Friday, June 17, 2011

The Body Butter - An Origin Story

It all started with the body butter.

Well, it started a long time before that, with my mother and her sisters, and probably my grandmother and HER sisters, and on and on, back into the mists of time.

But it was the incident with the body butter that finally clarified things for me.

It was winter. I had been out of work for nearly a year. My husband, the Songwriter, hadn't worked steadily in even longer. Every global economic indicator was trending down, and we were barely scraping by in one of the most expensive cities in America.

We had moved to Los Angeles from Dayton, Ohio three years earlier with great fanfare and high hopes. We had both had good jobs in interesting fields and all the sunshine we could eat. We paid off all our debt and started planning for a bright future. Now all that seemed to be over.

That winter afternoon, I was struggling against a nagging, low-grade depression, heavy as wet movers' felt as I got out of the shower. It all seemed so futile - the showering, the dressing. After all, where did I have to go? I couldn't remember the last time I'd brushed my teeth, much less put on makeup.

And so it was, wet and morose, that I regarded my bathroom counter that day, full of contact solution and deodorant and half-used hair products. That's when I saw it, under two pots of pomade and a thick layer of dust (housekeeping had joined personal grooming in the are-you-kidding-me-what's-the-point-of-it-all? bin)

A dish of vanilla sugar-scented body butter.

When had I last used the stuff? I couldn't recall. Had I EVER used it? Surely I must've. Where had it come from? I distantly remembered a dear friends giving it to me in a gift basket at my bridal shower.

I looked at my wedding rings, sitting next to the sink. I had been married at that point for six and a half years. That meant I had kept this tub of lotion almost as long as my tax returns, without opening the damn stuff! I had moved it 2,000+ miles, only to let it sit and gather dust. Seriously? What the hell was wrong with me?!

I wiped the grime off on my towel. If I opened it now, what would I find? Mold? A cracked clay desert? It had been sitting an awfully long time. Miraculously, it was none the worse for time. And it smelled . . . ohmigod. I have a terrible and well-documented weakness for things that smell of sweets. God help my marriage if they ever mass-market a men's cologne that smells like brownies.

The stuff looked luscious, like frosting or a soft, creamy brie. I wanted to stick my fingers in, hell, my whole hand. But I didn't. I hesitated. And then I looked behind me, to make sure the bathroom door was closed.


Because I felt guilty.

This body butter was so rich and so nice, it was TOO nice. Too nice for a Wednesday, too nice for just sitting around the house afterwards, too nice for unemployment, too nice for ME.

Looks crazy, doesn't it, all spelled out like that?

I thought so too.

In that moment, damp, naked and alone in my bathroom with my guilt, I resolved that this was no way to live. No fucking way at all. I dug three fingers in and slathered myself head to foot in the glorious goo.

I emerged from the bathroom that day smelling like a giant snickerdoodle and determined to challenge the way I approached my stuff, my body and my life.

Use the Good Soap was born.


  1. I could have written this so many times - trying to decide whether to use something up or to use something nice. My mother saved innumerable things - especially little gifty things like cute pot-holders and commemorative plastic cups like they were the holiest of grails. She rarely used her crystal or china. But when you are down so low, it's a challenge to believe you even deserve to use something from Bath and Body Works, let alone Dior or Givenchy.

  2. Much love, Angelle. Very nice. I need to start writing again too. Once upon a time that's all I wanted to do. And now I very rarely do. Perhaps I need to use the good soap now, too.
    Jenn Carney

  3. I once had a friend with a blog "Homeschooling in a Thong" that inspired me to write a similar blog entry to yours about being a homeschooling mom and keeping sane with my MAC red lips. Its a good lesson, use it or lose it even.

  4. Love it! job no job happy or sad: Please shower! And use the good soap for goodness sake. That's my take home message and I think it's a good one. ;^D

  5. I think you've captured what goes on in so many women's heads (definitely mine). Thank you for the inspiration, Angelle!

  6. This is really great, Angelle. You have such a beautiful writing style and a great perspective worth sharing. Go, girl.

  7. Aw, you guys are making me blush. Especially you, Margo, who was kind enough to let me be an apprentice writer in your cubicle!