The fourth poem in Melissa Lozada-Oliva’s book, Peluda is called “Lip / Stain / Must/ Ache.” By the third line, I was crying. “I bought [red lip stain] because of that story / in This is How You Lose Her…” Lozada-Oliva says.
I read This is How You Lose Her, a gorgeous novel by Junot Diaz, last semester. I remember standing on the sidewalk and reading, waiting for my coworker, another Latina woman, to pick me up for work. After work, I stopped by Walgreens and bought a cheap red lipstick. I’ve never worn make up. To this day, the only make up that I wear, and only when I go out at night, is that same red lipstick. I couldn’t pin down why I suddenly started wearing red lipstick. And then I read “Lip / Stain / Must/ Ache.”
“He says red lipstick was made para las Latinas,” she says. And I realized that was why I had been wearing it. The way Lozada-Oliva describes feeling after reading Diaz’s book is the way I felt after reading Peluda “which is seen which is defined which is loved.”
I spent so much of my time reading Peluda sending lines and excerpts to all of my family. I felt understood reading these poems, which was crazy because I still don’t fully understand myself. I don’t know where exactly I fit in racially, culturally. I’m Latina but you wouldn’t know it until I say my last name. My friends laugh at the way I pronounce “mango” and “quesadilla” and “Santa Fe.” I can understand Spanish, but I can’t speak it. I feel like a fake Latina, but I still fill in the “Hispanic or Latino” bubble when I have to give my information. I don’t know what I am. And in Peluda, Melissa Lozada-Oliva reminds me that that’s okay. That even lost, I am human.
And I keep putting on my red lipstick.
Check out Melissa Lozada-Oliva performing her poem “Lip / Stain / Must/ Ache” here: