Rick Scott stood behind the podium, ready to address the plight of Floridians.
He was governor-elect now. People awaited his every move, promises of 700,000 jobs, accountability and small government.
But first, a little love.
"I want to start with my wife, Ann, the next first lady of the great state of Florida," he said during his acceptance speech Wednesday.
The towering Scott took his wife of 38 years by both hands, bent down and … Smooooooch.
Therewith commenced the vexatious pigment transfer that has plagued the male-female romantic merger for centuries. Her lipstick. To his mouth. Eck.
Scott stood back up, and seemed to consider it.
What to do? Do you wipe off the lipstick and risk looking cold and grossed out? Or do you pretend the lipstick is not there and finish your speech as Emmet Kelly?
Scott wiped it away.
"I always do that," he murmured.
This is not searing political news. This is searing lipstick news. And if you've ever been married, or stood under the mistletoe, or suffered overzealous Auntie Maude at the family reunion, you understand that lipstick is a troublemaker.
Cleopatra made hers from crushed ants and carmine beetles. Martha Washington made hers from wax and lard. In the 1800s, Queen Victoria put the kibosh on lipstick, calling it fit only for prostitutes and actresses.
A woman named Ruth van Herpen once kissed a stark museum painting by Jo Baer in an attempt to cheer it up. She had to pay to restore it. Likewise, the California tomb of Clark Gable is routinely peppered with lip prints.
Oprah Winfrey embarrassed herself when celebrated New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees appeared on her show. Winfrey smudged a finger across his cheek.
"All right, who just kissed you? There's a big old …"
"I don't know," Brees responded. Because it wasn't lipstick at all, it was a birthmark.
Most guys hate kissing lipstick, said Leandra Medine, author of the Man Repeller fashion blog. Man repelling, she says, is "outfitting oneself in a sartorially offensive way that will result in repelling members of the opposite sex." Harem pants, overalls, shoulder pads. And, yes, sticky lippy.
Scott made the right move, she said.
"I suppose wiping it off worked, because it's his wife," said Medine, who lives in Manhattan. "She's not going to divorce him because he wiped off the lipstick. But this is a big debate. All the men I know said red lipstick makes you look unkissable, a little too affected, like wearing a hat or something. It's sort of unnecessary."
Rub-free matte lipsticks exist, but modern women want to look glossy, said Sarasota makeup artist Stephanie Gimson. She has worked with royalty, politicians and celebrities including Vanessa Redgrave and David Bowie.
The only solution is the pucker.
"Just don't go for the full mack on the lips kiss," she said. "If the media has cameras pointed at you, it's best to do an air kiss, or slightly to the side."
After the wipe, Scott gushed about his wife, saying "Her love is absolutely the most important thing in my life."
The crowd cooed. He looked to Ann Scott with loving eyes, but he stopped short of making a second swoop.
"I'd give you another kiss," he said. "But I'd have to wipe it off."
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8857.