Beeswax

National Love Letter Writing Month, Day 2.

This ad caught me in a mood today as I sat in the waiting room of a free clinic approaching 120 minutes of waiting for a Pfizer booster shot.

Burt’s Bees has an interesting tragic-romantic corporate history. You can read all about it at The NY Times but in summary: business eponym Burt Shavitz was a beekeeper wild man living in Maine when he picked up a “down on her luck” single mother named Roxanne Quimby hitchhiking in his neck of the woods. He helped her get back on her feet. She helped him with what was a small business of bee byproducts—honey, salves, that ubiquitous lip balm. She was the business brain and he was the eccentric farmer. They became lovers.

So we can predict how this ends: very poorly. Quimby buys Shavitz’s share of the business for the cost of a house in Maine (he wanted one with a turkey coop), they broke up, and then Burt’s Bees is sold to (wait for it) Clorox, as in the bleach brand, for $913 million. That’s almost a billion dollars, y’all. Quimby offers Shavitz $4m anyway because that’s only fair, right? Apparently not.

This is not a parable of the failure of occasional romance to compete with opportunity, but just to say that when I watched this particular “For lips, with love” commercial—while I waited for my booster shot at the clinic so I could keep myself alive in the presence of children and seniors who surround me every day—I thought about what kissing must have felt like between Burt and Roxanne when the business of honey bees made up the substance of their livelihoods. Surrounded by honey. The most magical non-hallucinogenic curative natural substance in the known world. How lovely or frightening must it have been to become romantically with so much goddamn honey around you.

The ad is beautifully edited, I have to say. The musical tones and the mouth sounds don’t approach anything like obscenity but come eerily close, and the primarily female actors seem relaxed and consenting. Puckered lips, a relaxed brow, friendship, partnership. I’d like to find out that Burt and Roxanne have reconciled. I’d like to find out that their lips are relaxed. I’d like to know that honey outlives greed.