All you Baby Boomers and other oldsters — remember when you were a kid and you scraped your knee or got a cut on your hand? Did your mother tenderly wash it, and then put a soothing balm on it while kissing the “booboo” and telling you what a good little kid you were? No! She sat you down on the edge of the bathtub, washed the blood and dirt off with soap and water, then went into the medicine cabinet and brought out the mercurochrome. She slathered it onto the now pretty raw area and stood and watched as you howled in pain. The next thing you would hear from her would be:
“Oh, don’t be such a baby. It has to hurt or it won’t work. This will teach you not to (climb a barbed wire fence, play tag in the street, challenge the little girl next door to a duel, chase the cat into a rosebush, whatever other creative deviltry you got yourself into).”
If she didn’t have any mercurochrome, she would use iodine. Same howling in pain, same pronouncement. In other words, if you expected the original hurt to go away you had to let someone bigger and stronger than you subject you to additional pain then hide the evidence under a band-aid. To a kid, that was stupid. It was obviously part of a plot by adults to inflict as much torture on kids as possible without getting arrested. As adults, we knew better, but by then nobody was using mercurochrome or iodine anymore, so it didn’t matter.
To add insult to injury, mercurochrome and iodine both left a colored spot on the skin that took a long time to wash off. That blotch was embarrassing. We got no sympathy from Mom for that, either.
We learned our lesson well: if something is pleasant or enjoyable, it’s probably bad for you. It might even kill you when you’re not looking.
As adults, especially those of us who are getting a little long in the tooth, we are often concerned with pain relief. Aching backs, knees, shoulders and muscles are reminders of our fragility and mortality. How do we relieve those aches? Do we use that expensive lavender oil that we bought on impulse in Bath and Body Works? It smells wonderful and makes us dream of running through fields of flowers, being chased by that really hot half-naked person on the cover of that steamy romance novel. The problem is, it doesn’t work for relieving pain unless it is being used by an expensive massage therapist, and the therapist’s fingers are probably doing a lot more good than the lavender oil.
So what do we use? We use Ben Gay, Vicks, pain patches, heating pads, hot water bottles, pain pills. Ben Gay, Vicks and most pain patches smell so bad they are probably killing every cell in our noses along with most of the germs and part of the brain. Those smells don’t let up very quickly, either. You can end up spending half a day smelling like a locker room in a retirement home. Heating pads can roast your back if you forget and fall asleep on top of them, and hot water bottles lose heat too fast. Pain pills give relief until they wear off, after which, if the pain is determined to get you, it will sneak back. Some pills will kill the pain you are aiming for, but replace it with a stomach ache.
So you see, we are still dealing with unpleasant stuff because in one way or another it’s good for us. The nice lavender oil is only good for making the bathroom smell nice.
Food is another example. Please choose between the following breakfasts:
(A) Two fried eggs topped with cheese and bacon, home fries, toast with butter and jam and coffee with cream.
(B) A small bowl of oatmeal, plain, with no milk; one poached egg, plain, with no salt; dry toast with no butter; coffee with fat-free milk
Very few humans are going to voluntarily choose (B). Those who do, however, will probably live longer. Choice (B) is good for us, even if it is about as enjoyable as eating cardboard.
All those diets that claim they allow you to eat everything you like are lying. Maybe you can eat a piece of panettone,* but it will be about the size of your thumb. That’s no way to eat panettone. It has to be taken in great big chunks. Anything short of that is like giving one sip of water to a man dying of thirst. No diet ever says you can eat anything in great big chunks, except things like lettuce and celery, which are GOOD FOR YOU. This only appeals to rabbits.
So what do we do?
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to dab on some lavender oil, sit down with a great big chunk of panettone and that steamy romance novel and daydream about running through a field of flowers being chased by the half-naked guy on the cover.
*Panettone is an Italian sweet bread with raisins, a traditional holiday treat. It is best described as a little bit of Heaven on earth.