On red lips & falling out of love with my body

Being brave with make up is an odd one. When I originally started thinking about this post, I was intending to say that it’s perverse how, the more at ease I am in my own skin, the more tame my make up. But it’s not perverse; it’s complicated.

In my teens my skin was greasy, but even then, I escaped lightly compared to many of my schoolmates. My mum bought me a few Rimmel bits when I was ten and the fashion for Body Shop parties meant that make up quickly became part of my daily routine. Foundation, mascara, lipstick – we were allowed to wear it at school in those days, too.

I never felt I mastered make up, and I never experimented with it that much, but I liked playing with it, and I was interested in it, in a way I never was with clothes. Glitter gels, iridescent powder shadow (thanks, Miss Selfridge!), stick on hearts. It was tacky, and joyful, as fuck.

In recent years, the frequency with which I’ve worn make up has dropped dramatically. I rarely wear any at work, and the contents of my day-to-day make up bag (listed below), is pricey, but play-it-safe in the extreme.

Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Foundation
Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder
Benefit Roller Lash Mascara
Clarins Multibush
Tom Ford Lips & Boys Lipstick in Eric

It worries me that I’ve stopped wearing make up. Not necessarily because I think I ‘need’ it, although it does make me feel more confident, but because every day I get up too late to put any on, every day I go to work with wet hair and bare skin, I’m reminded of the following statement on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale:

‘I have lost interest in my appearance.’

The scale requires you to rank how much each statement applies to you between 0-3, and I’m never quite sure what to do with that one, because although I do wear less make up and spend less time getting ready, I still buy new clothes, I still read a couple of beauty bloggers, I still spend money on new products. And that’s both a good thing and a bad thing.

It’s bad because increasingly, I buy make up in the same way some people buy bags and shoes – because I’ve put on a stone and a half in four years, I’m uncomfortable in my body, I feel fat, and buying clothes is miserable. Make up always fits, but it’s also an excuse to not take a long, hard look at myself and the way I really feel about my body. It’s an excuse not to change.

But there’s a flip side, too. I already feel conspicuous, because of the disability, because of the weight – and so, for the first time in my life, I’m not afraid to choose cosmetics that will make me stand out. In the past couple of years, I’ve bought three *bright* red lip products – MAC Red, MAC Sweet Sakura and, this week, Lipstick Queen’s Seven Sins gloss in Anger. 

The name is not a coincidence. I am angry, mostly with myself. But on my lips, that anger is transformed into something vital, something kickass. One of the saddest conversations I had with a friend of mine – who is beautiful – was about lipstick.

‘I’d never wear red,’ she said. ‘I just want to blend in. I don’t want to be noticed.’

It’s her choice, obviously, but it’s not what I want for myself. I’m not convinced red lipstick suits me, or is flattering, but I also don’t care. I’ve been reading Ella Risbridger’s wonderful lipstick columns for The Pooland she talks often about liking shades of lipstick that might not suit her. And I think she’s right – it’s psychological, as much as anything else. It’s colour, in a world of beige.

Red is anger. It’s also love, passion, fire, heat. It’s brave and it’s unapologetic.

And right now, it’s what I need.

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#Lippie: The Results

It’s taken me two full weeks to get round to judging #Lippie. I’m kind of sorry, not sorry, because I wanted to wait until I had the time to read all the entries in one sitting and to really figure out what I loved about each one. Because god, there was a lot of great writing submitted.

I should say, before I start with what I loved, that the comments on the entries are in no particular order (they’re linked by theme), with the exception of the final five. Although there’s only one prize this time round, there were loads of entries that deserved to be commended and I couldn’t get it down to three, so, yeah, one winner and four runners up.

Two themes that I found particularly interesting came through in a lot of the entries. Lots of the stories dealt with reinventing yourself, which is, after all, the huge joy of lipstick. Brave by @TomWatched was one such example, with the added benefit of great dialogue. @RiaRestrepo also did a fab job of it in Kinda Sexy, where she wrote a great, modern version of Girl Power (yes, I did like the Spice Girls), which also has room for a very hot man. Finally, there was Fanfare by @IAmAnnaSky, which did a beautiful job of combining the will to recreate yourself after a relationship ends with the sometimes huge appeal of being lost in the crowd. Plus, it had the wonderful line ‘She tastes sweet and sour.’

When characters weren’t reinventing themselves, they were generally superbly strong nonetheless. @cherrytartblog’s Flamingos and wolves (yes, she drew a particularly short straw in the lipstick name game) has a heroine with serious attitude. I adored her! @Mollysdailykiss gave us a similarly sassy FMC in On Hold, as well as a lovely bit of alleyway action, which is one of my favourite things. And talking of my favourite things, @Mandapen used remarkably few words to tap into all my kinks and left me lusting for some bruises. Dancing cropped up twice, in @Innocentlb’s Impassioned and Flat Out Fabulous by @Katya_Harris – the first of these saw a narrator who gets lost in the music only to leave me wistful for the girl he misses out on in doing so, and the latter an epic female character who’s so into her dancing she doesn’t need anyone else to make this a really hot story. There was also a lovely bit of character detail in @CollaredMom’s Politely Pink, where the female character says ‘he knew I hated pink’ and the themes of both pinkness and politeness carry the whole way through the story, too. In Dubonnet, by Robert S, the female character wasn’t typical of erotic fiction, which always pleases me, and the male character liked her imperfections, such as her selfies. The sense of place was really well portrayed in this one, too.

Costa Chic by @GoodnightAngela genuinely had me wondering where the story was going. The same was true at the start of @BilliousOne’s Runway Hit, which I expected to be about fashion but actually turned out to be set at an airport. I liked how the arrivals and departures of the planes gave the whole thing a sense of fleetingness, which was the other theme that came up multiple times. I loved too, how the heroine left the hotel after the scene. The sense of fleetingness was also my favourite thing about Peter Stone’s Real Redhead.

Several of the stories had wonderful multi-sensory details, like Lipstick Color by @cammiesonfloor, whose heroine is left with a ‘grotesque, clownish smile (I also loved the line ‘more like the “O” she wanted than a plea’) , Peach Blossom by @Juniper3Glasgow (‘She can still smell the outside on her’), which also had a beautifully balanced and healthy relationship between the characters, and Creme in your Coffee by @fdotleonora (‘[she] could not help but notice that the lipstick was the exact color as her nipples’), which takes an everyday scenario and makes it hot as, well, coffee.

Although @VidaBailey2’s non-fiction piece Cosmo was sad in places (‘…no one knew how to make me come’), it’s ultimately very uplifting, not least due to the description of ‘happy, heavy cock.’ @VenaRamphal’s No Persistence here was equally a bittersweet combination of fun and sadness, with the added twist of being told from the perspective of the actual lipstick! Sexy, too…

Syrup by @AbsolutelyRuby is not sad, but it is bloody dark, and was so powerfully written, I found myself holding my breath for the first few paragraphs. It also had a very cool male character, this time because he didn’t always know what he was doing, which, while terrifying, also strikes me as very true to life. BDSM is also handled well in @StellaKiink’s See Sheer, which reminded me just how wonderfully calm it can make you feel.

In Lady Danger by @Mansplanation, it’s the dialogue – ‘Am I your King,’ I ask her, pinning her down by the throat,’ contrasting wonderfully with ‘Tilt your head my queen.’ Somehow, it’s so powerful it also makes the ending even more of a surprise. Rebel by @loucheasfuck had the beautiful line ‘she’s hit a rich seam’ as well as very powerful repetition – ‘And her. And her.’

This brings us to the top five. The runners up, again in no particular orderwere @Girlonthenetwith Sin, @19Syllables, with Cockney, @JillyBoyd, with Hot Tahiti and @Octogirlscares with Saigon Summer. I went to a writing talk recently where the speaker talked about the writer needing to take full responsibility for the imagery they create, and not leave the reader to have to fill in the gaps, and Girlonthenet certainly does this. ‘Each detail pulses with raw, bright colour’ she says, in the story, and then she totally follows through, writing in a way that allows us to experience all of this raw, bright colour for ourselves.

Cockney is similarly vivid, while less graphic, and does a masterful job of mixing the everyday with the seriously hot. In the comments on this story, Girlonthenet said ‘I think I have a proper kink for anticipation, and unrequited lust, and this captured that *ache* so beautifully,’ and I can’t really express it better myself…

The other two runners up both deal with trauma, although in very different ways. In Hot Tahiti, Jilly deftly pulls off writing about death while keeping an immense sense of life in her piece, which is bloody tricky to do, and she has a wonderfully strong male narrator whose self-assurance allows him to say things like ‘She was never too much,’ which utterly delighted me. @Octogirlscares went braver still, using Saigon Summer to write about the horrors of the Vietnam war. The main character in this appeared so vividly to me I felt I’d met or seen her somewhere, and I was just astounded by the author’s courage is using something as frivolous as a lipstick name to inspire something so powerfully bleak.

And so, all that’s left is to announce the winner: Myth, by @DarkJezebelle. With both this and Girlonthenet’s piece making the top five, it would seem that cheating is quietly one of my kinks, but what I really loved about this piece was that it wove lipstick in, but did it in a way that made it utterly crucial to the story, and the strong, short but confident voice that @DarkJezebelle maintains throughout. I was a also a sucker for the way the paranoia builds over the course of the piece, and the fantastic imagery, such as ‘Or was it left there, around the base, where I’d struggled to breathe, eager to impress a new lover.’

So, that’s it. Thanks to you all for joining in and helping me raise cash for Refuge, and huge congratulations to @DarkJezebelle – drop me an email or DM with your mailing address and I’ll get your prize sent out asap!

#Lippie: The Entries

The full list of entries to my #Lippie competition. Entries will be added as and when they’re submitted. Closing date is October 11th, 2015. Enjoy!

  1. Cockney by @19syllables
  2. Sin by @girlonthenet
  3. Flamingos and Wolves by @cherrytartblog
  4. On Hold by @mollysdailykiss
  5. Rebel by @loucheasfuck
  6. Impassioned by @innocentlb
  7. Costa Chic by @GoodnightAngela
  8. Lipstick Color by @cammiesonfloor
  9. Politely Pink by @CollaredMom
  10. Lady Danger by @Mansplanation
  11. Peach Blossom by @Juniper3Glasgow
  12. Flat Out Fabulous by @Katya_Harris
  13. Runway Hit by @BilliousOne
  14. Real Redhead by Peter Stone
  15. Dubonnet by Robert S
  16. Myth by @DarkJezebelle
  17. Syrup by @Absolutely_Ruby
  18. Cosmo by @vidabailey2
  19. Crème in Your Coffee by @fdotleonora
  20. Kinda Sexy by @RiaRestrepo
  21. Saigon Summer by @octogirlscares
  22. Highlights by @mandapen
  23. Fanfare by @IAmAnnaSky
  24. No Persistence Here by @VenaRamphal
  25. Hot Tahiti by @JillyBoyd
  26. See Sheer by @StellaKiink
  27. Brave by @Tomwatched

***COMPETITION: LIPPIE***

Remember Polished?

Well, I thought it might be time to do it all over again, and I mentioned it to Kristina Lloyd, who has a great new anthology out, and she suggested a fresh take: lipstick.

I’m not a big wearer of lipstick, so instead of my own collection, this competition will be based around the names of classic MAC lipstick. It’s simple – if you want to enter, you drop me a DM, I’ll select a lipstick name for you at random and you write a piece of erotica using that lipstick name as a title. Sound familiar?

There will of course be a prize, the full details of which are yet to be confirmed, but which will definitely include a signed copy of Kristina’s anthology when it’s released in paperback. In addition, I’ll donate £1 to Refuge (up to a maximum of £30) for every story entered – and you can enter more than once.

If you’re tempted, here are …

… the Rules…

(1) Your story must be a piece of erotica and use the name of the lipstick allocated to you as, or as part of, the title. The more creative the story, the better.
(2) The post must (obviously) be your own work.
(3) There is no minimum length for posts, but they must be no longer than 1500 words.
(4) You may request more than one lipstick name and submit more than one story, but you must submit a story for every lipstick name you are allocated.
(5) You must post the piece on your own blog and link back to this post in order for your entry to be counted. If you’re having trouble with the link, DM me or drop me an email and I’ll add your post to the list of entries.
(6) If you don’t have a blog, but would like to enter, I’ll also consider stories sent via email (my email address is here)
(7) The competition closes at 23.59 GMT on Sunday, October 11th. Any entries submitted after this point will not be considered.
(8) You consent to me linking to your post in a list of all the entries once the competition has closed.
(9) Should you win, you are happy to share your mailing address with me (and Kristina!) for the purpose of sending your prize.
(10) The competition is open internationally.

If I’)ve missed anything, or you have questions, please let me know…

Charlie xx

L (The Make Up Artist) + **Competition**

It’s almost the same shade as the lipstick rolling around the bottom of my handbag, but I want it, for the 1920s-style case as much as the name.

She comes over while I’m testing it on the back of my hand. ‘Do you want to see what it looks like on?’

I’m a sucker for other people doing my make up – I’ve never mastered the art of getting that polished look on my own. And she is, without a doubt, polished. Around her neck, a cursive L hangs from a delicate gold chain and her hair is a mass of carefully styled honey waves, but these softnesses are offset by her outfit, which is head to toe black, from her hot pants to her leather apron.

I’m inelegant and clumsy next to her, not helped by having to clamber onto what is essentially a bar stool. She swipes her brush through the colour and leans in close. I twitch, too strung out with life in general to stay as still as she wants me, and she giggles.

She outlines my lips in pencil and maybe it’s that that makes me feel like a blank canvas, like i could reinvent myself here, in Selfridges’ packed Beauty Hall. It’s noisy, hot, and bright, but I’m totally captivated by her. Her lips are ruby red, the kind of colour I dream of being able to pull off as my everyday look. She applies it straight from the stick, she says, and I girl crush a little harder on this rough-and-ready round the edges admission.

It’s strange, having someone focus so hard on your mouth when they’re not kissing you. She fills in between the lines, stepping back occasionally to appraise her handiwork. If I spent this long on my own make up, I’d never get to work.

‘I can’t get the pigment to even out,’ she says, as she continues to sweep colour over my lips. ‘It’s weird.’

Uneven, chaotic – this has been my mental state for months and I want to laugh at the fact that this gorgeous girl can’t make me look calm and sophisticated, no matter how hard she tries. Eventually, the frustration gets the better of her and she drops her brush onto the counter and swipes her finger roughly over my lips.

‘Ah,’ she says, ‘That’s better!’

Even before she hands me the mirror, I know I’m a sure thing. It’s no longer just the packaging and the name. It’s the sense that here, at 11.45 on a Saturday morning, I might have fallen a little bit in love. I pay, and she hands me the bag before turning her attention to the next girl looking for something pretty. Before I walk away, I linger for a moment by the testers and wonder what shade her lipstick was.

Love bite. That’ll be it.

*****

I joked to @Juniper3Glasgow this morning that I’d crushed on so many gorgeous women this week that I was thinking of giving up men for Lent. I think my love of cock will probably win out, but it did get me thinking that Lent is a great prompt for some flash erotica. And what better way to elicit flash erotica than to have a mini competition?

As I said on Twitter, the prize probably won’t be huge. And because at the moment I’m all about pick-and-mix selections of cute stuff, it’ll also be a surprise. And you’ll get the glory of winning, obviously. Plus, because Lent lasts for-bloody-ever, it’s a super generous deadline.

The Rules…

(1) Your story must be a piece of erotica on the theme of Giving Something Up. The more creative, the better.
(2) The post must (obviously) be your own work.
(3) There is no minimum length for posts, but they must be no longer than 1000 words.
(4) You must post the piece on your own blog and link back to this post in order for your entry to be counted.
(5) The competition closes at 23.59 GMT on Thursday, April 2nd. Any entries submitted after this point will not be considered.
(6) You consent to me linking to your post in a list of all the entries once the competition has closed.
(7) Should you win, you are happy to share your mailing address with me for the purpose of sending your prize.

If I’ve missed anything, or you have questions, please let me know…

Charlie xx

Red: a fantasy

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WI last night (it caused much joy on Twitter that I’m a WI member) and a lesson in the art of perfecting the smoky eye.

Actually, I’m a big fan of sexy eye make up, but the smoky eye is, y’ know, sensible sexy, isn’t it? It’s not slutty, or attention grabbing, it’s office appropriate.

Last time I had a professional make up artist play with my make up, I got her to show me what would be my perfect shade of red lippy, and then I bought it, and all the shebang that goes with it: liner, a brush and sealant.

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