The Lipstick Conundrum
I have a friend who covets… things. Shiny things. She hoards glitter eye shadow and collects Swarovski-studded iPhone cases. She holds her diamanté encrusted compact up and admires her shimmer blusher in the mirror.
And I realised today, despite my own penchant for all things matte, thanks to my friend’s relentless pursuit of sparkle, I’M now noticing shiny objects and admiring them through some weird shiny-friend-osmosis-phenomenon. I noticed today that one of the women in my office was wearing a beautiful, fitted white shirt with huge, and very shiny, silver studs on the collar. I knew my friend would never forgive me if I didn’t compliment her on it… and maybe even try and touch it. I don’t really know this woman, but women are oh so convivial about these things, right? Right.
So I strode over to her desk, interrupted her important work, and told her I liked her shirt. And it was in that moment, when she turned to smile at me and thank me for the compliment, that I saw it. She (we’ll call her Jane), Jane, had red lipstick all over her teeth.
Jane, of the fabulously studded shirt collar and towering silver heels with dainty ankle straps, had lipstick all over her teeth. And there I stood, with one of life’s deepest conundrums in front of me – do you tell the woman you barely know she has lipstick all over her teeth, or do you not?
It is here in our story that Mad Men fans will instantly recall the episode in which Peggy delivers an entire pitch to a new client with red lipstick all over her teeth and mistakes one of the men’s constant running of his tongue over his teeth as a come-on of epically revolting proportions.
These things can be very delicate. One must approach them with a deft touch. This is why a man will never, ever, like, ever tell a colleague she has lipstick on her teeth. Because men are cowardly schmucks.
But even for a woman this can be a challenging prospect. I mean, how exactly do you do it? Do you go all Mad Men on her arse and start running your tongue over your teeth while waggling your eyebrows meaningfully at her? (No.) Do you have the whole conversation and then tell her she has lipstick on her teeth? Do you tell her as soon as you notice? And how do you tell her? “Excuse me, but you have lipstick on your teeth.” “Lipstick!! There! On your teeth! LIPSTIIIICK!”
My guess is that most women wouldn’t say anything, which I think is a shame. It’s not as bad as letting a sister leave the toilets with toilet paper trailing after her – or – the cardinal sin of cardinal sins – not telling a sister that her skirt is tucked into her knickers. But it’s still not right. And it’s not so hard, to just say to another woman ‘oh hey, you’ve got a bit of lipstick on your teeth, just thought I’d tell you in case you’re about to walk into a meeting or something.’
I did it for shiny collar woman, and you know what? She was going into a meeting and it was a pitch meeting. She was grateful and I walked away feeling good about myself. Win win, Sisters!