A box arrived at my work with a seductive message.
It promised "the pouty lips you always wanted. Naturally."
I had not given much thought to the state of my lips, but I supposed that maybe they could be a little plumper.
"What harm could there be in trying a device that doesn't involve needles or chemicals?" I thought. The company had sent my office the CandyLipz Xtreme Lip Shaper to be tested, so why shouldn't I test it? In retrospect, when "lips" is spelled with a Z and "extreme" with a capital X, it may be a red flag about the scientific validity of the product.
I vaguely recalled hearing about some ridiculous "lip challenge" that had been making the rounds among teenagers, but this wasn't that, of course. This product came in a fancy box and retailed for $69.99.
I handed the instructions to a colleague, who seemed a little too amused and eager to spearhead the experiment. After inserting my lips in the mouthpiece, I was told to compress the sides of the cylinder. When I released the tube, it created a vacuum that sucked my lips into the plastic tube.
I looked at the fashion editor who had been guiding this misadventure, and she said the directions said to keep it dangling there for two minutes.
It hurt a lot. When the two minutes were up, I broke the seal and peeled my lips out.
They were definitely swollen. Within minutes, I saw a reddish-purple ring form around my lips.
I looked like I had been punched in the mouth.
The discoloration around my mouth got darker by the hour. My colleague advised me to find an ice pack. By the time I got home, hours later, it looked like my mouth had been lined with black marker.
"Look what I did," I said to my family.
"What happened?" my 13-year-old daughter asked. I described the product I had tried at work.
"You know you just basically did the Kylie Jenner lip challenge, right?" she said, making no effort to contain her smirk.
The indignity of being called out by your child stings more than sticking your lips in a vacuum. Trust.
My husband took one look at the ring of dark bruising around my mouth and said: "You are not a child. And you are not a Kardashian."
I didn't have to pout. I was already there.
"I MADE A BAD CHOICE," I announced to all parties who would be witnessing the results of said choice for days to come.
My ego was bruised far worse than my lips.
Sometimes it's difficult to remember how the teenage brain operates. We may recall that we did some foolish things in our youth, but the plus side of thinning hair (and lips) is that experience and maturity make those occurrences far less common over the years.
When confronted with some ridiculous behavior, we may be tempted to ask an otherwise intelligent young adult: What in the world were you thinking?
So what makes teenagers -- and, ahem, the occasional columnist -- take such foolish chances?
A study out of New York University suggests that adolescents are not inherently risk-takers, but they are more likely than adults to take actions when they don't fully know or understand the consequences of their actions.
"In risky situations where you know the outcomes and the probability of the outcome, teenagers didn't take more risks than adults," a lead researcher told LiveScience about the study in 2012. "Teenagers went for the risky option when the outcome was not exactly known." When adolescents know an activity's potential dangers more precisely, they are less likely to participate.
Had I read the accompanying instructions on the Xtreme Lip Shaper myself and known that 80 percent of users end up with bruises on their face, I would have found someone else to test the product. Clearly, there wasn't much forethought involved. I was reminded how easily rational adults can fall prey to marketing and peer pressure.
For five days, I took pictures of my damaged lips and studied the photos for signs that the marks were fading.
"I can't believe I did this to myself," I thought each time. I also took herbal remedies, and watched videos and read articles on how to heal bruises faster.
As the days passed, I also embraced my humility and vowed to remember this feeling when one of my children does something head-shakingly dumb.
There's a thin line between a fat lip and a fathead.