Again, with the picture? Enough already!
Remember when you were a kid and you read books about people having to move to Florida or Bermuda or New Mexico "for their health?" Maybe it was an old person or maybe it was a sickly child with a mystery disease. Maybe it was Sally's brother in "Starring Sally J. Freedman....." by Judy Blume or maybe it was poor Collin in "The Secret Garden." And I could never figure out what Florida had to do with "health." What did Florida have to offer poor Sally's brother that New Jersey could not? What was this mystery illness and how was it cured by location?
After spending some time in Mexico near the Yucatan Peninsula and the Riviera Maya, I returned to New Hampshire with some insight on this matter. I looked at myself in the mirror while I was there, at my dewy, pink skin and my bright eyes and I thought:
"I look 10 years younger in Mexico."
When I got home, I took my hair down from its perch on top of my head and it tumbled down - I'm not kidding, it tumbled - in luscious waves. It was LUSCIOUS. And it smelled sweet and clean. Like flowers. And lemons.
I wondered, if I wash my hair, will the Mexico hair go away? Will I be left with New Hampshire hair? Like a collection of drab, broken sticks on my head? For months now, I've been lamenting the changes in my hair and my skin, thinking that growing older was actually a thing that was happening to me. A deflated, ruddy facade sagging slowly off its foundation. And then there are the broken sticks......
But now I know! It's not me! It's them! Them being New Hampshire! This is such a relief to me! I did not want to get ugly! I told Mike on the phone, "I'm much prettier in Mexico. You should see me." And we started talking about a certain look we've always identified as a New England look: I think it looks like people wash their faces too hard. I think it looks like they eschew moisturizer. Mike thinks it looks like everyone needs a better haircut. And an appointment with a colorist. I used to think that playing with your hair color was not an acceptable New England activity - I used to shout out my car window, "WOMEN OF NEW ENGLAND! PLEASE COLOR YOUR HAIR!!"
But now I am one of those people and I know that I don't wash my face too hard and I know that I use copious amounts of moisturizer. And I have a great haircut (thank you, Patrick) and plenty of play with my hair color (thank you again, Patrick). But the elements must be wreaking havoc on my appearance and I think they're aging me rapidly. Maybe even the elements that I sit in every day and admire from the frozen beach. So it's not their fault! New Englanders just have some serious conditions to survive! And maybe they're annoyed because they're skin is so dry!
I know, right now you're thinking, "But Kristin, you're from Minnesota, an incredibly harsh climate. Shouldn't people suffer from these same conditions there?" Yeah, that's a good question. Maybe Minnesotans have dry skin, too, but you don't notice because they're smiling. And offering you baked goods. And maybe fresh water isn't as harsh as salt water? And the color palette veers toward the Nordic so it doesn't look quite as drab (notice I said "quite." Once you get past the age of 12, many people have to pay for that Nordic color).
It did occur to me at one point that New Hampshire may just suffer from bad lighting. I've been pretty this whole time - I'm just poorly lit. What do you think? I'm in the process right now of analyzing my bathroom lighting situation to see if that could help my self-esteem. If it works, you can be sure I'll be on QVC tout suite because that could make me a kazillionaire.
You know what else changed in Mexico? My chronic 2012 hangnail problem. This winter my nails have been splitting and peeling and snagging and just being gross in general. I've actually started biting my nails, something I haven't done since 5th grade when I quit cold turkey. I'm like a dirty 7th grade boy with my ugly, bitten, bloody fingers. But in Mexico, all signs of my ugly fingers disappeared. I was only there for 5 days; how does skin mend itself so completely in such a short period of time? And now I sit at my computer in New Hampshire, peeling away at the snaggy skin around my cuticles.........it returned just as quickly as it went away.
The sea, salt and sand of the northeastern United States have their benefits but beauty may not be one of them. Cold, salty, windy, gritty - our Atlantic Ocean never warms up enough to swim in comfortably. I love it but it is what it is. In the Caribbean, on the other hand, I sat in the turquoise water up to my waist for hours at a time like it was my own personal bathtub. A massage therapist recently told me that sitting in water has the same detoxifying effects of massage; the water ripples over the skin, moving toxins through the body so they can be eliminated through the pores. Add salt to the water and the level of detoxification increases.
And as I manage the detoxification that goes with Lyme Disease treatment, this is something I think about. My neck and shoulders have been sore and achey on these winter evenings, a typical Lyme symptom. I put Liam to bed, put my buckwheat "warmies" in the microwave and curl up on the couch under a big faux fur blanket, the warmies soothing the soreness that I assumed was Lyme Disease.
But on my first night back in New Hampshire, while I was warming my warmies for my neck, it occurred to me that hey! I didn't have any neck pain in Mexico! There were no nighttime neck warmies in Mexico! And then it dawned on me:
"THIS ISN'T LYME DISEASE! I'M JUST COLD!"
And I need to be clear about the fact that I do not hate winter. I love snow. One look at my closet and you'll see how much I love jackets. I'm a fantastic winter driver and I'm gifted in the art of freeing cars stuck in the snow. But perhaps there are some actual "health" benefits to escaping to a "healthier" climate. And now I'm not as worried about the changes in my hair and my skin. And I'll be less judgey of all the ruddy skin and straight, brown hair I see. And even though I love a real winter, perhaps I will now be more committed to the annual ritual of a winter getaway.
You know, for my "health."