I had placed an order at Sephora, comprising of several lipsticks. The other lipsticks were mostly nudes and pinks — colors that I usually wear. But this time, I had purchased a color out of my comfort zone: black. Black fell on the stark end of the color spectrum of the lipsticks that I had purchased, and that made me nervous. 

When I finally received the order almost a month later, I was excited about trying out all lipsticks — but especially the black one. It was the first dark lipstick that I had ever bought. I thought it’d be an interesting makeup experiment. 

When I tried on the lipstick at home, I thought it looked good. I decided then that I’ll wear it outside and see what other people thought of it too. 

 I got dressed to meet a friend and told my mom I was going to her house. She threw me looks of sheer disapproval when she saw the color of my lips.

“What did you do to your lips? They’re black,” She asked.

“Nothing,” I whispered before leaving. I was half-expecting that she’d disapprove of my makeup. 

The minute I stepped outside, I saw an old man standing outside his gate in my neighborhood, looking in my direction, with ill-disguised incredulity. I met his gaze and then quickly looked away. Already, I was wondering if wearing black lipstick was a bad idea. 

My friend smirked as soon as she opened the door to let me in. “You’re wearing black lipstick,” she said breathily, suppressing an urge to say more. “What’s funny,” I asked. “Nothing,” she mumbled. 

When I went inside, her family looked at me the same way that she had — startled, and disparagingly. They found my coal-black lips unsettling. It’s unsurprising that when you do something different, people look at you accusingly, like what you’ve done is unacceptable or even deviant.

At a restaurant with that same friend later that day, I suddenly found myself in a crowd of startled onlookers — it didn’t take me long to discern that my black lips were attracting way too much attention. I felt my composure slipping away as I sat there toying with my fork. I almost didn’t want to be there. I wanted to rub my lips clean and walk out of the shop. 

When I told my friend that I didn’t feel comfortable, she said my lipstick was loud and people weren’t used to the idea of seeing somebody this way. And then she said that softer shades look good on me and I should stick to them. I looked decent in them. And I believed her. 

When I got back home that day, I told my mom that she should’ve made me change my lipstick. She said I wouldn’t have listened to her. And then she asked me to never put on black lipstick again. So I threw it away. I swiped at my eyes as tears began falling. I almost felt guilty for wearing a lipstick that was too dark for the world that I lived in. 

People always let you down. They question the choices that you make for yourself, but it doesn’t always mean that they’re right.

I wore black lipstick again, to my friend’s bachelorette party. I still got judgemental stares but they didn’t hold me back from doing what I wanted to. I did something different, and that made me feel empowered. And since then, I’ve stepped out wearing only bright lipsticks. Nothing anyone says makes a difference to me anymore.

 When I was told that I shouldn’t wear black lipstick, I felt bad for days. But then I realized, it didn’t matter. I told myself that I didn’t have to hold back from making decisions that made me feel empowered. My choices define me, and it’s no one else’s business to tell me what to do.

If you’re holding yourself back from doing something that you love — then please don’t. It’ll be too late before you realize that other people’s opinions of you aren’t worth it. 

  • Izza Malik

    Izza Malik is a university student based in Lahore, Pakistan. She is focusing on Political Science at university but her main interests lie in fiction writing, journalism, and drawing. Izza also has a blog called Escaping Space which is dedicated to feminist writing, raising issues concerning the various marginalized communities in Pakistan and sometimes narrative and poetry writing. In her free time, you’ll find her reading murder mystery books, watching shows on Netflix and cooking desserts.