Not at ALL What You Thought

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap

When I became a dreadlockaphile, that is, even before I started actually wearin locs on my head, I did the research. I wanted to know the mechanics of the things, the philosophy/ies, the history, and, of course, the care and feeding. I got kinda worried when I kept reading about the necessity of keepin stuff out of my locs. Ain nothin s'posed to be in locs except tightly-rolled hair. Unfortunately, the shampoos and hair dressings I'd gotten used to --thick moisturizers and creamy conditioning treatments, for example-- when I was chemically straightening my hair (and even during parts of the Natural period), I was told, would get stuck in the locs and gunk ‘em up.

What I needed was a really good clarifying shampoo, something that would clean my hair, but not dry it out.

After reading this book (I told y'all about that one before, didn’t I?), I was overjoyed: Lonnice told us about Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, and, bless God, I found it at the health-food store up the street from my house!

This was some time after I had started lockin my hair, some time after I had tried a lot of stuff. I was really excited to find Dr. Bronner, but also, after having been disappointed many times by advertised-“natural” stuff, ready to be proven wrong about said excitement. I love these products, but didn’t like this, which was a shame. This was a tad steep. But Dr. Bronner came through, honey (which is a good thing because the first thing I bought was the absolutely gigantic, 32-oz peppermint bottle).

I love it. It’s concentrated, though it doesn’t say that on the bottle (and more on what it does say on the bottle later), so I can actually dilute it by 50% and still have the most wonderful, rich, lathery, clarifying shampoo (and, by the way, shower “gel” and/or bubble bath) I have ever encountered. I work it out to about $6 for 64 oz. of pure liquid gold, and that ain nothin to sneeze at. And it smells heavenly. For me, there is something about showering and shampooing, when I do it right, that puts a whole new face on things outside the bathroom. (And since, like most black people --who usually have really dry hair-- I bathe daily, but shouldn’t shampoo quite as often [unless I want my hair to behave like kindling], I manage to keep the experience fresh with a weekly or bi-weekly Shampoo Ceremony.) And, as I barely mentioned before, I buy the peppermint (cuz Dr. Bronner’s comes in peppermint, eucalyptus and lavender), made with organic oils, whatever they are.

As amazing as the inside of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap bottle (or more amazing) is the label. The late Dr. Bronner, I understand, was a “Soapmaker, Master Chemist and Essene Rabbi,” and he used –well, uses, beyond the grave yet—his bottles to propound his beliefs, like “Enjoy only two cosmetics, enough sleep and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap to clean body-mind-soul-spirit instantly uniting One! All One!” The mantra “All One! All One!” appears over and over on every bottle’s label, nearly every inch of which is covered with various and sundry ideas and principles (144, and numbered, in fact, on the 32-oz. bottle). The “facial pack” instructions end, “Within 9 minutes, you feel fresh, mint-clean. . . .ready to teach the whole Human race the moral ABC of All-One-God-Faith!. . . .ALL ONE! ALL ONE! ALL ONE!”

Dr. Bronner’s label refers to Jesus Christ as “[Einstein’s] Hillel-taught carpenter,” quotes Thomas Paine and incorporates Kipling’s “If”; it invokes Buddha and Mohammed. Good readin while soakin in the tub, huh? But bring a magnifying glass, along with your regular reading glasses: the type in spots is really, really small.

Of course, I noticed the bottle’s eccentricity right away, before I’d bought one. But Lonnice swears by it. As do right many people, apparently. The owner of the health-food store where I bought it replied, “Girl, I don’t know. I don’t even try to read it,” when I asked her, “What in the world??”

“But,” she said, “it’s some good soap!”


It is.

Brother Jesus, bless those totally committed to leave a legacy of humanity behind them.

Harrowing (but [finally] in a good way)

I had about decided that one of my best girlfriends was angry at me. She hadn’t called in a long time, and when I called her, she was rather abrupt. And, of course, instead of just askin the woman what was up, I figured it’d be better to give her some space till she could tell me what was wrong.

But, see, we go to the same church, and we’re in the same profession, and our children attend the same middle school . . . .so “space”? What’s that? Tuesday night, after bible study, folk were hugging and talking, and I noticed that she was on one side of the room, and I was way on the other side. She did, too. Gave me a big ol’ exaggerated wave. I crossed the sanctuary, and she gave me a long hug.

“I was just tellin the girls, ‘Miss V’s angry at me about something,’” I confessed.
“No,” she said. “I nearly died.”

She was serious. It’s her job. Or, rather, not the job itself, but the Halls of Higher Learning (HHL) where she has to do her job. Her job she adores, but the Halls? Hell hole. And I use the term advisedly. Where my friend works, demons and their minions hang out. Truly. You know the kind: folk you’ve known for years in one or another capacity, who protest that they have your Very Best Interests at heart, and then, inexplicably, spend most of their waking moments and energy trying to thwart your every attempt at grownuptitude and success. The kind of folk who hang out in the joint described in The Screwtape Letters. Most of us encounter folk like that only in our families, thank the good Lord, but, alas, that is not the case with my friend.

For one thing, my friend was once a student in these Halls. Some of the very people who are attacking her today were once her professors, her mentors, the folk who stroked and nurtured her intellect, guided her in the way she should go, away from that place to even higher places, and then welcomed her with open arms when she returned to give back some of what she had received.

What happened to the love?

In my not-so-humble opinion, it dissipated in the abrasive air of the place. In that place is a miasma of bitterness, greed, ridiculously ratcheted-up ambition, control-freakishness, and, I’m sorry, but pettiness. TPTB at HHL are really, really, really small. Especially inside. Because my friend is extremely large --but only inside-- (yeah, she’s one of those pear-shaped beauties who actually forget to eat), being around petty folk makes her physically ill.

So she’s had to psych herself into goin to work on the regular (and managing it, too, because she comes from a long line of strong women), bitin her tongue, and, incidentally, yeah, leavin by the back way. She’s finding it difficult to be sociable, even after leaving the Halls at the end of the day. She’s finding it difficult to keep her head up. She’s finding it difficult to be optimistic, to keep a sensible perspective on things, even to see herself clearly. She’s dying inside. This week, she actually thought she was gonna have a heart attack. As she told me this, I noticed that she was also trying not to cry about it (that generations of strong women thang). I wanted to cry myself, but I believe in moral support, so I fussed at her about her potassium.

I liken committing one's self to work in Education to the harrowing of Hell: willingly entering the darkness, raising high an unquenchable light; recognizing and nurturing intelligence, pushing learning and wisdom and, let's face it, thinking; lifting up the damned, the alienated and the underprivileged. (You know there are many ways to define that last word, many having nothing to do with money.) The last thing we need is our colleagues underfoot, creating quicksand.

My girl's gonna be all right, though. She’s praying, she's accessing the tall, dark, handsome, and loving resource that her husband has always been, she’s looking into her potassium levels, she's re-committing herself to her students, and, most importantly, of course, she’s secured a nice grant. Because she knows exactly what the problem is. That’s always the beginning of the solution. Even now, the minions of Hell Hole feel her slipping out of their clutches.

Lord Jesus, my brother, please help the people who hate their jobs and believe they have no options.