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.


Toilet Paper, Tuna, and Advil.

Alright, now that the trees are off my house–at least for the time being– I can get back to milking my 40th birthday.

This is the list of items Michelle said I must bring with me for my secret birthday outing:

Multi Tool

Yoga Clothes

Paper and Pen


Something to Sleep in

Bath Salts

1 outfit that is not fancy but a step up from yoga clothes


Toilet Paper

Metro Card

1 can of Tuna

Bus/train pass to get back to New Jersey

An Open Mind.

I had no idea what she was up to and was a little concerned. There were also exact instructions for my arrival: I had to be dressed up and call a specific phone number before being allowed entry to the building.

Sunday morning, my first day off after opening the new show. I’d stayed up late the night before playing Scramble online with my sister in Indiana. CC let me sleep in. When he went to pick up the kids from Sunday school he told me he was going to take them shopping to get them outfitted for their spring sports.

I was sitting at the table having breakfast when they came home. All of a sudden, my sister called out from the bottom of the stairs and then walked up into the living room.

I thought to myself, man, I know I haven’t been home much but I swear she went back to Indiana. She’d come and stayed to help with the kids while we were in the long hours of production. In that moment, I thought that she’d been there all along and I’d forgotten. In reality, she went back home about a month prior.

And then I realized she was one of my birthday presents. She’d flown in just for this weekend. I’m pretty sure I swore in front of my children. I was quite happy about it.

Beth helped me pick out something to wear and then I started assembling my items. I naturally assumed that she also needed to bring the same items and figured they were in her suitcase.

I discovered I’d left my multi tool at work. Likewise, my bank card (production kind of fries your brain). I had to borrow those things from CC.

We were inexplicably out of tuna. Also I had no bath salts. At the time, I had no idea there was a drug by the same name, but no matter- I didn’t have any of that kind either.

In discussing, I discovered that Beth hadn’t brought toilet paper, bath salts, or tuna because she didn’t have room in her suitcase, so we had to stop by the store on the way out to the city.

Finally at the stage door in New York, I called the number which connected me to our door person Christine. She allowed me entry but then went over the list of items with me before I could go any farther. She had a copy of the list. We checked off every item.

Christine: What about a paperclip?

Me: Crap! I totally forgot. It was a late add. It’s not on the original list.

Christine: I have to see if you can still come in.

Christine then paged Michelle over the paging system and informed her, and everyone else, that I had no paperclip.

Permission was granted for me to come in anyway.

We took the subway up to Harlem. We got hit up by some breakdancing kids in the subway car. There are all kinds of subway performers and you tend to get desensitized to the ones you see all the time on the route you take every day. However, this wasn’t my normal train, and I was impressed as hell.

Three guys were breakdancing, one at a time, in the middle of the subway car. It’s not very wide. They did backflips and spins and handsprings without ever once hitting a seat or a commuter. The air from their handsprings moved my hair. They climbed the pole too- one kid held himself out from it completely horizontally for several seconds. I gave them a wad of cash and later hoped it was my ones, and not my twenties by accident.

When we dropped our stuff at Michelle’s I pulled out my items from the list. That’s when I found out the entire list was bullshit. All those subsequent phone calls (“the tuna has to be dolphin safe” and “make sure it’s the kind packed in oil” and “you also need to bring a paperclip”) served only to mess with me.

100% unnecessary

Well done, friends, well done.

Michelle had made us dinner reservations at Red Rooster in Harlem. It’s hard to get into, and well worth it. Here’s a picture of us that our cute actor/waiter who didn’t protest nearly enough when they told him it was my 40th birthday took:

It’s a little dark, but in the one with the flash we all look either insane or satanic. I also like this picture because it’s a good boob shot of Michelle.

We had corn bread with honey butter and tomato jam which was amazing, and I had the Mac & Greens- the best mac & cheese you’ve ever had, with a side of greens. Seriously good mac & cheese, even better than The Eatery’s mac & jack, which is my other favorite. For dessert we split an order of Sweet Potato Donuts and the Warm Semi-Melted Chocolate Tart with Red Velvet Ice Cream.

To die for. Wow.

Then we trekked back to Michelle’s apartment and somehow ended up watching Shrek 4 and enjoying it an awful lot more that is probably reasonable. I’m serious, I totally loved that movie. I ought to get out more.

I did end up using my newly-purchased, non-hallucinagenic bath salts. She has a great bath tub and I don’t have one at home. Well, there’s a bath tub in the kids’ bathroom but, ah, I don’t go in there.

For the next day, something was planned at night but I had a choice of what we could do in the morning/afternoon. My choices were Zumba, Yoga, mani/pedi, or walking the loop in Central Park. I picked Zumba.

But then when we got right down to it in the morning, I picked sleep.

Michelle’s apartment, even though it’s in Manhattan, is very quiet. In no small part because she does not have five children.

We we ended up walking the loop, which I’d never done before. I tend to see the same teeny-tiny bit of Central Park when I do go there, which is not often. The loop is 6.1 miles. It was a beautiful day; perfect weather, and a massive, welcome change from spending all the daylight hours indoors in a dark theater.  Somewhere after we passed the halfway point, I felt it: I was exhausted and my hamstrings were angry, angry rocks. And we weren’t even running.

It was very cool though. I got to see the city and things blooming and got to exercise while having conversations. Normally when I work out that’s not an option because I’m too busy trying to breathe, and not pass out.

I told Michelle that she could have strung me along longer with the list of items. She could have had me schlepping tuna and toilet paper through the park for six miles.

It was a whole day of hanging with girls and good conversation, a rare and unique experience for me which I greatly appreciated.

The grand finale of my secret outing was still yet to come.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. What was the deal with the paperclip? That was my sister’s contribution to the list. You can read about it here. If I were making the list for my sister, I would include something relating to Santa.