I have always been fascinated by odd careers. I thought if I ever wrote quirky novels, my neurotic, bookish, yet sweet, wry, and sweet heroine would be the person who paints the murals behind the animal displays at the Museum of Natural History. Because really, who does that? And it must be fun, right?
Anyhoo, this weekend I had an odd little experience that added another bizarro career to the list. I was puttering around Sephora, as I am wont to do, and decided to revisit that stalwart classic, Clinique. I was pleased to see that they have now created a gloss version of their cult favorite, looks good on everyone ‘black honey’ (good call, Clinique, even if it is about ten years later than it should be), and then decided to continue my never-ending quest for a natural looking lipstick (you see, I have a distinct ‘tell’ as to whether I’m sick, hungover, or tired – my lips go white. Like, literally devoid of color, fishbelly white. It’s not pretty, but neither is that range of brownish tans or ballet slipper pinks that tend to be marked ‘nude’, so I’ve been looking off and on for something that will make me look not like I am wearing lipstick, but also not like I should be found in the first five minutes of ‘Law and Order’ by curious schoolkids playing in a dumpster).
As if by magic, my hand was drawn to a peachy pink simply marked ’24’ and nestled in amongst its many brethren. I tried it on, and lo, it looked like I had gotten a full night’s sleep, like my cheeks were blushier and my eyes were brighter and I could be kin to the fat baby cherubs painted on cielings, and whom I could swear were now singing somewhere far off. I thought I may have found it, but thought I should wear it around for a while, see how it wore. So I looked down at this beautiful corally pink, this peachfuzz color, this hues of the first glow of sunset color clutched in my hot little hand to find the title, and read ‘nearly violet’.
Now, readers, I was confused. This lipstick was many things – SPF 15, potentially the answer to a long search, high-impact according to the marketing – but the one thing it was most definitely not, by any stretch of the imagination, was violet. Or anything close to violet. I even thought to myself of the actual violet flowers, thinking that perhaps I was forgetting the rare breed of peach violets, but no go. Violet is purple, and this color was as much ‘nearly violet’ as it was ‘nearly ultramarine’ So, I asked a salesgirl, figuring perhaps Sephora had made un petit error and marked the tube wrong, and that I would end up going home to open up a garish purple tube by accident. But no, the salesgirl’s response when I said ‘this is marked ‘nearly violet’, but appears to be the least violet color ever’ was ‘yeah, they shouldn’t have named it that, should they?’
No, Borderline Rude Sephora Salesgirl, they shouldn’t. But I looked at the display, with no fewer than 85 different shades ranging from light pink to dark brown, and thought about how many years Clinique has been coming up with names for shades that are only different by virtue of a slight frost in one, perhaps some SPF in another, and I felt their pain. It can’t be easy to come up with a bajillion names for the same thing. However, if you’re going to stick with the idea that each name should be vaguely related to the color it represents (the same line has a ‘metallic sand’, which sounds like something that would send you to the hospital after a day at the beach), and the best you can come up with for this color:
Is ‘Nearly Violet’, I think it’s time to retire your namers, who are clearly either running out of inspiration or, frankly, going a little blind. And, since you’re hiring, hire me! I’ll give you my first name on spec – for this lovely shade, which shall soon be tucked into my purse, I suggest ‘Berocca’, after the magical Australian hangover remedy.
You’re welcome, Clinique.