all of the selves we Have ever been
I burned my cheek with a curling iron.
Two days later, the area below my left eye had swollen into a squishy lump the size of a baseball. Despite the pound of flesh, my hair still looked like hell.
Of course, this happened on a Friday. There were no appointments available at my doctor’s office. I made two attempts at nearby walk-in clinics. On the first attempt, everyone was out to lunch. By the second attempt, the clinic schedule was booked for the rest of the day.
Employing the three-strike rule, I went back to the bench. By then, the day was pushing into evening. I weighed my odds: the wound would either get better or worse. If it got better, I would save time and money. If it got worse, I would spend a large portion of the weekend and my 401(k) in the emergency room.
I placed my bet on good hygiene and “a tincture of time” as one of my former general practitioners used to say, and I went to the medicine cabinet. After reviewing my arsenal, I selected hydrogen peroxide to cleanse the wound and antibiotic ointment to treat it. These measures did not stop me from obsessively combing the internet instead of attending to my unruly hair. I spent a long, restless night convinced I would die from tetanus. Morning came, and I lived—a small victory for benchwarmers everywhere.
When we were kids, we suffered our injuries and left the sleepless nights to our parents. Back then, I would have slathered the burn with butter and got on with my day. If that wasn’t enough intervention, I would have retired to the couch with a soft striped afghan and an afternoon of cartoons. If my mother felt some sympathy for me, she might have brought me warm tea and cinnamon toast. If the situation escalated, the family doctor would have been consulted by phone or stopped by for a late evening house call. The family physician’s entire arsenal fit into a little black medical bag, a supplement to the basics we all had at home.
Home medicine cabinets contained far fewer germ-fighting, cough-suppressing, pain-relieving, age-reversing weapons than we have now. The first-aid kit of my youth contained a mercury thermometer, baby aspirin, and Mercurochrome. With luck, there might be a Band-Aid to spare if Chatty Cathy had not suffered a boo-boo while we were playing house. Most other healing agents were found in the kitchen: baking soda, a shot of whiskey, hot tea, honey, chicken soup, cinnamon toast, and butter.
Butter was certainly handy in the kitchen where most minor burns occurred, but I discovered that modern internet sites do not recommend butter as a treatment for burns because it traps in the heat and has no antibiotic properties. The exception to the no-butter-to-the-burn rule is when removing hot tar from human flesh. I will keep that in mind in case I prove to be a worse roofer than I am a hair stylist. In any case, I am happy to have a reason to keep butter around in the enlightened age.
Mercury-containing products were quietly escorted off the drug store shelves a long time ago, but my knees are permanently pink from Mercurochrome. I may have experienced brain damage from the mercury-laced antiseptic and from chasing those little beads of mercury around the kitchen floor when a thermometer broke. With all of that accumulated mercury and the trapped heat from so much butter, it is no wonder that I am a woman on fire. I now understand menopause and the stir-fried condition of my hair.
There was a time when health enthusiasts and food manufacturers tried to convince us that a new product, oleomargarine, was better for us than butter. I think the shift may have started during the mercury years. Eventually, margarine went the way of mercury. It proved to be worse for our health than butter.
Let’s face it, butter has staying power. From well-stocked grocery store aisles to ample, soft hips, no amount of fat-shaming or internet advice can turn us against butter. Speaking for myself, I can stand up to the saturated fat in beef and bacon. I eat those meats about as often as I attend a high school reunion. I am willing to remove the slimy skin and fat from chicken which is my diet’s protein mainstay, but the butter stays. I honor it by keeping it an old dish that belonged to my grandmother. I might portion it out in teaspoons like a heroin addict, but I don’t even pretend that I will give it up “tomorrow.”
I don’t need to read a recipe or to perform a chemical analysis to know if a dish contains butter. If the food is delicious, it contains butter. Quite frankly, I am astonished that butter does not require a prescription. Is it possible to be anxious or depressed while eating a soft, chewy brownie? How about the high that comes with eating a flaky, buttery biscuit? I am willing to live with the side effects.
After feeling the burn, my advice is to get a tetanus booster and a good haircut. Don’t put butter on your burns. Save the butter for the big stuff, the internal injuries—damaged egos and broken hearts. In the event of catastrophic injury, increase the dose and add a scoop of ice cream. If I am wrong about this advice, don’t blame me; it might be the mercury talking.