Giving Up the Greenies



Hi. I’m Matt, and I’m a balmaholic.

There. I’ve said it. That felt good.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery, right? No one outside my immediate family knows this, but…I haven’t been without a tube of lip balm at the ready and in my pocket for at least the last five years. Day in, day out. I have spare tubes in my nightstand, in my desk at work, and in the bag I carry to work every day. Crazy, right?

But I’m ready to do something about it. This Sunday is the first day of spring. The dry days of winter are basically over, so I am using the first day of spring, 2016, as my first day without the balm. I’ve got three more days to figure this out.

My lip balm of choice for the past five years has been the forest green tube of Blistex Medicated. SPF15. “Greenies.” Nothing else will do. Don’t come near me with your Burt’s Bees or your Tom’s of Maine peppermint organic. I’m a Blistex green man, through and through. When the blue tubes just didn’t cut it for me anymore, I switched to the good stuff.

In drug stores, I demand Blistex green like Dennis Hopper demands PABST BLUE RIBBON in the film Blue Velvet. I know what I like and I like what I know. BLISTEX! GREEN! MEDICATED!

Like a lot of adult abusers, my troubles began in my youth. I can recall buying the classic black ChapStick tubes as a pre-teen when my lips got chapped during harsh western New York winters. And it didn’t help when Santa put tubes in my stocking every Christmas. Soon though, occasional hits of ChapStick (we called it “Black Tubing”) grew into hitting the harder stuff.

My high school friends and I went through a period of dangerous experimentation with Carmex liquid. I never inhaled. And after a mini-vat of heated Vaseline exploded in my dorm room one day, I knew I was going down the wrong road. I quit the hard stuff for good, and resolved to only use Blistex tubes. But they have slowly become a problem too.

I’m exaggerating for effect in the previous few paragraphs, but here are some of my real life, all-time lip balm lows:

  • using my daughter’s Bonnie Bell Mango Tangelo Lip Smackers lip moisturizers when my greenies run out
  • running out of balm and still scraping my lips with the hard plastic underside of a tube just to get a microscopic amount of balm – it’s like scraping your armpits with the underside of the deodorant dispenser when it runs out – you know it’s going to hurt, but you do it anyway
  • main-lipping gobs of uncut Vaseline right out of the jar when I run out of balm and the CVS down the street is closed for the night

I pretty much hit bottom this past summer when my problem showed itself to my daughter. That’s when I knew it was the beginning of the end for me. We were at a bookstore on a college campus taking a quick tour. I realized, with slight terror, that I wasn’t packing.  Maggie saw me at the check out counter just a few minutes after we walked into the bookstore.

“Dad. You’re only buying lip balm??” she squealed, more than a little confused. She thought I’d be getting a cool sweatshirt or coffee mug or something.

“Yeah…I…” I stammered, sweating profusely. It was awful, my daughter seeing me like this. “But I…I didn’t run out…it’s…the worst part is…it’s just back in the car.”

Maggie couldn’t understand why I didn’t just walk back the 200 yards to the parking lot we’d just come from to go get the greenie I’d forgotten. She’d never understand, even if I tried to explain. I don’t know if I understand it myself, even today.

And one of the worst parts of this for me is that I am a guy and I can’t live without lip balm. Society will look the other way when women are addicted to the stuff, but being a GUY with a lip balm addiction is doubly cruel. I’ll be in the middle of a staff meeting, whipping out the balm every ten minutes and I feel like all eyes are on me.

Women are expected to walk around with lipstick on them or near them, so it’s no big deal if they’re using lipstick or lip balm. Nobody gives a rip. But let a guy reach for his balm one too many times and he starts to get sideways glances and people start snickering. More than once, I’ve heard friends rattle off their lousy Jackie Chiles imitations, “Who told you to put the balm on…?!?”

Enough. I’ve had enough. Enough of summertime clean ups of melted greenies in the glove compartment of my car. Enough of that little line of wear the tube makes in the front right pocket area of my blue jeans. Enough of searching for the nearest CVS on Google maps every time we plan a vacation away.

Enough. I have just resolved to quit. It’s now or never. This Sunday, my hope will spring eternal. And my life will go on…without the balm.

7 thoughts on “Giving Up the Greenies

  1. No, no don’t do it! You can be a greenie man. Women don’t get to have all the fun. Men can use lip balm. Only give up your addiction is you want to. Tomorrow I am going to look for the green tube. I have been a Burts Bee lip balmer, now I see I have been missing the Johnny Walker of lip balms.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am really feeling the need for some chapstick right now… 🙂 this was well crafted. 🙂 I read that if you drink enough water, you won’t need lip balm! Maybe that would help your quitting… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am such a fervent frequent user of lip balm that one day I whipped open my desk drawer, pulled the plastic cap off and smeared…
    Looking at the oddly purple color before me and beginning to feel the effect on my lips — Argh! Glue stick!!!
    I was wiping it off with whatever paper was on my desk…
    A chapstick lulu.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This was a delight, you had me laughing throughout the whole thing! Voice, man, voice!!! Oh, I’m so thrilled for you. This belongs in the New Yorker, the New York Times, somewhere…

    I love that you were brave enough to take an idiosyncrasy about yourself and play.. very brave, very human. And about your favorite thing. I insist you not give it up!!! No!!

    “Packing” line was my favorite. Then I remembered the Dapper Dan Man from Oh Brother Where Art Thou. A lot of fun, thank you! I hope to pass this on..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a wonderful read. I am not a lip balm user, though I will admit to a peach Bonnie Bell Lip Smacker in the 70’s. I might have inhaled. Would it shock you if I admitted I’ve had the same tube of Nivea lip balm for years?

    Liked by 1 person

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