Shahla Latifi

Red Lipstick


When I wear red lipstick

I feel calm and refreshed

I feel like a woman in love


When I wear red lipstick

I feel a renewed energy

I feel mightily glorious in the midst of regrets


To me, red lipstick is symbolic of taste and beauty that brings out a woman’s boldness and independence. Red lipstick can overshadow any other feelings and adds to a woman’s beauty, merit, and appeal. It symbolizes the willingness of a woman who likes to take risks and sheds light on her courage.


While growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, I never saw a woman wear a shade of red lipstick or nail polish. Unlike other women who hid their true feelings under the pressure of a conservative society, I had a mind of my own. I was able to verbalize my true opinion and feelings. Also, in a keenly expectant way, I loved to value the colors of light, beauty, and love.


One day I asked my mother: “Why does no one wear red lipstick or nail polish? Why do you always wear the same shades, without color?” With clear surprise in her eyes, my mother calmly answered, “Red is not a good color for a woman! Red does not comply with our virtues.”


For years that answer kept me wondering, why would a beautiful and vibrant color represent vice and iniquity? Why would a color that could transfer a smile to an unforgettable impression, a color that could boost energy, that could increase self-confidence be looked down upon?


Time passed. I grew up. My passion for red lipstick grew with me.


In college, I tried to maintain my modesty and self-effacement. Even though I started to wear lipstick, I stayed with neutral colors only. But as soon as my maturity kicked in, the boldness of my nature resurfaced, and I began to change. With my new-found attitude toward becoming an adult, I wanted to follow my taste and intuition. In trusting my instinct, I went for brighter-colored lipsticks. By wearing each, every day to match my dress or my blouse I felt invigorated. I felt my true self. I felt one of a kind.


But then, as a new bride with no concentration on myself, I lost the brighter side of my taste. I became colorless. My mood was like a shade of gray, it reflected deep despair.


In my early twenties, a time of social and family turbulence, I lost my direction for pursuing my interests among other important things. As much as I wanted to adapt to all the negative stress and life tension and unfairness, the pressure diminished my judgment. Slowly, I crumbled under the pressure, and one by one I found the senses of light, love, and happiness were leaving me behind. And the shade of my lipstick paralleled the color of my depressed mood.


By my mid-thirties, as my brain and body had shed their worries and blossomed again, I embraced the time and difficulties that did not change me, but rather unfolded me to who I was in the midst of all. With the joy of understanding and acceptance, my inner beauty and strength fully matured and I started to care about color and beauty again.


Self-realization requires a tremendous amount of patience and wisdom based on experience, full growth, and strong work ethic. I know this now. I know that the vision and the boldness of a woman's courage are born, nurtured, and consolidated in her from birth. No shade of lipstick or nail polish can identify her true nature and beauty. But again, the color is important. Every color is a composition of inner desires and mental stability toward meaningful dignity.


Now, in my forties, with all the uptightness of society under my feet, raw and bolder than ever, occasionally I enjoy the audacity of red. With every bit of my unique taste of fashion to symbolize the inner sense of my body, I do wear a shade of red. And now and then, with a feeling of deep pleasure, I look within myself and see the reflection of light, color, and beauty.


Shahla Latifi

August 20th, 2019






  • Neville

    I really enjoyed this my friend and truly.......... write on.. Neville

  • sylviasearcher

    It felt like a woman growing and rising into her own skin. Great narrative piece

    • Shahla Latifi

      Very true! Thank you so much, Sylvia

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