There are 47 bottles in the shower. Thirty-eight contain various thick, scented substances that detangle hair, add bounce and shine, impart luster, weld split ends together, remove oils, replace oils, protect highlights, revitalize unvitalized follicles and, in one case, add essence of mango for hair that’s “beach ready.” Apparently if you don’t mash mango on your head, your hair falls out if it hears the surf.
There are five bottles for the non-hair beauty regimen. A few are peppermint-scented, in case you’re wearing red-and-white stripes today, and one contains an exfoliating substance that feels like it has microscopic pieces of industrial diamonds. Daub that on a loofah, give yourself a vigorous swipe and you can take off a nipple.
On the smaller shelf there are three hotel miniatures, which somehow leapt into my suitcase on some long-ago trip — shampoo, conditioner and what we once called “soap” but now call “body wash.” The hotel bottles (honestly, I must have been stressed with checking out and just swept everything on the counter into my toiletries bag, including the sewing kit) were left out for a houseguest, who, of course, brought her own set of hotel bottles. You never know. You get in a strange shower, and there’s that dreaded small smooth oblong of soap. It’s not that you don’t know where it’s been. You know exactly where it’s been.
I have one bottle. Suave. Yes. Suave. Because I could wash my hair with 20 Mule-Team Borax and it would look the same, and if it didn’t, no one would care. The only time anyone notices a middle-aged man’s hair is when it’s coming out of his ears, but in general men’s hair is irrelevant. No man has ever heard a woman say, “Your hair today, it looks so pert and manageable. Are you using a different product?”
“Uh — it’s just Lava Soap. I use some bathtub Spackle to keep it down.”
You’re wondering: Does Suave flatter your sense of yourself as a person who’s not pathologically cheap, but a wise, sensible shopper who nevertheless has a certain flair, an indefinable élan? Why yes. The bottle says it is “salon proven.” They couldn’t say this if it weren’t true. There was a rigorous series of tests at a salon somewhere, and this stuff was proven.
What they were trying to prove, who knows? Perhaps that it doesn’t always have the effect of dunking your skull in a corrugated-metal pail of caustic lye. Anyway, it’s one of those hermaphroditic fluids that’s shampoo AND conditioner, which is always mystifying, since most men don’t know what conditioner does. It puts something back that the shampoo took out; that’s about all we know. If you believe the ads, it restores vital nutrients, which are necessary if you want to toss your long locks in slo-mo and give the camera that L’Oreal smile because you are so worth it. Otherwise you can probably skip it.
But this Suave doesn’t stop there. Oh no. It’s 3 in 1. It’s also body wash, which makes it the most subversive personal cleansing agent on the market. It flat-out announces there’s no difference between the stuff you slather on your noggin and the stuff you use on the rest of your bad self. The only way it could be more awesome would be if it lubricated squeaky trunk hood hinges and salved wounds your hunting hound got when he ran through the briers. Smells good, too! Put a little behind your ears when you go courtin’, son.
A few weeks ago, I ran out of Suave and went to the store. I went with the blue scent, because I’d been using the green scent for a while and wanted to shake things up. After using it for two weeks, I actually looked at the bottle.
“Dandruff shampoo,” it said. “Salon proven.”
Whoa whoa whoa. I had made a horrible mistake. It’s one thing to use 3-in-1 Suave for all your shower needs, but using dandruff shampoo as body wash is, frankly, incompetent. Back to Target, where I stocked up on green 3-in-1 and vowed I’d never make that mistake again. But. But.
I was now in the Target database as a dandruff sufferer. If they can determine whether you’re pregnant or have a newborn based on the things you buy, they’re probably putting me in the Unsightly Flakes demographic, and now my coupons will reflect this. There’s no appeal. You can’t call them and say, “There’s been a mistake. Do not assume my scalp is generating socially unacceptable fragments.” But perhaps they’ll look at the fact I went straight back to regular 3-in-1, and the data will tell Suave their product worked. Maybe I’ll get a call, asking for an endorsement. It would be honest: I had no dandruff!
Of course, you could say the same thing about dousing your scalp with vegetable oil, but no one does that. However, there is bottle No. 46 in the shower: cold-press canola oil infused with asparagus. That’s the stuff.