I know you’ve been there. In the shower. At a friend’s house. Staring at the shampoo bottle. Wondering whether to risk it.
Because shampoo is, in fact a rather delicate affair. Use some brands, and you could end up itching and scratching your scalp until your pillow is flaked with white dandruff and your quilt looks like Alaska in December. Use other stuff, and you could end up slinking your way through work and school, imagining all the things the unwitting passerby thinks of your hair—greasy, slick, unkept. Or maybe they’ll think the sheen is gel. One can only hope.
Shampoos are sensitive materials. They are mixed and boiled in secret factories, formed from all kinds of exotic chemicals and tested on cute animals. They are scented and textured and empowered to mysteriously dissolve all the gunk in your sweaty, shaggy crop. There are a million gazillion kinds, from the most acidic, reeking liquids to the hippie, healthfood solutions, complete with Jojoba Oil.
There is, for example, baby shampoo. Unlike many other shampoos, it smells good, because babies are supposed to be sweet. (No sarcastic comments allowed here.) There is also nutrient-rich cream shampoo, the kind that restores your damaged hair. Often, its bottle features a picture of a damaged strand of hair, sort of like a fraying rope, and a healthy strand of hair that looks like a glorified shoelace. And then there are the conditioner-shampoo blends, and the dandruff-removing kind that “soothes and moistens a dry scalp,” and the special concoctions specially designed for dyed hair, bleached hair, dry hair, wet hair, and dog hair. (That last one is just an educated guess, of course. I do not pamper my dog.)
Yes, as I’ve said, you’ve been there, in the shower faced with choices beyond your ken. Or if you haven’t, I have. It’s not a rosy situation, but believe me, there are worse, especially for college derelicts. Actually, fastidiousness is not the most common reaction of a college male staring at articles of hygiene. The most common response is complete oblivion. Take, for example, this morning. There were bottles on a ledge. I grabbed one, and lathered my hair. There was a funny citrus scent, but I liked it, so I didn’t pay any attention. Then, in the nick of time, just as I was about to turn the faucet off, I glanced at the bottle. Lo and behold, it was labeled “shower gel.”
But even then, there was a bottle involved. There are also the days of a silenced alarm clock, a jump out of bed twenty minutes late, a hurried, frantic shower in which the water is either too cold or too hot and the soap bar falls so you have to grovel around on the floor after it while it flees from your fingertips, and a despairing yell as you realize that you forgot your towel in the bedroom and there’s no one to go and fetch it. Then, once you’re dressed and shaved and brushed and settling into your car with the news on the radio, you glance into the mirror and a dark wave of suspicion sneaks over you. You start the engine and speed down the road. Your watch says you’ll make it, but gathering courage, you stick your fingers in your hair. It’s true—you forgot to use shampoo (or, in worse case scenario, you forgot to rinse). Now the choice is between driving back to re-shower, and hanging around in the back of the classroom, shrinking from social contact in the halls, and eating lunch alone, mortified at your greasy locks.
Maybe they’ll think the sheen is gel. One can only hope.