Pucker Up: This is How One Gay Man Lost Control of His Fetish

Written by | Columnists and Letters, Gay Voices

Handsome man's face

His childhood preoccupation with lip balm has only grown since grade school. Now Wade wonders whether it will land him on My Strange Addiction.

My obsession with lip balm began in grade school when I stole Bonne Bell Root Beer Lip Smackers from the backpack of the girl who hung her coat next to mine. I hid it and ran all the way home after school to try it on.

I looked beautiful.

For years, I’d been fascinated watching my mother put on her makeup. She perched on a tiny stool in front of her vanity and transform her face. She always ended with a dramatic red lip.

Moreover, I liked the way my contraband lip balm felt. My brother and father always had chapped lips. Though they slathered on Chapstick, its pasty texture never cut it for me.

When I confessed my obsession to one of my best girl friends in middle school, she started giving me her castoffs. These mostly consisted of half-used tubes or flavors she didn’t like.

In high school, I began to use my allowance to buy balms at the mall. When I went to college, my roommate (and eventual best friend) busted me mid-balm-application. I showed him the stash I’d hidden under the bed.

“Okay, Christie Brinkley, what the hell is going on?”

I confessed, and he laughed. “Better than being a serial killer,” he said.

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By the time I started my career, men’s makeup had become en vogue, thanks to MTV. That’s when my lip balm obsession turned more extreme. I began to buy lip balms to suit every occasion, mood or need.

I found that Vaseline Lip Therapy worked best overnight because it coated my lips well, kept them moist and tended not to fade away. For me, finding Burt’s Bees was akin to stumbling upon a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. They had fruit and veggie-based balms that were tinted! And a simple quiz (asking for my eye color, hair color, and what color best complements my skin tone) led me to just the right shades for my face.

Oh, and there were endless variations of shimmer! I waved wands to apply glosses that sparkled, shined, and hydrated in muted tones of pink, rose and taupe. These not only elevated evening looks but could be varied to match to my ensembles. For day, I sported SPF-laden balms that looked sexy in the sun.

A number of years back, I began to acknowledge my lip balm love publicly on a book tour. Some readers learned because they asked about my daily routine or if there was anything in my life about which I was obsessive. Others learned when they  caught me applying my “lip” before going onstage. I even began to show off the contents of my pockets, including the fact that I often carry two or three balms any given time. That way, I can mix them to get just the right feel and tint. Though I was occasionally uncomfortable when this was met with silence, I was pleased when that gave way to understanding.

“My lips require five steps!” some women would say, showing off the contents of their purses.

“I have over 200 pairs of shoes!” said others.

“I have over 300 perfumes!” some even admitted.

Meanwhile, men would reveal they had obsessions with buying “tools” or “golf clubs” or “ballcaps.”

Eventually people — friends and strangers alike — began giving me lip balms. I kept them all – until one day when I heard a crash. Gary was on a cleaning spree. He had opened my medicine cabinet (the one that is off limits to him!), and my lip stash came tumbling forth.

“WADE!” he screamed.

My glossed lips trembled.

“This has gone a bit too far, don’t you think?”

The entire sink was filled with balms. And yet there were still more to find — in drawers, in pockets, in my jewelry case, under the bed.

“I don’t know whether to submit you to My Strange Addiction or call Marie Kondo immediately,” he said.

“I know it’s a tad obsessive,” I explained.

“A tad?”

“It’s just this weird little indulgence that helped me realize I was gay and also empowered me to be me.”

Gary smiled. “I understand,” he said. “But some of these…” He opened a tube and curled his lip as if he’d just sniffed a carton of old milk. “They’re just downright nasty.”

I ended up paring my collection — a bit. And then I ended up buying more. But I also realized that was perfectly fine. I may have too many lip balms, but it is a relatively inexpensive and harmless indulgence that keeps me happy and my lips healthy.

Just don’t invite me over and leave a Bonne Bell Root Beer Lip Smacker unattended.

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Last modified: October 14, 2019