Discontinued . . .

By Lisa Nelson

For a woman, it can take a lifetime to find that go-to lipstick. The one that makes her feel as though she can face any job interview, hot date or blistering break-up. The one that transforms her from ordinary to extraordinary with one creamy swipe across her lips.

I found mine the summer after my freshman year of college. My summer job was working at the snack counter of an old-style drugstore in my small town. Bored by the lack of customers, I would often sneak behind the make-up counter and peruse the latest shades of lip stains and nail polish. That’s when it happened – my first glimpse of Snow Cone Pink. A large, illuminated photo hung above the counter. From it, a model with her blond haired head thrown back smiled down at me. Her mouth was painted in the most exquisite pink, highlighting the happiness which seemed to envelope her. She was out of place in that small town drugstore. Models with perfectly painted pouts belonged in Paris. I so wanted to be her, to have her happy French life, to sip a café au lait in Saint Germain and leave a little pink mark on my tasse de café. I was eighteen and in love with love, life, Paris and pink. I needed that lipstick. I just knew that Snow Cone Pink, the most splendid shade of ethereal rose, had the power to transform me.

When I returned to college that fall, my boyfriend was mesmerized. I love your lips….that color. What is it? He remembered the name and referred to it often. “Here comes my Snow Cone Pink girl,” he would say. I vowed to never wear any other color.

For years, I was obsessed with Snow Cone Pink and wore it everywhere. To the interview which snagged my first job. To work where my high school students asked for its name. To the grocery store where a clerk said it matched my bubble gum exactly. On my wedding day with flowers to match it.

I had known that adult life would bring hardship, struggles and tragedies. I was prepared for the shock of car accidents, the sudden deaths of loved ones and job crises. No one had bothered to warn me about the small changes that happen overnight and blindside you. So, you can imagine my horror when I entered my local drugstore to pick up a prescription and caught a glimpse of a sign cruelly declaring that Snow Cone Pink 205 was being discontinued along with a variety of other shades. Unfairly deemed passé, the Pink Paradise Collection was being replaced by a more subdued palette of rose colored concoctions.

Being proactive, I did the only thing that I could do. I scrambled to every drugstore in a 60 mile radius and jumped on every make-up website which carried it. I bought the very last tube available. In one week’s time, I had become a hoarder trying desperately to hide my pink stash from my husband. Every bathroom drawer became packed to capacity with the pink stuff which had become my addiction.

At that time, I still felt hopeful that the company would realize its poor judgment and decide to restock. Perhaps the company needed a little prodding. So, I pleaded shamelessly through a series of desperate e-mails.

-Please bring back Snow Cone Pink.

-Thank you for being a valued customer. Unfortunately, Snow Cone Pink has been discontinued. Perhaps you would like to try a shade from our new Lip Bouquet Collection?

– Thank you, but no. You don’t seem to understand. Snow Cone Pink is my signature color.

– We would like to recommend similar shades:Pretty in Pink and Pink Pastry

– Thank you, but no. Pretty in Pink is too mauve, and Pink Pastry is too bland. I don’t know how to put this in simpler terms…please bring back Snow Cone Pink. It is part of my identity.

– No response. (How rude!)

My treasure trove of Snow Cone Pink lasted roughly two years. I even used a special lipstick brush to dig out every last morsel of the final tube. And then, one day…that was it…it was all over.

I finally came to the realization that it was necessary to accept change. With great reluctance, I settled on a nude color, Nearly Nude Neutral Matte 501, more beige than pink. I had to admit, it was more sophisticated than Snow Cone Pink had been. It was appropriate and suitable…just not magical.

Imagine, my glee, when years later, in 2015, I discovered that another brand had just launched new spring lip colors. Cotton Candy Pink was exactly the same color as Snow Cone Pink had been! It was an epiphany as strong as “Soylent Green is People!” “Cotton Candy Pink is Snow Cone Pink!” I was ecstatic and bought several tubes. All was well in the world again.

I couldn’t wait to smear my lips with Cotton Candy Pink, but when I looked in the mirror, something had changed. In the tube, the formula was identical to Snow Cone Pink in every way, but on my lips, it looked, well, quite frosty. Still, I felt an immense relief as if being reunited with an old friend. I could hardly wait for my husband to arrive home to see if he could recognize that his Snow Cone Pink girl had been revived like a character from The Returned.

I smiled at him, giddily, when he walked through the front door. He looked at me strangely, “What’s up”

I decided to wait until he mentioned my luscious lips. Hours passed.

I reapplied.

As we sat down to eat, my husband stared at me. Here it comes, I thought. The “You look ten years younger” or “I can’t put my finger on it, but you look especially beautiful tonight.

”When he finally noticed, he popped my pink bubble of happiness with one short quip, “Your lips look like a pink glow stick exploded in your mouth.

”Yes, reality had hit. Hard. My pink past was officially over. The makeup marketers were not being cruel; they were keeping me from making a horrible mistake. They were prodding me forward into adulthood. They were giving me no choice but to move from girly frosty pink phase of life to neutral matte sophisticated womanhood.

Deflated, I wiped off my lips, but I saved one tube of Cotton Candy Pink aka Snow Cone Pink. Maybe I could use it with my Halloween costume in the fall.

The next morning, I looked down at my chipped coffee mug….er….tasse de café and noticed that a neutral nude lipstick smudge adorned it. I walked to the hallway mirror and studied my reflection. Around my lips were small smile lines, but I didn’t wish them away. I actually kind of liked them. In the mirror was a woman who looked like she was experienced enough to have already sipped café au lait on a sidewalk café in Paris, like a woman who had secrets to tell yet more life to live. The Snow Cone Pink girl gazed in awe at the neutral-lipped woman who smiled back from the mirror. Who was that woman in the looking glass? She was not eighteen, but she was still in love with love and life and even Paris. She was the transformation of which the girl in the drugstore had once dreamed. She was the woman who no longer needed Snow Cone Pink to define her.

Reluctantly, I said my final goodbye to my frosty pink past. Then, I flew to my car and feverishly rushed to the drugstore to buy ten tubes of Nearly Nude Neutral Matte 501. I am after all, proactive.

About this writer

  • Lisa Nelson

    Lisa Nelson

    After graduating with a degree in business from Indiana University and earning her teaching certification from Hanover College, Lisa Nelson taught French and business courses at the high school level. She completed her TESOL certification from Transworld Schools in San Francisco and currently teaches English as a Second Language to Japanese students in her community. Lisa and her husband, Dave, love caring for their two rescued Golden Retrievers, Brick and Bronson.

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3 Responses to “Discontinued . . .”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Lisa, your essay confirmed what i already know, just when you find the right shade of foundation, hair color or lipstick, somebody has to go and mess up your life. Right now I am purchasing my foundation on line for twice the price from some wise person who must have a closet full because he/she knew the demand is still there. Fun story, too close to home. LOL

  2. Sue Mayfield Geiger says:

    I could totally relate to this article! I spent 30 minutes chatting online yesterday with Lancome asking why had they discontinued “Rendezvous” — the frosty lipstick with shimmers of gold that I loved to wear over other lipstick in the evening or smear it on for a natural look in the morning before heading off to work out. They were so sorry, but I would no doubt be happy with number 335 which is very similar. Not! But this is not the first time. This happens quite often, even with Revlon, NYX, Nars, MAC, Cover Girl, even Burt’s Bees. It’s criminal. However, I did go to my local grocery store’s cosmetic displays and took a chance on Revlon’s “Blushed” — pretty close to “Rendezvous” so I can live with that. And yes, I know you can often find these beloved “discontinued” shades on eBay for a hefty price, but I’d rather just move forward since the lipstick Gods rule.

  3. Rose Ann says:

    How many times have I used a tiny brush or cotton swab to get the very last bit from a tube! These days, it’s layers of different colors that I can never duplicate. Still looking for “the one.” Enjoyed your essay.

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