Meaningless string of adjectives here

Few necessities of modern life confound me more than buying toiletries. I can see why people develop brand loyalty, because how else are you supposed to know what you want? I'm forever spending thirty minutes in the hair care aisle at Rite-Aid, debating between two brands of shampoo, trying to figure out based on the packaging which one is most likely to turn me into Jennifer Aniston. Inevitably I become convinced that the more expensive one will be better, and then I buy it and it sucks, if "sucks" is defined as "does not turn me into a perfect, shiny-haired goddess who eats nothing but quinoa and always looks fabulous, even on airplanes." I recently invested nine dollars in a tiny bottle of shampoo that advertised itself as all-natural AND organic (apparently there is a distinction) and smelled like coconut frosting. In my crazed need to escape fluorescent-lit, dingy-floored, too-many-options hell before I lost another second of my life to deliberations about the relative merits of "pro-vitamins," I decided this choice was summery. Now I smell like cupcakes, and my hair still looks like shit.

The process is less protracted when I buy body wash, but it's still annoying. All I want is an eight-ounce container of something that smells clean and fresh, but all body wash for women is either fruit-scented or has some inane marketing-concept name like "Energy Glow." Thanks a lot, Dove. That's really helpful. Let's make a deal: I will purchase your product when you can answer two questions for me: 1) what the fuck is an "energy glow"? and 2) what does it smell like? At least with the fruit-scented body washes, the ones with names like sorbet flavors ("pomegranate mango!"), I know I will wind up smelling like a half-eaten Ring Pop. I can feel whole in that understanding, instead of befuddled about what I am conveying to the world when I clean my armpits with something called Tahitian Renewal.

At least I'm a woman, so there are some identifiable fruit/herb options out there for me. Things are a thousand times worse for men. Have you ever looked at the toiletries they market to guys? They take the exact same shit they manufacture for women, put it in a differently shaped bottle, slap a picture of a turbine engine on it, and call it something like "Ice Shock" or "Dynamic Wave." The weird thing about these names is that they're as unappealing as they are opaque: I don't know what ice shock is--much less what it smells like--yet I still know I never want to experience it. The same principle has been exalted to its purest form in the razor section, where women can buy a pink Gillette Venus de Milo Windsor Castle Velvet Experience, while men are sold the same thing in gunmetal gray with a name like MACH3 Turbo Speed Boost Jet Propulsion.

I'm aware of all this, clearly, yet there I was in the drug store, trying to buy body wash, finding myself staring at something called Touch of Sparkle Cream Oil ("cream oil"?), which purported to contain, of all things, diamond powder. Right. Okay. My skepticism about this alleged diamond powder rose when I noticed that other items in the "Touch of" line--Touch of Harmony, Touch of Bliss (I am not making any of this up)--cost the exact same amount, yet contained no diamond powder. The longer I stood there fuming over the diamond powder issue, the more I began to resent the implication behind these body washes. So I have to choose between harmony and bliss? And if I choose to sparkle, I'll get neither? How German.

I wound up buying something called "simply Ivory." It's liquefied Ivory soap that costs $2.99 and seems to be marketed on the principle that using the word "simply" and eschewing elaborate packaging--no images of milk pouring into a puddle of honey here, no claims of powdered gemstones or promises of inner poise right around the corner if only I would shower with the right product--would do the trick. And you know what? It did. I bought the shit out of that simply Ivory, and I like it. It's not insulting my intelligence by lying to me, and it smells clean and fresh. I may actually develop brand loyalty toward it. If you can imagine such a thing.

I hope you enjoyed the time you wasted reading this meaningless diatribe as much as I enjoyed the time I wasted writing it. Someday I will develop some profound thoughts. I swear.


Lauren said...

I barely buy any toiletries at the pharmacy anymore, I usually buy online from smaller independent companies. It costs more, but at least I know my money is going to a small business instead of to a mondo corporation, and I don't feel like I'm being treated like a dupe. I know exactly what I'm buying every time, I get treated like an intelligent consumer, the customer service is phenomenal and the quality is outstanding.

cat said...

A very good point. That's one of those things I keep telling myself I'll start doing when I become a real grown-up. Still waiting, though. :)

M. Dennis said...

Cat, I just got around to reading this-- and reading blogs again-- and good god, this was funny.

Adam said...

God you're right. Guy toiletries are basically unbuyable. They are marketed as being either for aspiring slutty gold chain wearers or like hardcore lumberjack/mechanic types. And I really can't carry either of those. Maybe like a year ago, Old Spice figured it out and came out with all that super meta, advertising-by-mocking-advertising "old spice guy" stuff, which was funny and true also, but I wear their deodorant and, no shit, the one I wear is called "Swagger." It's a near constant source humiliation/amusement.

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