50 Shades of Ruby Vibes

If you are a woman who wears lipstick, or if you have ever lived with such a woman… or worked with one… or sat next to one on a bus… or passed one in the street… you know that at some point, lipstick tragedy occurs. The arch-nemisis of every perfect shade of lipstick is one word- just twelve letters that fill the aforementioned lipstick-wearing women with fear and rage:


Every time you find your new perfect shade, you think this time will be different.

It’s never different. You may be lulled into a false sense of security for a bit, but after you’ve used up and re-bought that lipstick a maximum- yes, maximum, and that’s only if you’re very, very lucky- a maximum of two times, it is always discontinued. Always. And the hunt begins again.

You may start your hunt on eBay or Amazon, but if you’re like me, you’ll be late to the party. Everybody else already knew it was going to be discontinued because they followed that shade on Twitter, while you were trying to keep Twitter “professional”.

You have no choice but to continue the hunt in the field. It’s scary and uncomfortable and you don’t like to do it, but you do it anyway.

You put on pants and go to the mall.

This is precisely how I ended up with the most expensive lipstick I’ve ever bought. I took my sad, empty tube of Ruby Vibes into the supermegafacepaint store and pleaded for help.

“It was perfect,” I said. My eyes were welling up.

“Oh no! Discontinued,” the lady said with an empathetic nod. She handed me a tissue and I dabbed my eyes. “I’m so sorry, honey.” Then she took me on a tour of 50 shades of almost-but-not-quite Ruby Vibes.

Touring lipstick shades involves getting many swipes of testers on the back of your hand. Depending on the shades you’re testing, you start to look like either you’ve gotten into an altercation with a feral cat or else you really need to go see the dermatologist, like yesterday.

Somewhere around shade 36, my sales lady showed me a great color. I dismissed it immediately because of the price, and carried on through the rest of the tour. But it stuck with me.

It was wine, but bright. The tiniest bit of iridescence in indirect light, but not a shimmer, not a sparkle. A hint of berry. It was, dare I say it? I do. It was better than Ruby Vibes.

I pointed to the slash on my hand. “This one? Can I see this one again?” She knew right where it was and led me back.

I made another line on my hand and held it up by my lips and looked in the teeny mirror. My hands looked like I’d been fondling barbed wire and razorblades but this one stood out.

She opened a brand-new tube in right in front of me and dialed it up so I could see that sharp, slanted edge that always gets me more than a little too excited about a lipstick. Completely seduced, I bought it.

Daisy Plum. Thirty-two dollars.

I have a friend who is the kind of friend everyone should have. The one who is always on board with your impulsive, extravagant purchases; your perhaps not carefully-thought-out schemes; your bold decorating ideas. I once called her in a panic because I found myself in Nordstrom’s shoe department seriously considering buying either a pair of peep-toe calf hair Kate Spades or a pair of sueded art-deco Marc Jacobs mary janes.

She talked me off the ledge. I bought both. (This was before I had children. Duh.)

Naturally, the first thing I did after buying a $32 lipstick was to hit the Godiva store and text her.

Me: I just bought a $32 lipstick.

Her: You’re insane.

Me: Wait til you see it! It’s awesome!

Her: You’re insane.

Me: It’s called Daisy Plum.

Her: You’re insane.

She’s just jealous because Daisy Plum is not her perfect shade. Besides, I know for a fact that she has spent $28 on a lip gloss, and I don’t see what the difference is. (I mean beyond four dollars. I can do math.)

I stand by my purchasing decision. This is the kind of lipstick that when I wear it, people ask why I’m all dressed up when I’m actually just wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Also, it opens doors. Observe:

I work in a theater next door to a concert venue. Sometimes when a band plays there they’re trying to use the same frequencies we do for our wireless mics in our show. We have to go talk to them and get them to change frequencies to avoid disaster (picture, if you will, a touching dramatic scene of a father mourning his dead daughter interrupted by a crass and loud CHECK ONE TWO!!”).

It’s a touchy operation, because most rock and roll sound guys aren’t used to having to do frequency coordination; they’re used to being the only thing happening in town that night. They’re usually behind schedule, understaffed, and haven’t had enough sleep.

The day Guns-N-Roses played next door, it was deemed my turn to go tell them they had to move their frequencies. I’d been working in the shop all day and was dirty, tired, and decidedly uncute. But I did have Daisy Plum in my tool bag.

I used the $32 lipstick/walkie talkie/work boots approach. (It’s highly possible I may have used lipstick to get backstage to a GnR show in the 80’s, but that’s a little fuzzy.)

I talked my way right in, smiled at everyone and got to the right guy. They were all friendly. They got off my frequencies. They moved their shizz and were nice about it.

About ten years ago when I was on the road, I remember a waitress I had in Rochester whose only adornment was her lipstick. She wore no other makeup, her hair wasn’t anything special, she had no jewelry; but her lipstick was perfect. I’ve never forgotten her.

Though I’ll bet you $32 her shade has been discontinued.


34 thoughts on “50 Shades of Ruby Vibes

  1. If you weren’t such a tremendously talented mixer and a great friend to all of us in the theater, I would beg you to quit your “day” job and write exclusively! Your writing style is a treasure

  2. I dream of finding my perfect shade some day…hopefully in one of those non-smudgy varieties.

  3. I get it. I found the perfect shade once. It was in a discount bin because it was being discontinued. I bought all they had–five tubes. When I finished the last one, I cried a little.

  4. God, I love the way you write!

    I hear ya. I have a tube of the perfect lipstick and I am savoring it, only busting it out for special occasions. Lipstick really can make your whole look. I don’t wear much makeup in general, but just a touch of the right color will transform me from a hag to sexy.

  5. This is pure genius, Jules! I think we’ve all experienced that “discontinued” experience and it isn’t pretty. Sure, they come out with new ones, but they’re not the same. Great title, inspired writing. Love this!

    1. I once found a discontinued shade that I’d been keeping an eye out for, and I bought it. Turns out it was so old the entire makeup had changed and it was unusable. So sad.

  6. Russian Red. I went to get a new tube the day after I broke up with my fiance (like 18 years ago or something) only to find out the it was discontinued. I was more upset about the lipstick than the guy.

  7. I HAAAAATE THAT! Oh, I get SO MAD. I don’t wear stick so much as gloss (which my boss – my BOSS – watches me apply, and refers to as “lip lube.”). My most recent loss was Rimmel’s Vinyl Gloss in Cosmo. Rimmel, how could you betray me? You’re supposed to be the COOL makeup. Sigh. Have you SEEN Axl Rose lately, PS? Tragic. He’s gone the way of Val Kilmer.

    1. Totally Val Kilmer. I actually can’t keep it straight anymore who has the rights to the name; he may not have even been there. Which probably would have been better. But yeah.

  8. I love this. So sad but so true. “Powerful” by Mac. It’s my sexy, tanned look without the sun, look 10 years younger shade. And it’s D-I-S-C-O-N-T-I-N-U-E-D!

  9. Having your favorite makeup discontinued is a serious hardship. It’s work to find the perfect new replacement product. Even from the picture that looks like a great shade. And $32 is NOTHING if it makes you feel like a million bucks.

  10. I always appreciate your fashion sense with lipstick; but your catharsis made me wonder just how hard could it be to just make whatever shade you want? What is lipstick anyway? Some bees wax, emollients, a little color (non toxic of course) maybe a touch of fragrance? Just heat it all over a Cadac power supply and poor it into those little tubes. Sounds like a project for the next work call.

  11. I know this pain of which you speak. In 7th grade, they stopped making “Pink Lilac in Love” nail polish. I thought I would die. Instead, I stopped wearing nail polish. Then they freaking discontinued this amazing silver shimmer lipstick that I used over everything. Only on my bottom lip. I had 4 tubes and they kept me going for years. Right before Tech’s bar mitzvah, I realized I was running low on my Zuzu Luxe lipstick. And then when I called?

    I learned they’d stopped producing it “a long time ago.” I begged them to look in their overstock. Just one tube. I just needed one stinkin’ tube. I’m pretty sure I sounded like a heroin addict. It was for naught.

    I bought a tiny little brush and vowed to only use my silver shimmer that weekend.

    It’s gone now.

    And it hurts. It hurts.

    1. I think it’s the worst when they say it was discontinued “a long time ago”. I have decided to no longer save anything for special occasions, and to buy two of whatever I love.

  12. I’ve still not got over Black Tulip being discontinued… way back in the 1970s! I don’t wear lipstick anymore (not sure why I stopped) but your post makes me want to start again! 🙂

  13. You are SUCH a girlie-girl … I love it! BUT this post struck terror into my heart because I had no idea that was even possible (although I am always waiting for Estee Lauder to discontinue Aliage, the fabulous woodsy perfume I’ve been wearing since 1980. seriously.. although I have cheated on it with Jo Malone a bit). But I’ve been wearing Spice by L’Oreal forever and I can tell you right now, just knowing that it is possible they’ll discontinue it makes me feel like it’s inevitable. And then I’ll have to spend $38 on a tube and I’ll hate myself. But hey ..I know EXACTLY what you mean about what a little lipstick does for your soul. It’s the ass-kicking cosmetic accessory no girl should go without!

  14. How did I miss this post?! I so would be talking you onto every ledge if every ledge ended in peep-toe shoes and perfect lipstick.

    But I’m cheap a lot of the time. It’s just that when you buy something like that, and see its power and feel the superior, wonderful, silky awesomeness of the way the other half lives and lipsticks, you can never go back again.

    And see? It does open doors. Even if you have to take out a second mortgage.

Comment. It gives me a reason not to clean my house.

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