In Defense of Really Expensive Lip Balm

In Defense of Really Expensive Lip Balm

I'll go ahead and put all my cards on the table: I am granola, through and through. Granola on principle, granola while produce shopping, even my makeup is granola. Literally, granola is in my gut as we speak.

It's not just me, though. "Granola" can be found almost anywhere. Green smoothies have caught on, yoga pants are widely accepted in the home as loungewear, and my electric company just notified me of my clean energy options. Granola terminology, like “organic cane sugar” and “gluten-free turkey jerky,” is all over the grocery store. I think it's safe to say that granola is trending.

So what’s with all the granola? Is it here to stay ...or nah? Is my personal granola habit only part of a passing craze, or could it be something more—speaking in granola terms—sustainable?

Even I am guilty of using the term pejoratively, for instance when I hear someone raving about how much they *love* kale as an addition to their acai-chia-spirulina smoothie bowl, or when noticing the sometimes shocking price difference between organic and conventional food. It's easy to balk at anything that seems a little bit, well, trying too hard. However, I think there's a case to be made for trying hard where it counts.

At its core, behind the followers, the fanaticism, and the farro flour, the "granola ideal" is about one simple thing: preservation. It aims to protect the health and well-being of our bodies, homes, and larger environment, and to set up future generations for similar success. It is a pure notion that’s gotten mired in trend and politics, but I hope that won't deter anyone from making decisions he or she believes in.

Sure, I get plenty of grief for springing for Burt’s Bees lip balm or organic apples or subscribing to Honest Co. for my kids’ diapers, but it doesn’t bother me because I know why I do it. It’s the same reason I save money avoiding candy, chemical household products, and takeout dinners: I want my body, my family, and my world to be better off.  

When I was very young, I was stung all over by a swarm of bees because I accidentally invaded their world. It was early spring, and I spent a lot of time hunting for wild crocuses. The crocuses grew in small, purple clusters in our front yard. They were difficult to find since they stood no taller than grass. You had to be almost directly overhead in order to spot them, and when I did, I got down low on my stomach, dirty bare feet sprawled behind me (I guess I was granola then too), and I nestled my whole face in the velvet society of crocus blossoms. The smell was incredibly sweet, like iris-infused honey. This was a novelty.

On the evening I found the bees’ nest, I was ambling the perimeter of the yard and noticed a bald spot in the grass between our antique twin pine trees. I came close and lay down low to see what it was, worrying in my child's heart that it could be a patch of destroyed crocuses. No sooner had my concern arose than a manifestation of swarming yellow jackets, lifting me to my feet in what felt like a cloud of little vibrating shadows.

Instinctively I ran toward the house, my eyes closed, my feet trying not to step on them. My mother just happened to be there, opening the door for me—along with my two younger sisters, who were, unfortunately, being charged with the same offense. We were escorted straight to the bathtub, which soon foamed with oatmeal and pink Caladryl.

Once we awoke from our primal trance of flight, we felt the pain. As a distraction from our discomfort, we counted and compared stings, and whined about whose were worse. My mother tweezed out a stinger from my sister’s arm, and we inspected the gnarly spike with awe. She fed us saltine crackers as though we were ill, and we soaked in her attention. This is one of the earliest memories that has defined my sense of home: a place with a door to shut out the attacker, a place to soothe stings, a place that welcomes you despite the risk (in my case an entire family of retaliating bees). In hindsight, I know the bees were protecting their own home, for the same reasons I would want to protect mine.

Now that I’m grown, I have a larger perspective on home. My childhood home felt safe because of my parents, and now that I know how rare a good home can be, I feel it’s my responsibility to be someone who promotes and protects home—the thing we all want if we’re being honest. This includes not just healthy food and air, but healthy language. This includes little purchases like Burt’s Bees lip balm because, by the way, the world really needs bees, and the company is doing something to preserve them. You can assume that, in a way, the bees and I have made amends.

In the grand scheme of things a $4 lip balm, a backyard wildflower garden, and one family’s compostable diapers aren't much. But it’s part of my swarm. 

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