I drew a cat face in orange flavored chapstick once, at four or five, carefully outlining whiskers and a triangular nose in the upstairs bathroom with pink curtains. Really, nothing about the bathroom was red, but we all called it “the red bathroom” until we painted it yellow when I was much older. Now we call it “the big bathroom.”
I was disappointed with the finish product, determining orange had been the wrong color choice, too subtle and transparent, but it did smell nice. Private disappointment doesn’t last long at four or five, and I forgot about the face paint and went on to something else.
Sitting on the front porch with my mother and her friends later that evening, Lydia, the southern, pretty one with blond hair grabbed my head in her hands and said, “what’s on your face?” It took me a moment to remember drawing the nose and thin stripes of whiskers. It suddenly seemed very silly to say it was an effort to draw a cat face. I hadn’t done a good job, after all. More than anything I didn’t want to say what I had tried to do. Stammering and prickling with heat I said I’d been playing… It’s my first memory of humiliation.