Saturday, September 06, 2008
Buttercup Faces The Night
Make up and lipstick. The perfect mask.
Combined in the right manner it can enhance, allure, or terrify. The ritual of taking on the mask is as old as organized religion. Nail polish can be traced back to 3000 B.C. According to one source women used to use burnt matches to darken eyes, berries to stain lips, and young boy's urine to fade freckles. Some would drink ox blood to improve complexion.
In history, in some religions and cults, taking on makeup was considered a way to assume the mask and possibly the mantle of godhood, or at very least, divine approval. Consider the Native Americans wearing war paint into battle. Perhaps its the idea of the religious connotation of certain makeup practices as opposed to its secular and libidinous use that has drawn such ire from religious fundamentalists over the years.
Given the idea that makeup is more than just something applied in haste at the beginning of the day, doors open for intriguing consideration.
I am fascinated by all role stretching in a society. Ethnic and racial roles. Gender roles. Class roles. Political roles. As a writer, it's rich subtext. Threading something as small as the use of makeup into a short story can tilt things in a strange and disturbing way.
Think about the sudden appearance of an ominous message on a mirror written in lipstick. What about the violation of someone rendered helpless and while in that position, has their face ridiculously made up, smeared with lipstick and powder as a mask of humiliation. Consider the image of the cosmetologist at the funeral parlor, working the corpse so that its appearance is "natural" and pleasing to the living.
In the end all masks fall away and what remains is the inevitable unveiling. Hmmmm. Given a choice between on one hand dressing up in yellow pinifore while wearing glitter lipstick and bright pancake powder, and on the other hand, facing the darkness that hides outside the window and crouches in our dreams, I'll take the glitter and glam.
Just call me Buttercup.
Posted by Stewart Sternberg at 9:51 AM