Only When I Laugh
by Elouise Bell
What Makes Botticelli Blush?
[p.53]“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” according to Juliet. But what did she know? She was only a fourteen-year-old who probably used her mother’s make-up when she could get away with it.
The people who really know what’s in a name are the pros of marketing. According to a book by a long-time insider at Revlon, most of any cosmetic company’s big bucks go to the marketing division that season after season comes up with a palette of names for the product. Only a few pennies of what we shell out for lip, eye, cheek, and fingernail adornment go to cover the cost of ingredients: the rest is purely to pay for the enticement.
Take that rose Juliet mentioned. Of course no lipstick today would be called “Rose,” any more than you can buy a tube called “Red.” (I do remember a lipstick called “Windsor Rose,” but that was a generation ago in another world altogether.) Blusher, nail polish, et al. are sometimes named after flowers, it’s true, though increasingly less so, because flowers aren’t, well, erotic enough. But you might see something called “Halcyon Hyacinth.” Or “Tempestuous Tulip.” Or “Violet Vibrancy.”
[p.54]But as I said, flowers don’t yield many cosmetic names because they are simply too tame. After prowling through counter after counter displaying the make-up arts (this in Philadelphia’s main department store), I concluded that any self-respecting cosmetic must bear a name that (a) hints none-too-subtlely of torrid passion, and (b) suggests food or (c) summons up the setting of an exotic jet-set playground. Notice that (a) is a must; (b) and (c) can spell each other off.
Now let’s reflect a little more on (b). One might come up with several reasons why lip-gloss or blusher should bear the names of tropical fruit: “Pouting Papaya,” “Mango Tango,”
“Melon Frost.” I will leave those deeper implications to your fertile imaginations, and simply suggest that since the world of high fashion generally is trying to convince women that a touch of anorexia is in, the way occasional spells of fainting used to be, they can then turn around and play upon chronic starvation in the name of their products. Am I exaggerating? You’ve seen the come-ons: “Strawberry Sin,” “Raspberry Rush,” “Lemon Libido.” For variety, liquid refreshment is included: “Daiquiri Dusk,” “Marguerita Mist.” As for jet-set settings, of course they abound: “St. Tropez Shame,” “Acapulco Aura,” “Maui Masquerade.”
But above all, the lip-gloss we love, the blusher we buy, the nail polish we prefer must suggest s-e-x in the full spectrum, from light romance to heavy breathing. One line of cosmetics has out-done itself, I think. It has come up with a great name: “Botticelli Blush.” What a heavy scent of suggestiveness there! To mind come all Botticelli’s buxom, bare-breasted beauties, blushing or otherwise. And think what the name suggests by way of future possibilities: “Rubens Romp.” “DaVinci Damask.” “Goya Gilt.” “Picasso Pique.”
Ah, there’s pure poetry in them thar’ cosmetic counters. The product names will titillate, tempt, entice, and enchant. There’s just one thing they won’t do: tell you what color the stuff is. “What’s in a name?” Everything but information, babe.