"Yo, your face is changing colors. You upset?"
"Yeah, dog, read my lips."
This is how I imagined conversations would unravel around the dinner table as I clutched $3 mood lipstick in my hands. It promised to change from orange to purple based on a mood change of calm to stressed. Without consideration as to whether orange or purple is my color, I threw the lipstick into the shopping basket.
I've always had a soft spot for kitschy fashion items of yesteryear -- especially the items that filled my adolescence in the '90s but were born of the '60s. Walking around the $5-or-less sale at my local thrift store provided endless fodder for nostalgia. There were jellies, see-through purses and birthday cake perfume. And then there was the jewelry -- tiaras, chunky neon rubber gemstones and, of course, my longtime favorite, mood rings.
For years, I wore mood rings on multiple fingers at once. They served as personal checks and balances. My rings are green and say I'm serene. Do I feel serene? They also often acted as a catalyst for others to check in on how I was feeling. Whoa, your rings are black and orange. Are you OK? In a world moving too fast to check in on the ones you love, my mood rings always seemed to force a level of connection I craved in my angst years.
I thought I was out of those angst years. Perhaps not. Otherwise, why would the waxy orange-to-purple mood lipstick be so darn appealing? Am I still feeling angsty? I'd check my mood rings to find out, if only I still had any.
As an adolescent, the coercive care of my cheap checkout-aisle novelty rings made me feel seen in a fuzzy world. As a working mom, I guess I'm craving the same thing. The runaround, the long work hours, the kid carpooling, the food-making, the bedtime routines, the keeping up with news and social calendars and civic duties -- it's too easy to disappear. The stress may crease lines across my forehead, and the bags may forever darken under my eyes, but those visuals seem to have fallen by the wayside in terms of things our human senses pick up on. It's like the beeping of your home's fire alarm to alert you that you need a new battery. The first time you hear it, you are startled. But if you don't change it within the first day, your senses become numb to the sound of a shrill beep every 30 seconds, until you no longer hear it. We've become numb to the forehead creases and the eye bags because everyone we see has them, too.
But not everyone has mood-indicating lipstick.
I clutched it in my hand to see whether my own heat would change the color while it was still in the tube. I imagined a conversation with my husband at the dinner table, in which I was feeling overwhelmed and taxed and, rather than overlooking it, he said, "Yo, your face is changing colors. You upset?" And I responded, "Yeah, dog, read my lips."
I don't know why in my imagination we suddenly talked to each other as if we were Seth Green's character in "Can't Hardly Wait," but I'm not angry at it.
In college, a friend of mine had a baseball cap with a scrolling LED message board on it. We would take it to bars, and he'd write, "4 Natty Ice." The bartenders would see his hat over the horde of people closer to the bar, and we'd get served first -- partly because of the novelty and partly because the bartenders didn't have to work to know what we wanted. It was written right there across his face, er, head.
One time, he wore the hat to campus and had it scroll, "Ask me about my day." And people did. When asked why he had put up that message, he said he hadn't had anyone check on him in a while. It's not that he was doing poorly; he just wanted to be asked.
I wore the lipstick to the dinner table. By the time I got there, it had already turned purple. My husband kissed my cheek and said, "That color looks good on you."
The mood lipstick may need to come with an instructional pamphlet to hand out to others.
Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.