Saturday, December 20, 2008

Soap (from Beth)

My hair is still damp and slightly noodley from my shower "experience" this morning. It shouldn't take nearly as long to dry in this crazy arid Texas weather as it did in Costa Rica. It's not silky smooth and it doesn't feel like the angels kissed it with their luscious, morning dew of Spring aromatics or like a waterfall of soft and suppleness flowing like time from my moisture rich follicles. It feels like I washed my hair with a bar of soap. And indeed I did.

Coming back home is always a new experience. Seeing family and friends is what it's all about. It seems like every time we come back I grasp the magnitude and beauty of these relationships more and more. At the exact same time, we never fail to see our culture and country in a critical light. I might call it reverse culture shock for lack of a more descriptive and less generic term, but in reality it stirs up feelings of resentment, anger, frustration and confusion.

Walk into the average American's bathroom and take a look at the body-cleaning products on offer. There's soap in the form of liquid for your hands, but not for your face. For your face you need a special, sensitive formula that won't hurt you, but not for your hair. For your hair you need another liquid soap called shampoo that will revitalize and fluffen. But you cannot forget your conditioner that will inject moisture into the hair you just revitalized (or "vitalize" as one of the shampoos in this bathroom currently claims. No "re" about it). If you don't do this, you will be a flathead. Hence: multiple bottles, pump-action and squeeze, and a few bars lining the shower and sink space like little soldiers.

While traveling, I've been forced to carry less. Shampoo takes up quite a bit of space in your backpack when it's your only piece of luggage. It's true that that space could be better saved for items like: fancy cheese, a piece of bamboo, or an ugly scarf with pictures of African wildlife for your sister.

So we started carrying just a bar of soap for cleaning purposes. What a liberating discovery! Who knew that one bar of soap could clean a whole body?! Well, many people probably knew that. But I didn't. One bar of soap and your done with all the plastic bottles full of promises, your done with a magnitude of waste, your done with the idea that you need to purchase a different product for each part of your body. How great is that?

Really, it's symbolic for me right now. This bar of soap is a simple, uncomplicated idea of what one daily routine could be like, rethought. Take away the options, the consumption, and you have one, old-school bar of soap. And even going beyond bar of soap that you can use on your washing, your house-cleaning, your dishes. How novel! Buying less and using less.

Thank you, soap, for this morning lesson.


Lindsay M said...

so true bethanie! I miss you guys -- need to send a full email to's been entirely too long. Hope you both have a merry christmas and enjoy time with your family.

Anonymous said...

It's true Beth. The small big true.. Soap is very prozaic thesis I like this way of understanding daily objects. Warm hugs for you!/Dowidtonsilia;)