As I've aged, my interest in my makeup drawer has been much reduced. As a teen, I wore layers of foundation and blush, mascara and eyeliner, powder and concealer as I was allowed to begin wearing them. Later, I added artistically applied eye shadows in a palette of Bobbi Browns. I was masking a face I felt unsure of, one whose imperfections and flaws I was fully aware of. As if more coverage meant perfection I could hide under. As if more layers of delicate mineral powder meant safety. After college, as confidence grew, and as coverage felt fake, I felt hidden. That's when red did a slow dance around me and became a curiosity. The rest of the powders, blushes, and glosses fell away as the years rolled by. I could do without them. But just reading about a perfect red lipstick in a magazine would have me clamoring to scribble it's name on a scrap of paper. These days it's not scraps of paper, but texts I send myself. A shade that just looks inviting from the counter? I purchase it. On a model in a magazine, I research it. I'm addicted to red. But red has repercussions.
Today I put the shade back to reconsider for a moment. Just a few days ago I was in Bunky's Carwash. Our car had just been to ASP and back. That vehicle was full of joy, sweat and tears for a week, but now smelled more of sweat than joy. While waiting for cars to be detailed, a trio of women from another local church struck up a conversation about their Appalachian Service Project trips and my husband joined in. He shared about the roofing and decking in Tennessee he and our middle son had just returned from. They talked about the work, about the lack of luxuries, about the hardships, about how it changed them each year. They exchanged ASP work stories and struggles. Then one woman turned to me and told me firmly that "I" could do it. That, if she could do it, then I could certainly make it through. I was stunned into silence. I looked at her for just a moment, wondering why she believed I wouldn't or couldn't do hard work?
I know a thing or two about hard work. I'm a gardener, a mom of boys, a barefoot girl, a rider of horses. I get d-i-r-t-y and I don't mind it. I get dusty, muddy, sweaty, tanned brown. I'm regularly pierced by thorns and and have sweat rolling down my brow. I'm handy with a shovel, a pruner, a wheelbarrow. I stand on the topmost rung of the metal ladder to trim my arbor of Don Juan roses. I'm a lawn mower. I'm a electric driller of Halloween pumpkins. An electric hedge trimmer? I can wield it. Work boots and heavy gloves? I own them. Mucking horse stalls? Hand me a pitchfork. Snakes, lizards, slugs or mice? No shriek you'll hear from me. And yet, this woman who knows me not, is under the impression that perhaps I cannot do without easy life. Cannot do hard work. Might shrink from unavailable luxuries.
Is it my red lipstick? I'm aware that my lips are stained a shade like a roaring fire engine with bells whistling. That this morning I had smoothed on spf 90 instead of foundation and combed dark mascara through blonde lashes and applied Lady Bug across lips. I'm wearing a man's plain white medium t-shirt and khaki shorts with rubber flip flops, silver hoops and a messy ponytail. There is no silky fluttering top or short skirt and heels, no glittering rings. I grow certain that red is what has led her to believe that hard work and a lack of luxuries might be too difficult for me. Might be the reason I'd stay home from hard work. That red lipstick might state a sign of luxury. A sign of soft hands and cool heart. You might tell me she meant nothing by her comment. But a woman knows. She knows when another thinks she might not be up for hard work and peanut butter sandwiches and the trickle down hose of a cold water shower. Looking down at my plain neatly trimmed nails, I did what I did not wish to do. I kept my mouth shut. And I chewed on my red lip so that no word slipped out in my defense.
Later in the privacy of our detailed car, I asked husband what about me made that woman think hard or dirty work wouldn't be something I might choose? He knows I'm a digger of holes. A holder of snakes. A wader of swamps in tall black rubber boots. A woman with her own tool belt. A hauler of Pennsylvania River Jacks. A keeper of old tennies, for the just-in-case DIY project. That man loves me. He loves Tomato Red. He also knows not to touch that question. His answer is a knowing smile. I asked if it was my blazing lipstick. Of course, he smiled more out loud at that. It began an old question that I've wondered for several years of my life and asked him about for just as many. It's the Judging a Book by it's Cover question. I know I've surprised new coworkers, new neighbors. new friends. They usually suggest it later on....the "I never guessed you'd be like who you are." Meaning, unpretentious? Meaning easy-going? Meaning relaxed, casual, down-to-earth?