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Lip Balm Junkie

Veena Thomas

Surely your mother warned you not to become a heroin addict. But what about a lip balm junkie?

I started using lip gloss after the eighth grade. It started off innocently enough: a little tube of strawberry Lip Smackers. I started using it because I just didn’t want dry lips, that’s all. But soon I realized that I liked my lip gloss. It tasted pretty good and made my lips shiny. I thought my new lip gloss made me cool.

But that bubble was cruelly burst one day in study hall when a friend of mine laughed at my method of application. I told her that I was new to the lip gloss scene, and she kindly tutored me in proper lip balm techniques. But the humiliation lingered with me, and it was months before I applied lip gloss outside of the shelter of the girls’ bathroom.

Sophomore year that faithful tube of strawberry ran out. I was lost. Turning to the drugstore, I found a three pack in Vanilla, Blueberry, and Raspberry Chocolate and bought it. Returning from a school field trip, I casually applied my vanilla lip gloss and suddenly the cute guy behind me said, “Wow, that smells good. What is it?” I showed him, and we struck up a conversation. Some girls smoked to look cool, but I was content with lip gloss.

Yet there’s a darker side to this tale. Things started getting really bad when I ran out of gloss and my mom bought me a Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker. I soon became hooked. It tasted great and even made my lips a little redder. It was perfect. I swore by Dr. Pepper, and in return it was always there for me. We went everywhere together. Every time I ran out, I would buy a new one. There was nothing else. I couldn’t even switch flavors; that would be cheating on Dr. Pepper. But after leaving for college and aching to experience the real world, I started fooling around a little on the side with other lip glosses, while still keeping Dr. Pepper as my steady. After experiencing the Cambridge wind, I bought a medicated Chapstick, and liked that tingly menthol feeling. I must confess I left Dr. Pepper alone for a little while. But when I lost my Chapstick, Dr. Pepper was there, as faithful as always. I soon regretted my little fling.

After running out of lip gloss recently, I immediately hit the mall to replace it. But it was nowhere to be seen. I frantically pleaded that Dr. Pepper would again become my one and only. It was too late.

In theory I could have returned home without any lip gloss. But just like anyone facing a cruel end to a relationship, I was already missing the comfort that lip gloss had given me. Unlike a romance, lip gloss may be a physiological addiction. For instance, the day of my 8.012 and 9.00 finals, I couldn’t find my lip gloss. Growing desperate, I looked in my backpack for the remains of another lip gloss. But nothing. My lips became unbearably cracked. I could hardly focus on gyroscopic motion.

I asked my sister, a fellow lip gloss aficionado, about this problem. I figured she’d know, since she carries four lip glosses at any given time; she’s a proponent of the conditioning-base coat-middle layer-top coat lip gloss theory. She confirmed my suspicions that lip glosses could be addictive and directed me to the Lip Balm Anonymous website at www.kevdo.com/lipbalm.

There I found some frightening information. While no one can prove that lip balm is physiologically addicting, apparently menthol dries out lips while providing a cooling sensation, ensuring the user will continue. But even Vaseline is no less addicting. The testimonials from addicts are truly scary. Lip balm addiction affects both men and women, with Carmex being the most frequently mentioned hard-core balm, but with my beloved Lip Smackers repeatedly cited as the gateway balm and what hooks young children. One woman confessed that she has thirty lip glosses. She has introduced them to her three year old son also, but feels guilty acting as his dealer. People quitting cold turkey turn to salad oil and margarine.

I wondered if I was mildly addicted, especially because in the mall, I realized that I couldn’t make it any farther alone. Unable to find my old standby, and realizing that perhaps I had fallen victim to a comfortable relationship, I took a risk and bought a new kind of lip gloss. It was called, aptly, Gotta Date?

Yes, I do. And it’s not with you, Dr. Pepper. I’ve moved on. But I can’t claim to be an independent woman; I can’t live without lip gloss.