I’ve watched my friend Andrea put on lipstick hundreds of times over the years and never before felt desire. But the other day, while I watched her swipe a tube of Chanel Rouge Coco over her wide, expressive, pouty lips, I was overcome.
“You have such gorgeous lips,” I said with a sigh.
I wasn’t coming on to her; I was just suddenly and sharply aware of the difference between her mouth and mine. Her lips are as plump and rosy as ever. Mine are disappearing to such an extent that I imagine them as an equals sign at the bottom of my face.
My Lip Line
My lips have always been thin—thin like you’d see on a church lady finding a pee stain on the altar carpet—but someone once kindly described them as “patrician.” Whatever that means. In college, when I complained about my lips, a friend responded by telling me I had a perfect Cupid’s bow on my upper lip. As much as I wanted to believe her, I knew that as a good Southern girl, she was simply finding something positive to comment on.
I’m still scarred by Barbara Hershey’s lip work back in the 80s, when she was starring in Beaches.
I wore lipstick like any other red-blooded American woman, and for a while I was under the grossly mistaken impression that I could just apply the color past my lip line to make them seem larger. Think of a toddler who has gotten into a cherry pie. That was this phase of my beauty bumblings.
Back when I went to make up counters, I was always told to buy a lip pencil and draw the line larger than fill in with a lipstick of a slightly lighter color. A very patient clerk would then minister to my Gumby-like lips to show me how it’s done. OK, I might have looked fine walking out of the department store, but the lipstick would always wear off before the lip pencil. I ended up looking like I was wearing a red corral around my mouth.
I know a dermatologist would really like to get hold of me and inject the crap out of my lips with filler. I see plenty of women on Instagram and the red carpet who have chosen this duck-mouthed solution. I will have no part in that. I’m still scarred by Barbara Hershey back in the 80s, when she was starring in Beaches. Even Erma Bombeck weighed in on her transformation. “I have no idea what Beaches was all about,” she wrote. “All I could focus on was Barbara Hershey’s lips. She looked like she stopped off at a gas station and someone said, ‘Your lips are down 30 pounds. Better let me hit ’em with some air.'” I never think of Bombeck as a purveyor of caustic humor, but apparently Hershey’s kisser struck a nasty nerve.
Mostly, I’ve dealt with my lips by wearing a very light color—nothing darker than the rosé I drink in the summer. And lately, as my lips seem to be on an astonishingly successful diet—if only other areas could lose bulk as quickly—I’ve opted for no color at all. I think I’ve finally realized that color just calls attention to my mouth and how little of it there really is. I got to that conclusion on my own, but experts back me up on this get-naked impulse.
After contemplating and coveting Andrea’s mouth, I made the mistake of Googling, “Do lips get thinner with age?” The Internet returned with the most emphatic, “Yes, Ma’am.” As with so many beauty issues at our age, loss of collagen is the main culprit here. Curse you collagen, you slacker!
But there’s more: “As we age, we begin to lose bone density, which not only creates a more sunken look in the face,” says this plastic surgeon, who is probably trying to make us all feel worse so we’ll come crawling to him for bubble mouth. “This bone loss causes the lips to roll inward and as a result, they appear thinner than before.”
The sun, which breaks down collagen, also plays a part in the great disappearing act. Experts suggest we always use lip cover with SPF. I’m already down with that. Too much sun on my lips leads to cold sores, and the only time my lips are full and pillowy is at the beginning stages of a cold sore. But then comes that hideous scab. Ewwwww!
I found out a lot of other things about lips too.
I didn’t realize there was a whole quasi-science, supposedly derived from Chinese medicine (whaaat?), devoted to interpreting lip size and shape. I kid you not. Of course Cosmo has this covered. “If your upper lip is naturally fuller than your lower lip,” a Cosmo article expounds, “it means you’re a giving person and you’re concerned about the other person’s needs in the relationship as well as your own.”
As a person with both thin upper and lower lips, I’m supposedly a loner.
As for me, as a person with both thin upper and lower lips, I’m supposedly a loner but I’m OK with it because I “don’t need to be attached at someone’s hip.” Oh, you didn’t know about the lip-hip connection?
My Google spree also turned up lots of photos of women who supposedly have thin lips. Kirsten Dunst, Karlie Kloss, and Amy Adams are mentioned as thin-lipped women who have apparently not felt the need to go down Injection Road. To me, they all are truly beautiful and now officially my soul mates.
But the best thing I came across—something that dissipated my pity party—was this story called “Why Having Thin Lips is Actually Hot.” It contained this important reminder that a great smile means more than the size of your lips. “People are going to be drawn to a beautiful, natural smile,” the article says, “however thin your lips may be.”
I’ve always liked my smile, and love showing it. So take that dour Angelina Jolie.