Saturday, February 28, 2009

One always needs soap

Sometime in the last few weeks, I was listening to National Public Radio and heard the tail end of a news story about luxury chocolate. It seems the business of selling high-end chocolate is doing very well, even as the economy is falling apart. You can buy a house in Detroit for the price of box of chocolate these days. If you don't believe me, google "house prices in Detroit" and then go to the Godiva website.

I can't eat chocolate, but I understood the reasoning behind the uptick in upscale treat sales. I learned about the importance of purchasing the occasional luxury soap at an early age from my parents. They both had a great appreciation for beautiful packaging and scent and moaned about the ugly boxes of equally unappealing soap in this country. When my father made a trip to Europe for business, he would come back with many bars of soap.

If you're under 40, you probably don't remember that once it was hard to get a nice bar of soap. Now, you can purchase luxury bath and beauty products in any supermarket.

I remember the lecture my father gave me about soap the first time we visited the large Caswell Massey flagship store in New York City. We must have spent hours in the shop, sniffing everything, just to buy one bar. That one bar of soap cost between three and five dollars. My father told me that good soap was a poor man's luxury. One could splurge on a beautiful fragrant bar of soap but it wouldn't break the bank. And, it would not only bring you pleasure each day, but one needed soap. You could buy a bar of Ivory, but it was far better to scrimp on other things.

I don't remember ever seeing a bar of regular soap in my family's house. When I first left home, Dial, Irish Spring and the rest of the supermarket brands were a new thing for me (and I must admit that I rather liked the scent of both of them).

Now, folks don't have to eat chocolate, but the idea is pretty much the same. Most people like to pamper themselves. I suspect men use another word, but I can't think of what it might be. Nonetheless, when times are tough, the desire to soothe oneself grows. There's a lot of anxiety in the air.

Some people eat chocolate. I put Kiss My Face lavender scented moisterizer on my hands. When we were in Williamsburg, I bought a few small gorgeously packaged soaps and was sorry I didn't buy more the minute we drove out of town. And like my parents before me, I would bet that at least one of those soaps will never be opened. They sit on display in my glass front bathroom cabinet along with an old bar of L'Occitane, which is just too pretty to touch. It did occur to me the other night that I could unwrap the soap very carefully and then put the empty wrapper in the cabinet, but that seems like cheating (or something I can't put my finger on).

I wonder how the sales of luxury soaps and such are doing. I bet they're fine, or at least not as bad as home and car sales (well, that'd be an easy feat).

Now I'm off to shower with a bar of Williamsburg Lavender soap. It most certainly isn't an authentic bar of 18th century soap, but I'm not complaining. Have you ever smelled a bar of soap made with lard and lye? It's appalling. The stuff is strong and probably can clean anything. But if Colonial Williamsburg was selling true reproduction soap, they wouldn't sell much, that's for sure.

Mosaic note: I didn't have time to make my own. Check out Mimi's beautiful mosaics on Flickr.


lazybuddhist said...

I'm a big fan of nice soaps too. Even though they may seem costly, they go such a long way and are such a lovely way to start the day. I also always splurge on a nice bottle of lotion for the office. It's just a little bit of functional aromatherapy, and is always nice to offer to others as well. My current lotion: Jasmine and Rose made by a company called Lotus Love Beauty. So lovely.

BitterGrace said...

Thanks, Julie--I feel a little better now about my vast collection of unused and little-used soaps. Is there a long lost soap you mourn? Maybe 10 years ago, Dave gave me a bar of some Japanese soap, scented with green tea, that he bought at Takashimaya. It was incredible. I've never been able to find it again, but I would buy a case of it if I did.

Julie H. Rose said...

Lazy Buddhist, I like your term, "functional aromatherapy." That's what my lavender hand cream does for me in the middle of the day.

BitterGrace, I can imagine that a good green tea scent from Japan could be gorgeous. I love the smell of green tea iced cream. Sadly, all the green tea scents out there right now that I've smelled are so cloying, which makes no sense at all.

I can't think of a soap scent that I mourn. I do miss the old Chanel Cristalle, however. But missing the old perfumes is a whole 'nother story!