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It’s bad enough when paint colours or decorating fabrics are discontinued (oh, they SAY it’s to provide a fresh look to decor but we all know it’s just to make you spend more money recovering an entire sofa when one pillow is ripped or paint a whole room when there’s one tiny wall gouge). But the utmost in frustration is discontinued lipstick colours.

A few years back, my daughters watched me become apoplectic when my special coral shade was no more. I had worn it for years. We had become old and faithful friends, accustomed to each other’s idiosyncrasies and flaws. Then one day, it disappeared. I looked high and low for unsold stock in many stores, hoping to hoard and at least postpone the day of reckoning. But all to no avail. I was forced to go cold turkey. After many hours of sampling, I finally came across a shade that would do. Although I ‘settled’, I recognized that, with my advancing age, perhaps I required a more sedate, senior-friendly colour. Time to accept the inevitable. Time to acknowledge that the spring chicken had turned into an old hen…with the wrinkly lips to prove it. The colour I chose was sedate, dull, and, if I’m honest, a touch depressing. It did not make me feel happy and bouncy the way the old colour had. Too bad…time to move forward, put away childish things or whatever that ridiculous saying is. Dark and sombre it was.

One should never allow oneself to become complacent. The fatal day came this week when I needed to replace my now new standard colour. And guess what? Discontinued! I explained to the drugstore clerk what shade I was looking for. “A bit on the plum-ish side. With a hitch of an orange overtone. But not too bright and cheery…I’m old, I should paint myself accordingly. No shine, no sparkle, doesn’t have to be ‘permanent or long lasting’. Really, at my age I’m living life on the edge assuming I’ll make it to dinner. I don’t want my lipstick to outlast me.”

She gave me a funny look but offered to help me search. Fifteen minutes later, she had lipstick samples all over both her hands and starting up her arms. And for each sample, there was my upturned nose. “No…too pink. Too orange. Too perky. Too dark. That one looks like it should be used by a mortuary person on a cadaver…” And on and on. I’m a hard customer to please. When I sensed she was close to tears (or going postal), I thanked her profusely for her help and released her from my clutches. The last vision I had of her was her head on the counter, her body shaking in fits and starts as she sobbed. I was tempted to say,”Now you know how I feel”, but didn’t. I swear, if the head honchos who make the decision to discontinue colours could see the results of their meddling and the havoc it wreaks, they might operate differently. But I doubt it.

Since my old lipstick was worn down to an uneven stub, I was forced to try again. This time, I didn’t take a clerk hostage, but hunted on my own. I have to say, I was much kinder on myself than that poor clerk. Or perhaps I’d just lost the will. I picked something, took it home ‘for better or worse’, and proceeded to clean out the drawer containing my lipstick graveyard. Then, feeling daring, I decided it was time to open and christen the new shade on my lips.

Do you think I could open it? Presumably, in an effort to discourage theft, the manufacturers had put a plastic wrap around it…a wrap that is impossible to remove without using a sharp object. I chose scissors. As I stabbed at the supposedly ‘perforated’ line, I cut myself several times, causing blood to make the whole thing slippery and even more impenetrable. Do the makers not realize that some of us lack the dexterity to gain entry to their products? I mean, give me a break. I’m already buying coloured goop to make my wrinkly lips look younger. How am I supposed to make my arthritic fingers flexible enough to crack the code to free the product? Reality check, people. I realize we’re not your favourite demographic, but take pity. If you don’t, women like me will be taking it out on your poor defenseless salesclerks. It will get ugly — much uglier than our naked lips.

When I told Gill of my debacle, she rolled her eyes. (I love Skype, don’t you?You can SEE your kids’ derision as well as hear it.) “Ma, are you still waging the Battle of The Lipsticks? I thought you’d outgrown that.”

“No, I haven’t. Nor have I outgrown my desire for fabulous, high-heeled shoes or lovely clothes. I’m old…please leave me SOMETHING!”

“Watch it, Ma. You might be discontinued if you irritate enough people.”

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