“I’d forgotten,” said a friend when I asked her how she was getting on with the natural soap I’d given her (peppermint to be precise), “I’d forgotten how nice it is to hold a bar of soap”
She’s not the only one.
In recent years, soap has fallen out of favour. The trend is for efficient hand wash. It’s surprising really, because as a solution to a problem, natural soap is up there with the wheel. It’s the perfect specimen. It can be made from a handful of natural ingredients, completely self preserving, requires very little packaging and is biodegradable. It didn’t need the re-invention.
So what happened?
Our increasing preoccupation with hygiene takes some of the blame. You might think that soap handled by someone else is sort of well...not very clean. This is scientifically unproven of course. Recent studies show that anti-bacterial handwash is no more effective at killing germs than ordinary soap and water. Yet given the choice in a public toilet, would you rather opt for the mysterious pink goo or the shrivelled, tainted bar?
Soap has become a bit of an old-fashioned has been. It doesn’t have a place in our busy modern lives. Soap is slippy and messy. It slips off the edge of those ridiculously undersized shower trays. Soap belongs to another age when baths were more likely to be once a week than once a day, when families shared water.
The truth of the matter is that to enjoy soap, you need time. Ah, elusive time...
Soap is mindful. Holding something physical within your hands makes you focus on the present. It is sensual. It encourages touch as it glides across your naked skin. Now compare for a moment the mechanical language of handsoap as it ‘squirts’, ‘pumps’ and ‘dispenses’ with measured precision.
Natural soap has personality. It changes shape. It sinks to the bottom of the bath, never to be seen again, before emerging submarine like, playfully bobbing your back. And as I watch it being passed from one pair of little hands to another set in our sink before teatime, I store the the memory in my heart. Soap for me means, family, love, caring. Funny, I just don't feel the same way about handsoap.
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