here is the lip that started it all.
there are several stories to be told here, but i suppose let’s start with the simplest. in 2012, flower boy next door aired on TVN. the main character, go dok-mi (park shin-hye), is a recluse who doesn’t leave her apartment unless she has to, working as copywriter and doing everything she can to conserve her resources and keep her bills low. her next-door neighbor (oh jin-rak [kim ji-hoon]) is a webtoon artist, and he has a crush on her, though he never talks to her, leaving an illustration on a post-in on her milk carton every morning. the illustrations, together, make a flipbook, which dok-mi has been accumulating on the wall of her entryway.
their quiet existence is tossed upside down with the arrival of enrique (yoon shi-yoon), a wunderkind game designer who lived in spain and is now moving to seoul. he’s exuberant, outgoing, and friendly, almost too friendly, seemingly with no sense of personal boundaries or personal struggles — he’s young, cute, successful, and life seems to unfold easily for him.
his presence brings noise into dok-mi’s quiet, solitary life, and he draws her out of her shell and out into the world. that, in turn, brings noise into jin-rak’s quiet life, drawing him out and throwing him actively into dok-mi’s life, no longer allowing him to remain as a quiet outsider who cares for her in silence from afar. inevitably, as they get to know each other, they start to learn more about each other and the hurts that have brought them to the quiet lives both dok-mi and jin-rak were trying to live before enrique rolled into their lives.
it’s a fun, poignant drama with a strong cast.
it also features some great lipstick, namely go dok-mi’s “signature” peachy-pinky-orange.
on december 1, i’m moving back to brooklyn and starting a new job. it happened quickly, but it didn’t, my interview with the CEO having happened in may, a freelance project completed, then silence until october. i’m glad for the delay, though, because i don’t know that i’d have been fully ready for the cross-country move then, if i’d have had the confidence for it.
because, yes, despite my desperation to move back, there’s been a lot of fear keeping me in place, which isn’t something i like to admit, that i carry a fair amount of fear with me. i’ve wanted to think of myself as fearless for so many years because i wanted to think of myself as invincible, as capable of being alone and on my own, and somehow that was related. fear would mean i would need people in my life; that, in turn, would mean that i would need to open myself up to people; and that, in its own turn, would mean that i would need to be vulnerable and face the possibility of rejection.
that was the fear that defined me for over a decade, and that’s the fear that fed and reinforced the principle lies i’ve been telling myself for so long — that i’m a misanthrope, an introvert, a solitary soul. as it goes, i am none of those things — i like people, i like engaging with people and being around them, and i dare say — people like being around me, too.
i was never much into makeup as a teenager or as a young adult, and i’m still not, really. i don’t wear makeup every day, and, when i do wear, i stay very minimalist — concealer under my eyes and on my spots, boy brow, mascara, lipstick.
it’s go do-kmi’s lipstick that started it all because i readily admit that i now have a problem when it comes to lipstick. i got into lipstick before i got into any other kind of makeup, and i got into it because i wanted to find this peachy/pinky/orangey shade go dok-mi wears throughout the drama. the closest i got was bobbi brown’s valencia orange, though that was still too dark, too orange, which was still fine because i learned that i can actually wear orange lipstick — it doesn’t make me look sallow.
finding that go dok-mi shade was impossible, though. all the shades i could find that could be a potential match were either too chalky, too pale, too this or too that. if not that, they would wash me out or made me look pallid or something similarly odd and unflattering and weird.
that means that i’ve been looking for this shade for five years now, that this has been on my mind still, even tens of lipsticks later, even as i’ve been amassing a sizable collection of lipsticks mostly along the red or orange spectrum. as i’ve discovered, i like bright lip colors because i like how they brighten my face, especially when i’m exhausted and showing it, and i’ve recently been drawn to dusty pinks. i went bold and got a fabulous gold lipstick. i have a good selection of strong reds. it’s this peach/pinky/orangey shade that’s been eluding me for so many years, even as i’ve kept my eyes open, swatched so many possible shades on my hand, dried out my lips trying different products. five years later, i still haven’t given up, even as the shade has felt more and more nonexistent as one i’ll be able to wear.
enter, then, bite beauty’s lip lab.
a friend tells me bite’s opened up a lip lab on larchmont, and i ask her the next day if she wants to go. i don’t know that there are two tiers of service — the first lets you personalize a lipstick by choosing from 200+ preexisting shades and selecting a finish and scent. the second lets you customize your own shade, mixing up to three shades, and selecting a finish, scent, and name. i assume that there is only one thing, the second thing, the customizing thing, and i think, wow, it’s so cheap, $55 for a customized shade!
the second tier, though, is $150 for two lipsticks, and it’s not a thing you can split with a friend. it also comes with a lip kit that includes bite’s cherry lip scrub, a mini lip mask, and a lip primer. the artist asks us what we’d like to do, and my friend and i look at each other, hem and haw. i’ve got this very specific color in mind that i’ve been looking for for so long. she’s wanted a coral, has never been able to find one she can wear because her skin tone is more yellow, doesn’t wear orangey hues well. i’m moving back to brooklyn in two weeks for a job that actually utilizes my skills and is in a direction of my long-term career goals, and i’m feeling celebratory.
our artist’s name is samantha, and we’ll spend the next two-and-a-half hours with her. she’ll listen to the shades we have in mind, reach for pots of colors, think up ratios in her head. she’ll notice that my friend’s lips tend to bring a strong pink hue to everything whereas mine are more like blank canvases, wearing colors as they appear. she’ll be patient with us when we ask her if she could make the same shade in a different finish; she’ll be honest and blunt when a particular shade doesn’t work with our skin tones.
i’ll realize for the nth time that i like bright, vivid colors, that i have very strong opinions about colors and little qualms expressing said opinions in nice but blunt ways — and that’s another not insignificant thing i’ve learned about myself this year, that i can trust my taste and my ability to critique and to do it well. i’m a smart reader, and i have an eye for color and design and photography, and i’m better at providing feedback and insight than i used to think i was. more than that, it’s okay to be confident; confidence is not ego — it is not arrogance.
and that, in turn, leads to the biggest thing i’ve been learning these last few years, especially these last two years in LA — it is okay to like myself. it is okay to like what i see in the mirror. it is okay for people to disagree and think otherwise. it is okay if it’s people close to me who disagree.
the unexpected effect of being body shamed is that it has taught me that people’s opinions mean shit because everyone has a bloody opinion. it doesn’t matter if it’s a family member or a stranger on the street or a date — they’ve all got opinions about you, and all those opinions are secondary to the one you have about yourself. and i say that because i’m going to quote stephen chbosky’s the perks of being a wallflower here: “we accept the love we think we deserve.”
i’ve learned that i deserve a lot better, and, more importantly, i’ve learned to expect better and remove myself from people who can’t or won’t deliver.
i know — that’s all easier said than done, and it’s a constant fight to remind myself of all these lessons learned. healing’s a process, as is personal growth, and it takes time, and, more often than not, it feels like taking one baby step forward and one giant step back. the thing to remember is that, even if you move forward one inch at a time, you’re still moving forward.
that’s essential to remember.
change doesn’t often look like what we’d expect, and neither does growth. i tend to think that an essential part of the healing process is accepting that and learning to be okay with it. you are going to falter and stumble and get triggered and fall into the same habits and negative thinking, and you are going to make the same mistakes. you are going to mess up. you are not perfect, and that is okay because the thing that counts is that you’re trying.
it’s okay to have a moment when you’re yelling at yourself again as long as you have that moment and let it pass. it’s okay to cry. it’s okay to feel like shit every once in a while. it’s okay to feel the same self-loathing washing over you again. it’s okay as long as you recognize, this is a moment. i am going to feel this, process it, and keep going. because that’s the thing — feelings are fleeting, and the bad moments pass. at the same time, yeah, that means that good moments pass, too, but the good moments wouldn’t be good if we didn’t have the bad to contrast them.
and another lesson? just like it’s okay to feel the negative shit, it’s also okay — and essential — to feel the positive. when something good happens, sit with that and exult in it. celebrate the happy. congratulate yourself, and do something nice for yourself. sometimes, that means taking a nap, hugging your dog, going out for a nice meal. it can also be taking an afternoon off to go to the beach, the bookstore, the gym. or something nice can also look like paying a stupid amount of money to spend two-and-a-half hours with your best friend creating two custom lipsticks because you’ll be living on different coasts again and you won’t be able to see each other as often anymore.
if you’re going to pay to get custom lipstick made, you should go for something you can’t find easily in stores. my friend goes for a coral and a dark pinkish brown, something she wouldn’t typically wear. i make my go dok-mi shade and a shiny brick red, and i leave with other colors i’d come back to create, like the first pink-brown samantha makes for my friend — it’s too light on her, on her already pink-hued lips, but, on me, it’s the perfect pink-brown, a shade i’ve been looking for recently.
i figure i’ll keep looking for a pink-brown in stores, see if there’s one that’s readily available, but, if i can’t find it, i’ll come back to bite’s lip lab to create it. i might also come back for a glossy true orange. i also want to create a variation of my go dok-mi shade, make it more orange, less pink, but just as soft and pastel. pastel orange-based shades can be hard for me to find because they look too chalky, too white, too uneven in application.
that’s some time later in the future, a few months down the road. for now, there is this cross-country move to make, a new job to transition into, and an apartment to furnish. i’m planning to bring my dog across in three to six months, so i’ve also got to figure out how to manage that, what to do with my dog if i’m working longer hours, how to make sure the transition is goes smoothly for him. i’m thinking that it’s time for me to stop thinking so transiently, to start investing in pieces, whether they’re furniture or clothes or, even, bags, and to stop living such a disposable life that i can get rid of and pack up every few years.
i’m thinking, i’m moving back home, and it’s time to lay down roots and really make it home.
it’s time to stop running.