Thursday, April 28, 2011

Soap snobbery

I’m a soap snob, and I’m proud of it.

I am the kind of person who is extra-particular about what kind of soap will enjoy the privilege of connecting with my skin. For example, I will pay $5.99 for a single bar of specialty soap instead of paying the same for an eight-pack of a brand I would find at a supermarket. Yes, one bar of good is worth eight bars of mediocre.

Where did my soap snobbery begin? Where nearly everything else does, in childhood. The only soap that my mom would buy was Zest. Why, I have no idea, but those aqua-colored bars were the only ones we used – and I got tired of them real quick.

I hoped for some Dial once in a while, or Ivory or even Safeguard (see how low my standards were back then?), but when you are not in charge of the shopping, you have to accept whatever’s in the bag. To this day, I not only will not buy Zest, I won’t even touch it. Now, I doubt that Zest is significantly worse than any other brand of supermarket soap. But I have had more than my fair share of it in this lifetime, and enough is enough.

Years later, when I was in college and had little disposable income, a bar of soap became an affordable luxury. I haunted tiny boutique stores in Santa Monica, often carrying away one small bag containing a single bar of rose- or lemon-scented soap, or several guest-sized servings of same. Under the influence of Alexandra Stoddard (author of “Living a Beautiful Life” and other MM Best Books Ever), I chose soaps with ground vanilla beans and fluffy flecks of oatmeal. (It didn’t take much to make me happy.)

I would collect soaps when I traveled – often, it was the only item I wanted that I could afford in the store. I bought soaps faster than I could use them, and it took some thoughtfulness to make sure most of them got their turn in the bathroom. In time, nearly all of them did (and those who did not, Two Dogs and I gave away to friends).

Today, there are no bars of soap in the Hakim bathroom. Only shower gel. Two Dogs is fond of Avon Naturals, and I buy it in bulk when it is on sale. We have a lavender shower gel with an overpowering scent (Two Dogs said he could taste it in his beer).

I also bought two 24-ounce bottles of combination shower gel/shampoo/bubble bath from Ulta (above). It was a buy-one-get-one-free deal. As with many things in life that don’t work out in the end, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Two Dogs likes the orange one, so he can have it. As for the chocolate…I know now that chocolate is something best experienced in 72% cacao squares and ice cream. Not in shower gel.

I’m going back to soap. I’ll be smart about it, buying one bar at a time and not buying another until the one I have is almost gone (unless I travel and go into a gift shop and see something special…I need to make room for surprises!). I will alternate between fruit and flower scents, and anything else that’s interesting. I will not buy soaps from regular supermarkets. “Natural” supermarkets, like Mother’s in Orange County, Sprouts, and Whole Foods, have excellent selections, but nothing that comes in an eight-pack. (That’s a good thing.)

The "good guys" at the natural supermarket...

...and the "bad guys" at the regular supermarket. (Notice the Zest in the bottom right-hand corner.)

P.S. I bought this lemon verbena soap from Trader Joe’s. It makes our bathroom smell like lemons. Yummy!

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