I’ve been carrying my tube of Maybelline Vision in Violet all over the Eastern seaboard this weekend, reminding myself repeatedly to return it to CVS. I’m a poor grad student; a $9.50 lipgloss, especially one that I won’t wear often, is hard to justify to myself. And yet. It’s an opaque blue-toned purple lipgloss! A true purple lip color of any kind is hard enough to find, let alone a lipgloss, let alone from a drugstore brand. So what if it makes me look like a pallid deep-sea creature that David Attenborough catches gnawing on a whale carcass? And so my stash grows and my checking account dwindles.

I’ve been at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, for the past couple of days, looking at things like this:

Just a perfectly preserved first edition of John Donne’s Anniversaries from 1612, nbd. Seventeenth-century readers often took it upon themselves to correct errors in the text–here we have “weaving” written in faded red ink (and exquisite italic hand) beside the typo “weaning”:

What’s that? I must have been too engrossed in my studies to take any selfies?

In my experience, most female academics don’t wear visible makeup; those who do stick to neutral, understated colors. In my four years in grad school, I’ve met just one other woman who wears red lipstick regularly. I think it’s great that my field doesn’t pressure women to make themselves up to look more “professional,” but I find that the pressure often goes the other way: I’m constantly worried that I’ll seem less professional, less serious, less devoted to the life of the mind, if I take obvious pleasure in painting my face. In my monthly dissertation seminar at the Folger, I try to strike a balance: shimmery taupe eyeshadow (NARS Lhasa), mauvey-pink blush (NARS Mata Hari), and the lip color that has rarely been out of my purse since I bought it two months ago: Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry, a beautiful dark rose with brown and plum tones. The texture is soft, opaque, and only a little drying; don’t mistake it for a real lip balm, but as matte lipsticks go, it’s pretty comfortable to wear.

I leave you with a song that sums up how I feel about academia right now: Santigold’s “L.E.S. Artistes.” I can say I hope it will be worth what I give up. Fuchsia lipstick included.


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