13. Red Lipstick: my weapon of mass deception

Over the last couple of months my friends may have noticed my penchant for red lipstick. Whether it’s accompanying a black silk shirt or tracksuit bottoms, I really don’t care – the lipstick stays on and it’s always ruby red.

I slap it on after a sleepless night. I reapply after puking at the bus stop (my fellow commuters wondering how I’d come to be so drunk at 9am). I sport it because my body is feeling fragile but my lips say I’m fearless (and probably French).

Sometimes I misjudge the boundaries and find it creeping towards my nostrils, and sometimes I forget it’s on and Saint Luke looks like he’s been mauled by an angry mob (or gob). It seeps deeply and defiantly into the ravines of my lips, an Armageddon survivor like a chic cockroach. It’s often out of place, it’s always high maintenance, but I’m committed to the cause because every time I go red, someone will say ‘you look well’. Lush – 1, Lucian Lupus – 0.

And much like a pantomime dame, I do look really rather jolly. Thankfully I’ve managed to forgo the common Lupus rash across the face (a la Seal) marking my days with disease. Instead, Lucian Lupus stays hidden – a devious, duplicitous villain, cloaked in my clothes, skin and bones.

I wonder if life would be easier if I wore what I’m truly feeling like a badge? I’d have one on my back that reads ‘Slow moving human – body hurts.’ I’d have one on my shoes that says ‘please tie me – tricky to bend down.’ I’d especially like one in bold across my chest, ‘temporarily out of order. Maintenance aware.’ On some days I’d like to swaddle myself in Hazard Tape, warning onlookers of perilous obstructions ahead after only two hours sleep.

I don’t want these signifiers to provoke pity, but perhaps a little understanding of what I’m masking. I’ll never be the bore that responds to a courtesy ‘how are you?’ with a list of ailments – no one wants to hang around that person! But sometimes I’d like my auto-reply, ‘I’m really well thanks!’ to come with a few caveats. Namely, ‘I’m normally much more fun. I’d like to say something humorous now but I’m too tired. Of course I’d have a glass of wine if my medication would allow it. I’ve got lots I want to say, but I’m distracted by the aches. I think you’re really funny but it hurts to laugh. I hate to leave early; I’m usually the last girl standing. This isn’t really who I am. This isn’t who I want to be. Please bear with me.’

But it’s not appropriate to whisper in people’s ears and what would it achieve if I did? Would people treat me differently if I came adorned with warning signs? Would people don their kid gloves and feel removed with misunderstanding? That would surely be the worst of the Lucian Lupus curses. The very last thing I need is sympathy to reinforce any self-indulgent pity. On the contrary, I need to be reminded to fix up, look sharp and get on with it.

On goes the war paint, on it goes, taunting Lucian Lupus like a flash of a matador’s red cape. On goes the signage that says I’m bold, brave and far from feeble. On goes the mark of glamour and joie de vivre, on it goes, masking whatever it is I’m trying to hide. So when people ask ‘how are you?’ I’ll leave my red lips to do the talking, without having to say a word.

*****

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Pucker up, it’s show time.

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5 thoughts on “13. Red Lipstick: my weapon of mass deception

  1. A thank you to Sandra Jordan for sending me this way. Your writing it fabulous. (Whispering in your ear…) I have had an auto-immune disease for over 50 years now. I can relate to a sister warrior. I’m buying stock in red lipstick

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  2. Dear Leonie, you dear beautiful girl….

    It’s entirely thanks to your enormous selflessness , courage and bravery that you protect others from your pain. Frankly, I’d have raged and raged loudly, megaphone in hand, spotlights and boom for dark nights be SEEN and heard, by all….. Not just for a “little understanding” …. TOTAL. Mean too.

    Then, oh my, up flashed all those people we’ve all met who manage easily to seize the opportunity to “exchange” symptoms. Not many I know, but they are exhausting….. Sorry Leonie, the beginnings of a rant. You know of course the ones who matter most, those you can trust, are loyal and supportive…. safe and beneficial to share with. Besides, aren’t some of those jolly glad to drop their “masks” and relax with you. Who wouldn’t.

    Then, all the better when you are fixed ( you will be ) you will not forget your extreme effort, rather I am sure you will be as proud, strong, as it’s possible to be. Meanwhile, don’t ever be afraid to let it out if out it must.

    Love the lips and lipstick…. Lucky Luke.

    Love Linda xxxx

    …..

    >

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