ChapStick is out to get me. Not the company that manufactures the sneaky little suckers, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. The actual tubes of lip balm themselves. All of them. And not just the ChapStick brand. Every brand. All of them. At this very moment, the 40 or 50 tubes of lip balm I’ve purchased over the past year are all hiding. Snickering with their own little smirky lips, giving off a faint whiff of nothing, vanilla, strawberry, coconut, whatever. I can feel their beady little eyes on me. They would rather waste away to nothing — evaporate, if that is even physically possible — than stay in my pocket or within my arms’ reach.
The ChapStick addiction has been handed down in my family from generation to generation. From my father to me, from me to my own sons. I suspect that the lip balm lineage goes father back up my line, too. Turns out a physician and “pharmacological thinker” named Dr. Charles Browne Fleet invented ChapStick in the 1880s. The original product looked like a wickless candle wrapped in tin foil. I wish it was still wrapped in tin foil. That way the little bastards would be easier to find. I’d see a glint of reflected sunlight in the backyard and then pounce on the wayward balm. I’d notice that the telltale sting of foil pressing against my leg from within my pants pocket was suddenly missed. Then I’d search furiously my immediate vicinity. Recruit my family members to cast a broader net for capture. Hell, I’d even press complete strangers into service on the city streets if it meant catching an errant ChapStick before I lost another one. I’d happily channel Tommy Lee Jones’ The Fugitive sheriff character if it meant I’d hang onto one more tube just a little bit longer. And unlike Sheriff Tommy, I’d control the situation and pull the trigger before letting my lip balm jump off the waterfall. If I can’t have it smeared on my lips, then no one can have it smeared on his or her lips. It’s like that.
I mean, look at Mr. Jones (Mr. Lee Jones?) here. The man has lost control of the situation. And look at his lips. Chapped! Not me.
I am not picky. When I finally give in and purchase a new lip balm unit, I am mindful of the planet and my place on it. I delicately pull the tube from the shelf. Ensure words like “organic,” “cage-free,” “really freakin’ good for you,” and such, are printed somewhere on the packaging. I hand it to the cashier with a puffed out chest and self-righteous air (me, not the clerk. I won’t stand for that kind of attitude from my cashier). I watch the $17 disappear from my bank account with the swipe of my red plastic card.
And then the high-end piece of wax is gone. Just. gone.
Faced with dried up lips, I will scavenge. Overturning hampers holding my sons’ filthy clothes, hoping to find a stick in one of their pockets. Digging to the bottom of our cars’ center consoles. Pushing through the cracker crumbs, dog treat remnants, and half-melted pieces of gum. Go ahead, get yourself deep under my fingernails. My lips are burning. I don’t care. I’d thrust my fist into a bucket of needles right now. Bring it.
In these dire circumstances, you see, I will resort to just about anything to sooth the savage beast. Cake-battered flavor lip balm bearing a logo of some young girl in a bonnet? Manna from heaven. A drop of olive oil — at least I hope it was olive oil — found on the kitchen counter? Don’t judge. My wife’s lip balm (OK, I admit it may have nudged closer down the spectrum towards actual lipstick)? Jergens yellowish hand lotion in one of those big bottles? Let me tell you something: You don’t need to threaten my dog, just hand me the lotion. Yes, it puts the lotion on. I will put the lotion on.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. I am no longer that smug yuppie at the Whole Foods. I am reduced, essentially, to dumpster-diving my way to healthier lips.
I’d love to keep typing here, but my mouth has run dry, my lips are starting to sting, and there isn’t a ChapStick to be found. There must be something around here that will do the trick….
Thanks for reading.