Coping with life's little traumas

More choices in hair-care products really is not what world needs just now

Posted: Sunday, January 12, 2003

I faced a traumatic experience this morning. No family members or friends died, I wasn't diagnosed with any horrible disease and I'm not being evicted from my apartment or anything -- although I'd almost rather endure one of those situations than the horror that did occur this morning -- I ran out of shampoo.

OK, yes, I realize I'm overreacting a wee bit here, but this is a major cause of stress in my life. Not because of any ramifications the shortage will have on my hair, though. I'm not one of those people who gets particularly worked up about their hair. My philosophy is, if it doesn't bother me, I won't bother it. So unless there's a wad of bubble gum stuck in there or I manage to get it caught in a zipper or something, I don't generally pay much attention to it, other than washing it in the morning.

The problem is that I now have to go buy more shampoo. Ordinarily this doesn't freak me out much either, except that the last time I had to buy shampoo the store was out of the kind I usually get so I had to try to find a different brand.

This frightens me. More than large insects, more than the thought of meeting Rush Limbaugh in a dark alley, more than the prospect of war with Iraq -- navigating the hair care aisle is a major source of apprehension in my life. This is because shampoos have gotten so complicated lately. It's become easier to clone a human being than figure out what kind of shampoo to get. As a result, I'll spend the rest of my day curled up in the fetal position on the grocery store floor.

It never used to be like that. When I was little, shampoo meant Johnson & Johnson, except for those occasions when swapping hats at school resulted in getting a lice treatment. It was cheap, it always smelled the same, the design of the bottle never changed and it didn't burn when it got in your eyes. It was consistent and unpretentious, which is no longer the case.

Gone are the days when shampoo was just expected to clean your hair. Now the idea of a shampoo that only promises to clean hair is outdated -- kind of like the notion of world peace.

Shampoos today claim to do everything from give body and protect color-treated hair to wash your car and file your taxes. The marketing people who come up with these gimmicks totally amaze me with some of the full-out lies they sell to people.

My favorites are the shampoos that promise to revitalize or rejuvenate hair. This is nothing short of an act of God miracle since hair is dead. It's as inanimate as French toast. It's one thing to complain about your hair having a life of its own, but it's not like it moves, breathes, has feelings, goes out on dates or borrows your car and doesn't put gas in it. So unless there's an exorcist, the jaws of life or a miniaturized Dr. Frankenstein in that bottle, I'm not buying that claim.

These products also typically promise to restore your hair's "healthy shine." Now it seems to me that once something's dead the question of "healthy" pretty much becomes moot. I certainly don't plan on going jogging or eating Special K after I'm dead.

I'm going to live it up, so to speak, and become a checker in the speed lane at a supermarket, work at the DMV, run for Congress and do all the other things normal dead people do. Attempting to make myself look healthy and shiny just isn't at the top of my post-mortem to-do list.

The natural ingredients craze doesn't make much sense to me either. Hair care products now boast that they are made out of everything from nuts and herbs to exotic plants and extracts. That's all well and good, except that it's chemicals that clean hair, not fruits and veggies. You'd be better off using those shampoos in your cooking.

Personally, I would rather have something that I know will clean my hair. If it'll take the rust off an '87 Buick that's been sitting in the Florida Everglades for three years and has a sting of chemical compounds as long as my arm it's the shampoo for me. Give me something that has the chemical composition of Formula 409, with a little WD-40 for shine and maybe some hydrogen peroxide for body and I'll be happy.

Although at this point I'd settle for some police tape and road cones to keep people from stepping on me as I cower in fear on the floor of the hair-care aisle.

Jenny Neyman is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.

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