Finding the right shampoo is like finding the right man. You hope its scent will make you stop cross-eyed and swoon, you want it to bring out the best in you like some kind of magical transformation, and occasionally you get it in the eye and wish you hadn’t.
I’m not a superstitious person, usually, I don’t think, (though I do still say hullo to lone magpies and never tread on three drains; the learnt behaviour of childhood) – but whenever I find a nice new shampoo I sometimes attribute any good luck I have to its sudsy powers until the bottle is finished. I know this is ridiculous, like some kind of new age dickhead witch seeking magic in potions, but the possibility still pops into my head nonetheless. The things we allow to course through our noggins while we’re trying to find sense and reason and patterns in life are quite often completely uninvited, unfounded, or just plain bonkers. Our imagination pitches itself against the science of the world we have been taught and think we know.
I remember my first feeling of wondering if shampoo had some kind of glutinous destiny when I was about fourteen. My first love, a boy named Joel whom I had loved from afar for months, with whom I then went on to have a steamy on-off smoochy love affair that peppered my teens like summer christmases. He liked the smell of Revlon Flex, and by golly if I wasn’t using Flex I thought our union would crumble like a cake with no butter. Then for a brief while I started doing well in science at school and put it down to the discount brand I was using at the time that made my hair softer than ice-cream and smell like blueberries. I never found the shampoo again; we only went to Kwiksave that once. Good science & I were clearly not meant to be. (This could in fact explain my formulating hotchpotch ideas about shampoo. No hard facts; just lunacy.) Perhaps this strange linking is purely down to the evocative power of scent; the nose blindsides your other senses with that power that can call to you toddler memories unbidden at the age of 36 when you smell milk formula or the perfect trinity of twiglets and orange squash and the warm plastic of a wendy house.
I suppose I still occasionally do this baffling fusing of shampoo and luck in my head, but last week I found myself thinking of it even more. I’d just cracked open a bottle of caramel and cocoa-smelling goodness that left my hair feeling like fresh combed straw, too stripped clean to be soft, and then in a succession of an intense 3 days I had heart-stopping sad news, got burgled, and then had some possibly life-changing good news that left me dizzy. Given the fact the new shampoo had brought with it two bad days and one day of giddy smilebursts, in my head I had to label the bottle ‘intense experiences’ rather than ‘good luck’. And now I’m halfway through the bottle and wondering if the bit of possible good luck will die once it’s empty. What will happen next?
Maybe thinking small things like shampoo affects anything is easier than believing in god or some other greater steering power or giving yourself up to the utter randomness of life. It comes in a bottle, contained and potent and fresh and clean, and pushes you out into your day with a lingering scent, the feel of your hair on your head, the air than moves between the strands, a constant tangible feeling.
Do you go out and buy exactly the same shampoo in the hope that it will be similarly charged with serendipitous particles, or do you seek a different better luck in a new bottle, a different smell or brand promise? Or do you accept that you’re mental and shampoo has got bog all to do with anything and you make your own luck? I know the truth in my head, but my imagination is boss. And my hair smells really dreamy.