!” Aug. 17, 2021

There was a time in my life when I wore makeup every day. Yes, it was before the pandemic. But it began the day I turned 13. My mother didn’t let me wear makeup at that age. I complied with her wishes when possible, but like most children, I was hell-bent on doing as I pleased.

So for my thirteenth birthday, I asked my sister—who was six years older, married with a baby and a firm belief in makeup—for a tube of clear lip gloss. That is what she gave me with this advice: “Use it sparingly, Sissy. A little goes a long way.”

Thus began my devotion to makeup. Every morning, I’d apply that gloss, just so, to my lips. And that little bit of shine would miraculously transform me from plain and ordinary to almost—I’ll just say it—pretty.

That is how it made me feel. Even if I couldn’t see it in the mirror, I felt it deep inside.

Everyone—male, female, young, old, rich, poor, or ugly as sin—we should all feel pretty. That’s how God created us. God doesn’t do ugly. Even warthogs light up at each other’s looks.

In a world obsessed with beauty, it’s hard to feel pretty, inside or out, especially if we’ve been shamed by mistakes, or belittled by hurtful words.

My mother was a beautiful woman. Yet she had suffered in ways no one should ever suffer: A series of failed relationships. A child born blind and out of wedlock. And a never-ending longing to feel loved. One look in her eyes and you could feel her pain. I felt it every day.

But sometimes, before church or going to work to wait tables, she would stare into a mirror, while I watched in awe, as she covered her lips—blotting one layer, then adding another—with Revlon’s “Love that Red.”

I wish you could’ve seen her.

Marilyn Monroe had nothing on my mother. Both women bore their share of heartaches. But a little red lipstick helped.

When my mother’s battle with lung cancer neared its end, I flew home to spend a few days by her side in the hospital. She was heavily medicated, in a great deal of pain. As the meds wore off, her face would contort in agony. I’d ring a bell for a nurse to bring relief. And as the pain subsided, the lines in her face would slowly fade away.

To me, she never looked more beautiful. Where she was going, she wouldn’t need pain meds or lipstick. But I kept a promise to be sure at her funeral her lips gleamed with “Love that Red.”

The day she was buried, I drove 30 miles to pick up my brother Joe and his wife, Tommie Jean, to take them to her service. Both were blind. They’d met as students at the blind school and swore they fell in love at first sight.

We were running late. Joe refused to wear a tie, until I told him Mama would want it. Finally, they seemed ready. Then Tommie Jean said to me, “Sister, will you do my makeup? I want to look pretty today.”

We’d be late for the service, but Mama would understand. I did Tommie Jean’s makeup, with an extra coat of “Love that Red.” She was not what many would call “pretty.” But she had never seen her face. And as Joe led their way into the church with his cane, Tommie Jean proudly lifted her chin, as if she felt pretty inside and out.

I remembered that day a few years later, when Tommie Jean lost her own battle with cancer. I stood by my brother’s side, holding his trembling hand, as we laid his beloved, beautiful woman to her final rest.

Tell me this: If we never saw our faces, but felt truly loved by family, friends and the God who created us, how pretty would we be? My mother said, “Pretty is as pretty does.” But doing comes from knowing we are loved.

Real beauty isn’t skindeep. It shines from the heart.

But it might help to add a little “Love that Red.”

Comments

  1. This story is so heart warming. I used to wear “Love that Red!” I just Googled it to see it is still available in our present day world. And it is! Thank you for your wonderful stories.

  2. Gin says:

    We put a tube of Este Lauder ref lipstick in our mother’s coffin!

  3. loretta k flicker says:

    This brought back memories because my mother also loved “Love That Red”. She had a hard time finding one she liked when it was not carried by the local drugstore. Thanks for the memory.

  4. Terri Blazier says:

    Girl, you made me laugh and cry this time. My friend, Kathy, and I always promote the 💄 to make you feel better and remember Dad taking me to a Walmart type store with $1.00 where I bought Mom a lipstick for Mother’s Day a very long time ago. She acted as though I gave her the world.
    What would we do without our memories whether good, sad, funny or crazy! Thank you!

  5. Cath Tendler says:

    Love it! Red or pink!
    My Mom died at 96 two years ago.
    Her favorite color was Revlon’s “Pink Lightning!”
    Even Maria in “West Side Story” sang, “I feel pretty!”

  6. Kate Sciacca says:

    Beautiful memories. There truly is something about beauty that it shines from the inside out… I’ve often told folks that the most beautiful woman of the 20th Century was Mother Teresa of Calcutta. And she didn’t even use Love That Red 😉😉

  7. Janet Mann says:

    Great insight in a problem a lot of women and sometimes men have. Our world is a world of ‘pushed’ beauty. Only the beautiful succeed is what we learn. And if they have money, WOW! I try to look at the person from the inside out. Inside is where the REAL beauty lies. GOD loves everyone. HE made us and I think we are all beautiful to HIM. That’s whose opinion we should seek. Keep up the good work!

  8. Susan Costanzo says:

    You write the best and best most relatable stories I have ever “red”

  9. Katie says:

    My deceased husband and I both loved red so I wore a red dress when we married. My mother’s friend said ” married in red…wish you were dead!” Well, my husband loved each other dearly till he passed last year. Red is for Valentines day and that was the day we chose to marry 24 years ago. I love RED 💘

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