Please note: This transcript has been automatically generated.

Jessica Bennett (00:04):

And I think in some ways the sharing of lip gloss is akin to girls sharing secrets. There’s something sweet about it, even though you, Susie may think that it’s also repulsive.


I’m Jessica Bennett.

Susie Banikarim (00:18):

And I’m Susie Banikarim.

Jessica Bennett (00:20):

And this is In Retrospect, where each week we revisit a cultural moment that shaped us.

Susie Banikarim (00:24):

And that we just can’t stop thinking about.

Jessica Bennett (00:26):

Most of the time we’re digging deep into moments or artifacts from the past. But today I thought we could talk about something that applies to both past and present. That is the extremely journalistic and very hard-hitting subject of lip gloss.


So Susie, I recently found myself in the bathroom of a high school girlfriend in Seattle, and I was instinctively rummaging through her medicine cabinet.

Susie Banikarim (00:57):

Sorry, hold on. You instinctively were rummaging through her medicine cabinet?

Jessica Bennett (01:01):

Yes. I’m getting to that.

Susie Banikarim (01:01):

Okay, I’m going to just make a note of that for when you’re at my apartment.

Jessica Bennett (01:04):

Because I needed lip gloss.

Susie Banikarim (01:06):

You were just going to take her lip gloss and use it?

Jessica Bennett (01:08):


Susie Banikarim (01:08):

Oh my God. I have a lot of thoughts about this.

Jessica Bennett (01:11):

And so I just went, it’s like we’ve been sharing lip gloss since we were teenagers, so I was like, she may be a mother of three now, and an adult person and a very successful lawyer, but she’s got to have some lip gloss in her medicine cabinet. And so I went in there searching for it. And then there was a moment when I did stop to say, wait, is this weird?

Susie Banikarim (01:31):

I have a touch of the OCD as you’re aware, which means that I’m a little germophobic. So I don’t share lip gloss because I don’t want to have something on my lips that someone else has had on their lips. Let’s just be honest for a second. Were you looking for anything else in the medicine cabinet?

Jessica Bennett (01:49):

No, I was genuinely, I needed lip gloss.

Susie Banikarim (01:51):

Because there are people who are just snoops who look in the medicine cabinet just because they’re curious.

Jessica Bennett (01:55):

I mean, she’s one of my best friends. I know it’s in her medicine cabinet.

Susie Banikarim (01:57):

Okay, fair.

Jessica Bennett (01:58):

I think it was like I felt comfortable enough, because she’s one of my best friends to be like, yeah, obviously I’m going to use your lip gloss.

Susie Banikarim (02:05):

Yeah, or take a Tylenol if you need it or whatever. That makes sense.

Jessica Bennett (02:07):


Susie Banikarim (02:07):

Then I think it’s kosher.

Jessica Bennett (02:08):

Okay, thank you. But it got me thinking about, well lip gloss. And also about friendship, because to me, in that bathroom, needing some glass for my lips and also knowing this is one of my best friends since childhood, those two things were kind of intrinsically linked.

Susie Banikarim (02:28):

Yeah, it’s interesting. I think makeup for me in general is something that really makes me think of female friendship. I just remember in college getting ready together or I did my sister’s makeup for her wedding. So it’s this very intimate moment-

Jessica Bennett (02:41):

It’s intimate.

Susie Banikarim (02:41):

When you put makeup on someone else’s face. So I think lip gloss is a representation of that kind of larger phenomenon, which is that makeup is a thing girls do with each other from a very young age. It’s sleepovers. Even before you’re wearing makeup in public, you’re playing with makeup.

Jessica Bennett (02:58):

I just have thinking about this a lot because we all have these kind of funny rituals. A lot of them that probably happen in our youth that establish closeness. They show intimacy. They are like bonding exercises. And I think for me anyway, sharing lip gloss like I did with that friend whose bathroom I found myself in, was one of these rituals to establish closeness. It was a bonding exercise of our era.

Susie Banikarim (03:29):

And I think also one thing that needs to be said is that lip gloss was a cultural artifact of the ’80s and ’90s as you said when we started the show, it’s like I have a very vivid recollection of those Lancome Juicy Tubes and the smell and when they became famous.

Jessica Bennett (03:46):

Those are for the fancy girls.

Susie Banikarim (03:47):

Yeah, I had one of those, so I guess I was a fancy girl.

Jessica Bennett (03:50):

That’s actually interesting you should raise that because I was going to take us through a little bit of the hierarchy of ChapStick and lip gloss.

Susie Banikarim (03:55):

Okay, great. Let’s do it.

Jessica Bennett (03:57):

Because it’s almost like you could organize the entirety of middle and high school girls based on their ChapStick use.

Susie Banikarim (04:06):

Yeah. It’s actually sort of similar to how you could kind of put smokers in categories.

Jessica Bennett (04:11):

Oh that’s funny.

Susie Banikarim (04:11):

I don’t know you ever smoked cigarettes, but I did. And if you were an American Spirit girl, that meant something different than if you are Marlboro Lights girl.

Jessica Bennett (04:18):

Yes. What did your lip gloss say about you?

Susie Banikarim (04:20):

Yeah, so what did your lip gloss say about you?

Jessica Bennett (04:22):

So let me just talk through some tears here. First there’s the kind. So Lip Smackers.

Susie Banikarim (04:29):

Yes, Lip Smackers.

Jessica Bennett (04:30):

Lip Smackers are still popular. They were invented in the 1970s, but they were super popular in the ’80s. You could get the small ones that you put in your pocket or you could get these really big ones that were often attached around a string that you put around your neck.

Susie Banikarim (04:44):

Like a rope? I remember those. Yeah.

Jessica Bennett (04:45):

Lip Smackers were almost like a gateway drug to lip gloss.

Susie Banikarim (04:50):


Jessica Bennett (04:51):

You could get flavors and they had amazing flavors. Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper was my favorite, cherry, and they would give a little tint to your lip, but it wasn’t full-fledged makeup.

Susie Banikarim (05:01):

Yeah. So I think part of this is kind of around what your parents’ rules were, right? I was allowed to buy Lip Smackers or ChapStick and stuff at the drugstore before I was allowed to wear makeup, right?

Jessica Bennett (05:15):

Yes. And that was the big difference between Lip Smacker gals who got their makeup at the drugstore, and Juicy Tube gals who had to go to the department store, which is why I was like, oh, so you were fancy. Because I remember saving up for Juicy Tubes, and going to the mall in the Nordstrom or whatever and having to go to that counter. And I can still taste the smell of that watermelon Juicy Tube. I mean they actually did smell and taste amazing.

Susie Banikarim (05:42):

Oh. I mean, I remember them as smelling and tasting amazing too. I wonder if I would feel that way now, just because-

Jessica Bennett (05:48):

I feel like I found an old one recently. That was the other thing too. Lip gloss doesn’t go bad, I don’t think.

Susie Banikarim (05:55):

Well, so this is an interesting thing about makeup in general. It does actually technically go bad.

Jessica Bennett (05:59):

Like, allegedly.

Susie Banikarim (05:59):

You’re supposed to throw away makeup so much more often than I do.

Jessica Bennett (06:02):

Yeah, than we do.

Susie Banikarim (06:03):

So as someone who’s just mentioned that I have germ issues, it’s probably not a great sign that I probably do have some lip glosses that I’ve had for too long.

Jessica Bennett (06:12):

I mean, I’ve found some in my parents’ house from actual middle school, there was a Softlips that is still in my parents’ cupboard.

Susie Banikarim (06:22):

Oh, Softlips. I remember Softlips.

Jessica Bennett (06:22):

That I have used recently. Those ones came, they were like the Capri cigarette-

Susie Banikarim (06:26):

Yeah, they were like really thin.

Jessica Bennett (06:26):

Really thin and chic.

Clips (06:27):

Say goodbye to waxy, greasy lips. Introducing Softlips.

Jessica Bennett (06:32):

But okay, wait, I want to finish taking you through the other hierarchy.

Susie Banikarim (06:35):

Hierarchy, yes.

Jessica Bennett (06:35):

So I was on Accutane, which was that acne medication that so many people were on.

Susie Banikarim (06:40):

Oh, yeah. People still take that, yeah.

Jessica Bennett (06:42):

It’s part of the reason I have all sorts of stomach issues. It turned out to be very bad.

Susie Banikarim (06:46):

But beautiful skin.

Jessica Bennett (06:48):

Thank you. It made your face and your lips really dry. So Lip Smackers was not cutting it. So I also had to have Carmex at all times.

Susie Banikarim (06:56):

Oh, I was just going to ask if you ever used Carmex.

Jessica Bennett (06:59):

Yes. And so Carmex you remember came in the tub.

Susie Banikarim (07:01):

Yeah, it was like a little tub with a yellow cover.

Jessica Bennett (07:02):

And so you’d rub your finger in it. And so sharing that, probably equally gross, honestly. But a friend wasn’t touching it to their lips.

Susie Banikarim (07:10):

Yeah, I still was okay with that.

Jessica Bennett (07:11):

Okay. So there were Carmex people who had actually chapped lips.

Susie Banikarim (07:15):

But do you remember also that then people started to tell us that Carmex actually, you became addicted to it.

Jessica Bennett (07:20):

Was addictive, yes.

Susie Banikarim (07:20):

That there was something in it that your lips began to need.

Jessica Bennett (07:23):

I know. Was that ever true or was that just a wives’ tale.

Susie Banikarim (07:25):

I honestly can’t imagine. But it was literally, it was making your lips more chapped, so you were addicted to it. And then there was Blistex, which was a similar kind of thing.

Jessica Bennett (07:33):

Yes, so that was always the warning, but then if you wanted to have some tint to your lips, you always had a Lip Smacker with you. And then later, Lip Smacker also created these rolly ball ones where it had one of those little balls on the end.

Susie Banikarim (07:45):

Oh, I loved those.

Jessica Bennett (07:45):

That rolled on. And those were a little more glossy,

Susie Banikarim (07:47):

Those were like stickier.

Jessica Bennett (07:47):


Susie Banikarim (07:49):

Stickier and glossier.

Jessica Bennett (07:50):

And so then there were the actual variations of lip gloss, which were stickier, more glossy, shinier. When I was in high school, the Philosophy brand vanilla birthday cake one was what we all used.

Susie Banikarim (08:04):

I did not use that.

Jessica Bennett (08:07):

It came in this sort of, it was like a sparkly yellowish tint, and it smelled like actual birthday cake, which is so nauseating to even think about.

Susie Banikarim (08:13):

You know Glossier makes a birthday cake flavor now of their lip gloss.

Jessica Bennett (08:17):

And the thing with that one that I distinctly remember is it was so sticky, which for my really chapped Accutane lips was actually good. You wanted it to stick on your lips all day, maybe sometimes more effective actually than Carmex. But I would drive to school and I would get out of the car, and then I would be walking to the front door and it would be windy and all of the grime-

Susie Banikarim (08:38):

Oh, and the hair.

Jessica Bennett (08:39):

And the hair would stick into your lips. And so you would walk into class and you would see your friend and you’d be trying to get the grime out of your lips because you’d have this disgustingly sticky lip gloss.

Susie Banikarim (08:51):

So I never used that in particular, but I used Mac Lipglass. Do you remember that? That was another in the Juicy Tubes. It wasn’t as popular as Juicy Tubes, but in New York at least, it was very popular for a time. And that stuff was literally putting glue on your lips and then you would just have hair stuck to your lips all day. But it gave you a really high sheen.

Jessica Bennett (09:13):

Well, and then later on, this was before the age of Sephora. So then later on Sephora came around and you could get, do you remember Lip Venom?

Susie Banikarim (09:20):

Yes, of course I remember Venom.

Jessica Bennett (09:21):

Which was, it was cinnamon and so it was like putting cinnamon straight on your lips and it was supposed to plump your lips pre the age of fillers.

Susie Banikarim (09:27):

So lip plumpers apparently are having a comeback. Lip plumpers were very popular when I was, I think in my early ’20s. And I actually kind of love that feeling. It makes your lips feel like stung almost.

Jessica Bennett (09:39):

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s a good way to describe it.

Susie Banikarim (09:41):

And some people really hate that. I love that feeling. So I bought a lip plumper again recently, and I’ve been using it and I just was reminded by how much I enjoy that tingle.

Jessica Bennett (09:49):

Okay, interesting.


Okay, so that’s the taxonomy of types. I’m probably forgetting some.

Susie Banikarim (10:09):

Well, you didn’t mention one of my favorites, which was when ChapStick started adding flavors and colors.

Jessica Bennett (10:14):

Oh yeah. That’s true.

Susie Banikarim (10:14):

So for a long time, ChapStick was just like one plain ChapStick, but I think partially because of the rise of Lip Smackers and all those things, although I mean I’m not 100% sure, so maybe someone should fact-check us. But they started to add colors and flavors to ChapStick, which is where we get the Katy Perry song I Kissed a Girl and I Like It.

Clips (10:33):

The taste of her cherry ChapStick.

Susie Banikarim (10:36):

And she mentions the cherry ChapStick.

Jessica Bennett (10:38):

Taste of her cherry ChapStick, which we can all, I think remember the scent of, or the flavor of. Yeah. Then there was this taxonomy of who your friends were based on your ChapStick habits with them or your shared ChapStick habits. And I almost feel like there were friendship tiers based on lip gloss habits. So okay, your best friends, this is my high school girlfriend, best friends. These were the people you’d share your lip gloss with, tube to mouth, finger in, however you wanted to do it, you are sharing your lip gloss with them. They were your real friends. You knew their signature scent.

Susie Banikarim (11:17):

That’s so funny.

Jessica Bennett (11:18):

They knew yours. Maybe you would swap sometimes, but this was a known thing. It was like being in the inner circle.

Susie Banikarim (11:25):

So we didn’t have this. This is so interesting to hear someone else’s middle school and high school rituals, because I don’t have this, I mean, I’m as you know, obsessed with makeup. I have way more than I need, and actually interestingly than I wear, I don’t think if you just hung out with me, you would automatically be like, this is someone who loves makeup. But I don’t have a lot of memories around this kind of sharing. I definitely have memories around makeup in general. But it’s interesting that for you, there was this real relationship with lip gloss that indicated also your relationship to your friends.

Jessica Bennett (11:59):

Absolutely. So then there were the cool popular girls who you didn’t share lip gloss with, but you wished that you did.

Susie Banikarim (12:08):

Yeah. And they all had the fancy stuff.

Jessica Bennett (12:10):

And they probably all had the fancy stuff, or just so many people would come to school with baggies full of every flavor of Lip Smacker or whatever it might be, or the ones that you put around your neck where you’d have multiple flavors. And then there was always, I think in every friend group, the one friend that probably was sort of on the outside, and she always wanted to share the lip gloss kind of annoyingly, and you didn’t really want to share with her. And then you would do it reluctantly and then talk shit about her to your friends later.

Susie Banikarim (12:39):

Oh, I feel so sorry for this poor girl.

Jessica Bennett (12:40):

I know.

Susie Banikarim (12:41):

That doesn’t exist.

Jessica Bennett (12:44):

I do too. And you’d dramatically wipe the lid off.

Susie Banikarim (12:47):

That’s so terrible.

Jessica Bennett (12:49):

Or the top off.

Susie Banikarim (12:49):

I was probably the one dramatically wiping it off.

Jessica Bennett (12:52):

Well, for everyone, yes.

Susie Banikarim (12:53):

For everyone.

Jessica Bennett (12:54):

And I mean, the other thing too, is this was the era of cold sores. So you were also pretty conscious, I think, of what people’s mouths were looking like when they asked to use your lip gloss.

Susie Banikarim (13:06):

So I have a point of clarification, something I need to ask, which is, was there an era of cold sores? Are we out of the cold sore era? I think people still get cold sores, right?

Jessica Bennett (13:15):

Well, but in middle school, wasn’t everyone kissing for the first time?

Susie Banikarim (13:19):

Oh, I see what you’re saying. I think it was the first time you became aware of cold sores as a thing because you were actually-

Jessica Bennett (13:25):

Do you know anyone that gets full-blown, I feel like a lot of people in middle and high school, they would come to school and maybe this is also a relic of the time. And you’d be like, so-and-so’s got one on their lip this week.

Susie Banikarim (13:35):

Well, I think it’s because we’ve aged out of making out with a lot of people.

Jessica Bennett (13:38):

Well, maybe that’s it.

Susie Banikarim (13:39):

You know what I mean? It’s like I’m definitely not making out with as many people as I might’ve at certain points in my life.

Jessica Bennett (13:47):

And also you’re doing other stuff. Middle school’s the age when you were just spending a lot of time kissing, there was a lot of lip contact.

Susie Banikarim (13:55):

I want to say for the record that I was not spending a lot of time kissing in middle school. I did a little kissing. But I think you might’ve been more popular with the boys.

Jessica Bennett (14:03):

Well, but even in high, I mean if it was before you were having sex, there just would be more kissing involved.

Susie Banikarim (14:09):

Oh, right, yes.

Jessica Bennett (14:10):

I just mean prolonged time with mouth-to-mouth contact.

Susie Banikarim (14:13):

Wow, okay. That’s an image. That’s an image.

Jessica Bennett (14:16):

Anyway, so that was another thing that you were conscious of in terms of sharing lip gloss. There was always a friend, and maybe this was sometimes me, where they would fish out their lip gloss and there would be crumbs stuck around.

Susie Banikarim (14:29):

Oh God, I can’t.

Jessica Bennett (14:30):

And you kind of knew, you learned who those people were. I mean, for what it’s worth, I don’t think we were conscious of all of this at the time, but now thinking back to it, I’m like, yeah, you totally knew who the person with the lip gloss with the crumbs in it was. And you didn’t ask to use theirs. And all of it, there was a girl code to lip gloss.

Susie Banikarim (14:49):

Yeah, I mean, that’s what I’m thinking about a lot while talking. What’s interesting to me about this is this idea that there is sort of just these unspoken rituals and language among girls, and I think they’re all very identifiable. Even though I did not have this particular relationship to lip gloss you had, when you explain the hierarchy or you talk about that friend, I automatically can picture exactly who you mean. And there’s lots of little ways in which girls have indicators for each other.


Part of what you’re doing in middle school is figuring out who you are and how you fit in and how everyone else fits in. So there are these little ways in which you categorize people. You’re like, that’s that kind of girl, and I’m this kind of girl, and what does that mean? So it’s just interesting. I’m trying to think of other things that would fall into this category.

Jessica Bennett (15:38):

Yeah, I mean, I do think makeup is really intimate, and this is sort of the era before, because you’re not wearing full-fledged makeup in middle school, I don’t think.

Susie Banikarim (15:46):

Yeah, no, I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup. And I think that’s another reason why lip gloss was so appealing to me because I was still allowed to buy it, but I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup. So I would go to school and I would go to the bathroom and put on my lip gloss. And I think I had a little bit of other contraband I was using, like makeup contraband, maybe mascara, I can’t even remember.

Jessica Bennett (16:03):

You would bring it to school.

Susie Banikarim (16:04):

But I remember we would all be lined up in the mirror in the bathroom at Stanley Middle School in Lafayette, California, and there’d just be a row of us and we’d be teasing our hair. You might not have had this, but I was the era where you just spiked your bangs. You just put hairspray just in this one patch of hair. I don’t know why we thought this was an attractive vibe.


Also, that was the era where you would do just one earring. The one like cubic zirconia earring. That was a very cool thing to do. I remember they did a whole episode of Family Ties about how one of the daughters did that because she was trying to be cool. So she was like, “I have one earring on.”

Jessica Bennett (16:43):

Oh wow.

Susie Banikarim (16:44):

So there were these things that made you part of the in group.

Jessica Bennett (16:48):

Yeah, all the women. And even today, so you’ll go to an event, you’ll be in the bathroom, there’s another woman next to you applying lipstick, and there’s a bit of a shared experience there.

Susie Banikarim (16:58):

Yeah, there’s a moment.

Jessica Bennett (16:59):

That’s kind of bond-ish. And the other thing is, I think because this makes me think of something, which is because this was pre-lipstick, lipstick, you need a mirror to apply to your face for the most part. There is a very specific in-between type of lipstick lip gloss, which is Clinique Black Honey.

Susie Banikarim (17:19):

Oh, I love Clinique Black Honey.

Jessica Bennett (17:20):

Which I believe you do not need a mirror to put on.

Susie Banikarim (17:24):

That’s true. It’s like a very sheer lipstick.

Jessica Bennett (17:26):

But it has tint. This was wildly popular in the ’90s, now it’s popular on TikTok again because everything is back. But with all of these things, you could kind of stand in a group and apply them together. There was a communalness to it because you didn’t need to individually go look in a mirror. You could just sit there and apply your lip gloss while you were talking about last night’s episode of Dawson’s Creek or whatever it might be.

Susie Banikarim (17:50):

Just some throwaway example.

Jessica Bennett (17:53):

And you could do it in any place. So you could do it in the back of the school bus on your way to school. You could do it during first period. You could do it during lunch, on the soccer field. I remember taking breaks to go apply ChapStick.

Susie Banikarim (18:05):

Well, I think also wearing lipstick indicated again, it was sort of a marker of being a different kind of girl. I never really wore lipstick in the traditional sense until probably after high school, probably until college.

Jessica Bennett (18:17):

Yeah, I don’t think I did either.

Susie Banikarim (18:17):

And I think a girl who was wearing a bright red lip in middle school was telling you something about was either really fashionable or was making some kind of statement. Lipstick felt like a strong choice. Whereas lip gloss-

Jessica Bennett (18:30):

I don’t think anyone was wearing lipstick in my-

Susie Banikarim (18:31):

I can’t remember anyone wearing it in my school either.

Jessica Bennett (18:32):

It wasn’t as popular then. Well, I guess we’re a little bit different eras. Like gothy-ish kind of grungy dark-

Susie Banikarim (18:40):

Yeah, I guess there were people wearing black lipstick if you were into goth.

Jessica Bennett (18:44):

Yes, but nobody was doing a red lip back then.

Susie Banikarim (18:47):

Yeah, like the Taylor Smith red lip. That didn’t exist.

Jessica Bennett (18:49):

Yeah, I don’t think so.

Susie Banikarim (18:50):

Did I just call her Taylor Smith? I just want to be clear that I mean Taylor Swift. God, what is happening to my brain?

Jessica Bennett (19:10):

So in going down this rabbit hole of all these different intricacies and minutia and nuance to lip gloss, I looked up some pop culture references.

Susie Banikarim (19:20):


Jessica Bennett (19:21):

Because almost-

Susie Banikarim (19:22):

I love a pop culture reference as you know.

Jessica Bennett (19:23):

I mean, so many of the films and shows from this era reference lip gloss in some way. It’s usually not a focal point of the plot, but there’s always a lip gloss moment.

Susie Banikarim (19:34):


Jessica Bennett (19:35):

So Pen15, I don’t know if you-

Susie Banikarim (19:38):

So I’ve watched a couple episodes, but I’m not a diehard, where so many of my friends are.

Jessica Bennett (19:41):

It’s such a good show. And if people haven’t watched, the creators play themselves as teenagers, so they’re like women in their ’30s playing teenagers.

Clips (19:51):

How do I look though?


You look so good.


No, I don’t.


Yes, you do. Like so good.


This is just like, it doesn’t fit me.

Jessica Bennett (19:57):

And there’s an amazing scene in one of the starts of the episodes where it’s kind of panning to the different groups at school on the first day of school and it’s middle school, and there’s the group who’s all applying their lip gloss and Lip Smacker slowly.

Clips (20:12):

Oh my God.


Connie M. is totally best friends with Heather now.


Oh my God, it’s fricking true?

Jessica Bennett (20:20):

And that very much was the vibe in my middle school. Cameron Diaz in the Sweetest Thing. Do you remember that movie? Did you ever watch that?

Susie Banikarim (20:27):

I vaguely remember that movie. I think I did see it when it came out, but I haven’t seen it since.

Jessica Bennett (20:32):

Well, so it’s kind of this rom-com and she and Christina Applegate are close friends, and there’s this scene where they’re driving in the car and Christina Applegate’s character has dropped her lip gloss onto the floor and Cameron Diaz is going to pick it up. And she’s sort of bobbing as she’s doing so. And there’s some gross guy on a Harley driving by who just sees her head bobbing up and down and gives them a thumbs up.

Susie Banikarim (20:58):

That’s hilarious.

Jessica Bennett (20:59):

Like ew. But kind of funny.

Clips (21:02):

Okay, I found it. Jesus, I almost got smothered down there.

Jessica Bennett (21:05):

There’s also a scene in Mean Girls. I don’t know if you’ll remember this, but this is after they’ve performed at the school.

Susie Banikarim (21:13):

Oh yeah, of course. I remember, yeah. They do the Christmas dance together.

Jessica Bennett (21:17):

The Christmas dance. And Regina George, her boyfriend’s trying to kiss her and she stops him and she’s like, “Lip gloss.”

Clips (21:24):

That was the best that ever was.


That was awesome.


Lip gloss.

Susie Banikarim (21:24):

Which fair?

Jessica Bennett (21:31):

It’s like, do not mess this up. Do not smear it all over my face. This stuff is sticky. It will get everywhere. So that was really funny. And then a more recent show, Euphoria, there is a scene when Maddy is putting lip gloss on Lexi, and it felt very kind of share and tie to me in that it’s this intimate moment. They’re doing each other’s makeup. She’s telling her that 90% of life is confidence in this scene.

Clips (21:59):

90% of life is confidence. The thing about confidence is no one knows if it’s real or not.

Jessica Bennett (22:04):

Maybe that’s true. And some of it also is connected to lip gloss.

Susie Banikarim (22:08):

Well, there’s also two things in Breakfast Club that I remember having to do with lip gloss. One is the scene where the Ally Sheedy character is having the makeover. And so Molly Ringwald is doing her makeup. And I think the last thing is she’s like, she does her lipstick or her mascara, but also, I don’t know if you remember this, but there’s this thing where they’re talking about what special skills they have, and Molly Ringwald puts her tube of lip gloss into her boobs and then she can put it on hands free.

Clips (22:38):

I can’t believe I’m actually doing this.

Susie Banikarim (22:40):

And they really give her a hard time about it.

Clips (22:42):

My image of you is totally blown.

Susie Banikarim (22:44):

It’s kind of this thing where she’s considered this princess character and the way in which they’re indicating that is her relationship to makeup and lipstick and lip gloss, which I think sort of gets again to this idea that we kind of categorize girls as the things they’re into. So if you’re into makeup, it means something, which is sort of interesting. Because I feel like I was kind of a nerdy bookish girl. I collected stamps when I was 10. I was not some princess, but I just loved makeup. And I think there’s this kind of interesting way in which we put girls into categories, but they don’t really hold. We can be all sorts of things. But in that era, you were making a statement if you were into a certain thing versus another thing.

Jessica Bennett (23:31):

Well, I mean, I think that was true, which kind of JanSport backpack you were wearing.

Susie Banikarim (23:36):

I definitely did not have a JanSport backpack. I mean, it’s worth mentioning here that I went to boarding school in New England, so a lot of things that were traditional rites of passage for kids in America just don’t really apply to boarding school. So I think I missed some of these things.

Jessica Bennett (23:49):

You went to boarding school for middle school also?

Susie Banikarim (23:51):

No, I went from ninth grade to, I did it for all of high school, but for example, we didn’t have prom, we didn’t have cheerleaders, and also we didn’t have a lot of the things that would make girls popular in other schools. The thing that was really revered was this very specific New England look, very natural blonde girl next door plays field hockey. That’s not, I think what the popular girl archetype is based on all the high school movies I’ve seen. We just had a slightly different, I wore less makeup I think in high school than I probably were in middle school, which I think is very uncommon. So that’s partially why some of this stuff doesn’t resonate for me in the same way.

Jessica Bennett (24:28):

I mean really what this is about to me at the core is something you mentioned at the top, which is makeup is intimate. And girls, and this is true of research, this has been documented, but girls find interesting ways to bond when they’re growing up. Telling secrets is a really important way that girls bond when they’re in elementary and middle school. And for boys it’s really different. They’re often playing. There’s more action associated, less talking. But telling someone a secret indicates that you are close. And I think in some ways the sharing of lip gloss is akin to girls sharing secrets. There’s something sweet about it, even though you, Susie, may think that it’s also repulsive.

Susie Banikarim (25:12):

Well, I don’t know that I was as insane as I am now about the germ thing back then. I also don’t share drinks, which I think people find odd. But I will say that I also think a big part of this language was sleepovers. Did you do a lot of sleepovers? I had this best friend in middle school who I’ve stayed friends with and who was just a really important part of my life. And she would sleep over, we would sleep over at each other other’s houses almost every night of the week. We just switched from house to house.

Jessica Bennett (25:39):

Oh, even on weeknights.

Susie Banikarim (25:40):

Yeah, because we didn’t have a lot of rules, either of us. Our parents were pretty lax, so we would literally spend weeks at a time together.

Jessica Bennett (25:46):

Oh, wow.

Susie Banikarim (25:47):

And that was also part of this way in which you indicated that someone was your best friend. It’s like how much time you spent with them. We didn’t have social media, so that amount of time spent with someone was just time with them. You weren’t doing a million other things when you were together.

Jessica Bennett (26:01):

So there’s this linguist that I love, and I was looking back at a couple of her books because I thought they might apply to this. Her name is Deborah Tannen and she’s written a number of books about the sexes and linguistic differences. And she also wrote a book called The Power of Talk. She’s a professor and she also wrote a book specifically about the language of women’s friendships called You’re the Only One I Can Tell.


And so I was paging through trying to get some context for lip gloss, and I was emailing with her as well. And so the way she describes how girls communicate and bond is that, like we said, they tend to share secrets. They often play with a single best friend or in small groups, and they really spend a lot of time talking. They language to negotiate how close they are. And as she puts it in the book, the girl you tell your secrets to can become your best friend. So I almost see lip gloss as analogous in some way to sharing secrets. You do it in an intimate space, often it’s in a bedroom or in a bathroom. It, I think has the power to, I may be taking this a little bit too seriously, but also with a grain of salt. It can be intimacy, it can reinforce closeness that I think is central to the lives of girls.

Susie Banikarim (27:17):

It’s making me think also of the other thing you share that’s sort of in this category is clothes. I remember in college getting ready with my friends and sharing skirts and tops, and that was another way in which you indicated this was a close friend, that was the line. If some random girl in your dorm came in and was like, would I borrow this? You’d be like, no.

Jessica Bennett (27:35):

Though there always was someone who wanted to borrow that was not appropriate to lend to.

Susie Banikarim (27:37):

That was not appropriate. Yeah, or your jewelry, we would share jewelry. So there are all these things that you indicate closeness by sharing with another person. And the one other thing I thought of when you were saying that is that we talked on the phone a lot, which isn’t a thing now, but when we were growing up, one way in which you were like, this is a close friend, is they called you on the literal phone, like your house phone. And then you would just stay up for hours. I don’t know what we talked about for so long.

Jessica Bennett (28:05):

Well, sometimes you weren’t even, there would just be long silences where you’d be like, I just remember doing other things. You would be lying on the floor on the carpet of your bedroom with your phone to your head, just sort of living, but on the phone with another person.

Susie Banikarim (28:23):

Yeah. Sometimes you play songs for each other or you’d watch TV together. And I was wondering, you did this thing for the Times about being 13, and I’m curious because they don’t obviously talk on the phone. I’m sure they would think that was crazy.

Jessica Bennett (28:35):

God forbid, yeah.

Susie Banikarim (28:37):

So what are the ways in which they are sharing? Are they also sharing lip gloss still? Is that still a thing?

Jessica Bennett (28:43):

Yeah, actually that’s funny. So the piece, it was this big interactive project, it’s called Being 13, and I followed three 13-year-old girls throughout the course of their eighth grade year to try to understand what life is like to be 13 with a cell phone at a time when girls’ self-esteem tends to really be under threat. And so I wanted to see the intersection of that.


So there were many findings, but they absolutely share lip gloss. It’s actually funny, when we were thinking about this, I texted one of them to be like, “Do you guys still share it?” And she was like, “Oh, of course, yes.” And in fact, I went back to some of the, the girls kept diaries for me, and they also shared voice memos about their days. So I went back to some of my notes and there was a whole passage about she and her best friend sharing their lip glosses. I think they were more ChapSticks or Lip Smackers, and they each had a signature scent. One was cocoa, one was lavender.

Susie Banikarim (29:41):

Oh my God.

Jessica Bennett (29:41):

And they knew that about each other. And so yeah, I think it absolutely still happens. I mean, there’s of course the ways that people bond are different now. Yeah, they’re not talking on the phone. But I do think these little moments of closeness can be a central ritual of growing up female.

Susie Banikarim (30:00):

That’s really kind of heartwarming in a way that it sort of transcends time that girls today still have some of the same rituals we did. That’s really what I loved about that piece is that I expected to feel like their lives were so different from mine in middle school, but I could relate to each of them so much. So many of the issues are the same. Sometimes the way in which they play out are different because they’re happening online. But being a middle school girl is so evocative of a very specific feeling. And we all know what that feeling is the minute you say that.

Jessica Bennett (30:30):

I know. I mean, I can channel my 13-year-old self pretty clearly, and I don’t remember anything. My memory is terrible. But that year, seventh, eighth grade of middle school, I remember so vividly I think because your feelings are just so intense.

Susie Banikarim (30:47):

so intense.

Jessica Bennett (30:47):

And that’s estrogen, that’s hormones. That is a fundamental fact of being that age as a girl. But yeah, for these girls, it was fascinating to see them go through many of those same things like trying to figure out who you are, trying on different identities, figuring out your place in the social hierarchy, whether that is related to lip gloss or not, puberty, boys, girls, friendships, all of it against the backdrop of having this phone that makes everything feel like you have an audience at all times.

Susie Banikarim (31:19):

Well, I’m glad to hear that there are still some physical things that connect girls and I feel like we can leave it there and hopefully everyone who’s listening can think back to their favorite lip gloss and scent and this will have taken them down like sort of a nice memory hole. Although middle school is rough, so if it’s bringing up sad things for you, go find a new lip gloss to change your life with.

Jessica Bennett (31:47):

Susie, we have a really great episode next week, a two-parter. Can you tell us about it?

Susie Banikarim (31:52):

Yes. We are talking about a college women’s basketball team that was dragged into a national political debate about racism after shock jock Don Imus called them an offensive slur. And we have two really great guests, Essence Carson, who is a WNBA superstar and Jemele Hill, who is an acclaimed sports journalist.

Clips (32:14):

I just really felt for those young people because they had achieved something really, really spectacular, and it just felt like the moment was stolen from them.

Susie Banikarim (32:28):

This is In Retrospect. Thanks for listening. Is there a pop culture moment you can’t stop thinking about and want us to explore in a future episode? Email us at [email protected], or find us on Instagram @Inretropod.

Jessica Bennett (32:42):

If you love this podcast, please rate and review us on Apple or Spotify or wherever you listen. If you hate it, you can post nasty comments on our Instagram, which we may or may not delete.

Susie Banikarim (32:51):

You can also find us on Instagram @jessicabennett, and @susiebnyc. Also check out Jessica’s books, Feminist Fight Club and This Is 18.

Jessica Bennett (33:00):

In Retrospect, is a production of iHeart podcasts and the Meteor. Lauren Hansen is our supervising producer. Derrick Clements is our engineer and sound designer. Emily Marinoff is our producer. Sharon Attia is our researcher and associate producer.

Susie Banikarim (33:15):

Our executive producer from The Meteor is Cindu Leive. Our executive producers from iHeart are Anna Stumpf and Katrina Norvell. Our artwork is from Pentagram. Our mixing engineer is Amanda Rose Smith. Additional editing help from Mary Dooe. We are your hosts, Susie Banikarim…

Jessica Bennett (33:32):

And Jessica Bennett. We are also executive producers. For even more, check out Inretropod.com. See you next week.