Special Instructions for Tweens

Avoid menthol, camphor, and petrolatum.  

Specifically, avoid the cool girls from 1986.  The ones who wore Jordache and Ralph Lauren and shopped at The Limited on weekends.  The ones who listened to Madonna and The Cure on their Walkman with foam orange headphones.  This also includes the ones who teased or crimped their hair.  Blue eyeshadow, mascara, eyeliner – stay away.  

A common side effect is addiction to lip balm at midlife.  If you are a tomboy like I was, or even if you have no desire to stand in front of a mirror for an hour each morning – if the only product you put in your hair is shampoo, once a week – you may still be at risk for Carmex or Wild Cherry ChapStick or a similar product deemed popular.   

But I crawl around in muddy creeks, play tag, and ride a boy’s bike, you may say.   I beseech thee, twelve-year-olds.  Gather as many Burt’s Bees, Booda Butters, and Mongo Kisses you can lay your hands on.  Seal them in a Ziplock and place them in the deep freeze next to the remains of your parent’s top tier wedding cake.  Trust me.  I know you think you are strong and independent, but even us Rosie Riveters fall prey to the belief a tightly packaged cosmetic will give us access to status, to happiness.  Those fun and flirty glosses are Satan incarnate on your lips – not because of their hues or subversive names.  No, I’m referring to the ingredients that change the science of your lips.  And, you simply do not have the ability to resist the shape and color of the thing – the sound of the cap, that scent under your nose, the bright seduction of walking confidently down the hall after applying what all cool girls tuck into their purses and pockets.  

Some things are unavoidable.  You are plucky and creative and interesting.  You will still fall.  You will be awfully good at giving in to the bad lip temptation.  You will become an addict – addicted to lip balm.  Prepare now.  Buy Ziplocks.

Sure, you’ve heard that one story about the guy, Bobby, who wore jumpsuits and white Beatle boots and proudly told friends he kept four identical pairs in his freezer at home. Don’t let that get to you.  No one will call you from a sketchy reality television show.  

And here is what will happen if you do not heed these instructions.  You will one day find yourself living in a freshly painted townhouse, wherein each room contains a tin or tube of lip balm – you, never having to move more than fifteen feet for said balm.  Though, one morning, during a meeting at work, you will realize, Gosh, I’m an adult now because I have a job that asks me to dress in outfits from Chicos or Dillards and maintain a professional demeanor with annoying colleagues.  Sheila taps her nails on the conference table, and you carefully slip your hand into the purse slung on the back of your chair until you realize you forgot to buy more lip balm the other day, and at this juncture, you have to do something with the tube you just pulled out – otherwise you will look squirrely or like you have commitment issues – and the edge of the tube will scrape your lips, the thin layer will feel worse than not having any, and you will wonder how okay it would be to dig your pinky into the smidgen of balm caked at the bottom.  In that moment as Sheila announces a new form that we must fill out each month, an even bigger anxiety seizes you.  You see yourself forty years into the future: living in a nursing home – maybe you have a nice rocking chair and a beautiful afghan knitted by a niece, and maybe you are not in pain, but your lips – your lips are dry – chapped – and there is no lip balm.  No Ziplock in sight. No one to understand the urgency.  No one to give you the thing you need.  All the cool girls, long dead.  And so you rock in silent suffering.  Sans lip balm.  End. Of. Story.  

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