The perfect lipstick

Upon the cold marble floor stands a dark brown wooden table, heart height. Upon the tabletop, its varnish scarred with rings, sits a half-eaten chocolate in a piece of silver foil, a man’s topaz cufflink, and a squat smooth-sided tumbler with a caramel-tinted trickle of Old Fashioned still pooling oilily around the ice-cubes. And upon the tumbler? Ah, upon the tumbler shimmers a delicate, ephemeral crescent of veined waxy pink. Yes, upon the tumbler glows that urbane icon of sexual promise: the lippy mark.

Some think lipstick is sexy because it perfects us, cloaking our flakes and wrinkles and age-denuded collagen with the plump sheen of ever-ready youth. These are the ladies (and sometimes gents) who lust after Lipstick Queen Poppy King’s pure-and-polished retro red-lip look, layering on the matte like a steel-girdled desperate housewife. Who carefully brush on sheets of Mac for that Malibu Barbie look, or nail a cartoonish plastic pout with the help of Juicy Tubes. Who are so aware that they’ve just spent so much on their Guerlain Kiss Kiss that the eponymous act is the last thing on their agenda that night.

They’re wrong. Lipstick is sexy because carries the promise of its own destruction. Perilously fragile, it begs us to imagine the slip and the slide, the smear and the lick. It is the illicit pink collar ink-stamp. It is the feathered red rind around a bitten macaroon. It is the creep of colour at the side of a thoughtfully chewed lip, the blossoming patch of unadorned flesh where saliva penetrates pigment, the fragrant, wet little transfer left on the proferred cheek.

It is that press on the glass that says all things will pass but for now lets drink sugar and rye.

That isn’t to say you should aim for the tooth-smeared geography teacher effect, or indeed McQueen A/W09 ham-fisted clown couture. Certainly start off inside the lines; but then simply live, my dear. Embrace the fact that life is there to Pollock your facial Rothko. Just please avoid the mask-faced, air-kissing, ice-queen rigidity that so often afflicts a gloss-gobbed girl.

The objects of my affection have fluctuated through the years. Nars’ Christina – a glistening gold-shot berry – begs to be demolished like a child’s Christmas glitter kit. Chanel Hydrabase No 76 Sari Dore – a just-neon-enough, innocent flower-girl coral – aches to be licked off in the woods. But in the end it doesn’t matter what colour, texture or brand you prefer; it’s how you wear it that counts. And you must wear it with the foretaste of sex in your mouth, along with the wax.