Thursday, August 1, 2019

Word of the Year 2019: Action: Lipstick and Salvation

Adelita comics, Museum of the Revolution, Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. February 2017.

Curious juxtapositions.

A security contingent for President Bush the Younger breaks a homemade, Pray for Peace, sign that my friend, Kate, brought to a protest.

Kate and presidential security at protest in Jefferson City, Missouri. Photo credit: Jenna Isaacson. April 2006.

A devilish dilemma between celestial salvation and the earthly decadence of pie, in tiny Rodeo, New Mexico.

Salvation or decadent pie? Rodeo, New Mexico. March 2013.

The promise of cookies to munch while talking of oppression and privilege at UTEP in El Paso.

Brown bag lunch for privilege and oppression series, UTEP. El Paso, March 2017.

In today's post, it's about action and lipstick. 

There is a little 12-step treatise that guides the reader how to manage a day. In one section, it goes like this:
Just for today: I will be agreeable. I will look as well as I  can, dress becomingly, keep  my voice low, be courteous, ...

Which takes me to good counsel from my mother many years ago about the value of making one's bed every day and cleaning off the kitchen counters. "These are small and easy tasks," she said, "but they make a tremendous impact" on how a room looks and how you feel.

There are so many unmanageable events, conditions, and people around us. I can give myself a little quality-of-life order in a chaotic world by making my bed, wiping down a kitchen counter, wearing clothes that I feel pretty in ... and putting on lipstick.

It's not only about me.

In one of my past lives, I was a cog in a government program designed to help low-income dads find sustainable work so they could better support their kids financially.** At one program design meeting, a colleague proposed that we refer to ourselves and our dad-clients by our first names so the men would "feel more comfortable." It rankled me then; it rankles me now. It bespoke a fundamental disrespect for the men, unintentional on its surface, but deep down, a presumption that there was a lack of honorifics in the men's personal communities.

This might seem to veer away from a conversation about lipstick and salvation, but for me, there's a connection. Because, sure, when I apply lipstick, it is about me, and my desire to "look as well as I can, to dress becomingly, ...." But when I apply lipstick on my way out the door to support, or protest, or walk in alliance with someone, it is also me giving that person or group the same kind of respect that I give to a companion if we were to go to a fine restaurant or a party or out dancing.

(A man once lamented to me how his mother puts lipstick on for the arrival of his brother, but never for him, which, in his mind, proves that their mother values his brother more than him.)

So I had to smile a few weeks ago when I did my first water run with Humane Borders. Our group of four bounced and bumped on a rutted gravel-then-dirt road in a big ol' truck to places only visited with any frequency by Harris hawks and jack rabbits. At one of the water barrel stations, we took a snack break, after which one of my fellow volunteers shared regretfully, "Oh, I left my lipstick at home, and now that I've had a bite to eat, I can't re-apply any." I laughed appreciatively. Yes! I knew exactly the disappointment!

A week later, I answered an urgent evening call for volunteers to welcome the arrival of 30 new refugee guests at the Benedictine Monastery-cum-refugee shelter. As I approached the main door, another volunteer met me. She informed me that the guests had been successfully absorbed into the shelter, so neither of us were needed, adding, "And here I'd put on my lipstick and came over as soon as I could!"

And I laughed, and exclaimed: "Me, too!"

I'm no Adelita with stiletto heels and cinched waist, but lipstick, oh yes. Bring it to the revolution.

I'm pretty sure she's wearing lipstick. La Batalla Por Juarez, Carlos Flores, Chamizal National Monument exhibit, El Paso, Texas. October 2016.

** Tee hee hee. "Sustainable work." That's how things began, but they soon segued into funneling folks into low-paying, low-to-no-benefit jobs in chicken and turkey processing plants.

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