Thursday, April 28, 2011



Choosing shampoo is difficult.
It involves locating an appealing
bottle, plucking it from the shelf

and squeezing the flexible plastic
just enough to push the scent
toward my nose. Cherry blossom,

one bottle says, orange ginger,
citrus honey bergamot. God,
I’m so predictable, for so long

I keep trying to smell like oranges
or flowers, only certain ones,
magnolias, roses. Never vanilla

or apple or raspberry. Another woman
stands beside me in the aisle,
lifts a bottle to her nose, grimaces.

In junior high, us girls would stand
like this before our lockers, spraying
CK1 and Vanilla Fields onto our throats

and brushes, brushing it through
our hair that the kid behind us in
social studies would catch a hint

of sugar in the air, would breathe in
deeply behind us as if in a bakery.
Mostly, we smelled ourselves, traded

bottles, tried out being the girl
who smelled like sandalwood
or coconut or pink grapefruit.

Labels talk to us of sensations,
of bliss. Bottles promise volume
or shine or rejuvenation, and I

hear myself thinking, What kind
of hair do I have, do I need this
conditioner for dry and damaged

hair, have I been washing my hair
wrong my whole life, I actually need
oomph or control or everyday balance.

Who has not been immobilized
by choice. Buying products forces us
to consider who we are, what we lack.


  1. Oh isn't it the truth? I must have eight different conditioners in my bathroom. I love the hair aisle at the drug store.

    Oh, you say it's a metaphor? Um, so is metaphor good for dry or oily? ;-)

  2. A great metaphor!

    A friend of mine from Jamaica was so overwhelmed the first time she went into a grocery in the U.S. she could not buy anything. Choice indeed!

  3. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. If only life was like that. Very fun poem, H!!!

  4. Wow, the closing lines are so profound. I shop merely by scent, which means that I end up buying things that don't match my hair. I have to write down the closing lines. Have a great day Hannah! xoxo

  5. I found my perfect shampoo - ethically produced from natural ingredients, no palm oil derivatives either, it suits my hair perfectly and smells nice too. Then sadly the one shop where i can buy it stopped selling it....

    Too much choice does immobilise us too, i agree

  6. Conditioner always makes my hair flat.

    That's one choice I don't have to make :-).

  7. I love this! I've included it in my weekly beauty links roundup, a nice change from fiscal-quarter earnings from Revlon and FDA warnings about eyelash growth products...

  8. From bathroom condiments to a meditation on the agonies of free will and choice. Superb, Hannah!

  9. Immobilized by choice: precisely how I feel oh so often. Lovely.


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