Cardella: Soap Stories

I like good shower soap. Just a quirk of mine. I’ve been known to spend good money for a cake of great-smelling soap. Triple milled to last longer. Calms me down.

My soap is made by an American company that’s been in the business since 1756. The company brags that its products have been used by American presidents such as John Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower.

I don’t share my soap. Never. Not even with my wife Fran. You might as well ask me to share my toothbrush. I got a new shipment of soap the other day. Three cakes. Strong-smelling, manly scent. Fran asked me if she could use one of my soaps. I gave her a flat-out “No.” That might sound selfish, but Fran has her own soap. OK, so Dwight Eisenhower used my brand of soap when he was in the White House. I liked Ike. I love Fran. But I don’t want to cuddle with her smelling like President Eisenhower.

That’s the thing about soap. It allows you to take on a different identity much like cologne or perfume. If a woman wants to pretend that she is Elizabeth Taylor, she can dab a few drops of her perfume behind each ear.

Ads for products such as soap, cologne and perfume make it seem that they can make you irresistible to the opposite sex. I have no such great expectations. You’ve seen those soap ads. A half-naked young woman or man is in the shower. She or he smiles as if they just had the best sex ever instead of just a shower. I don’t care how much you pay for soap, the best you can hope for is clean. And at my age that’s enough. Nothing else is going on behind those strategically placed suds.

When I was a kid, there was a famous stripper who took a bubble bath on stage. I was only a kid, but after I saw photos of her act in a magazine, I became a big fan of soap bubbles.

Since the TV series YELLOWSTONE became popular, many men fantasize about being cowboys. Some enterprising soap company decided to make soaps with a western theme. There’s an URBAN COWBOY soap that had me wearing spurs to bed. Fran made sure she hid that bar of soap. The company makes an entire line of soap that smells of sagebrush and other scents of the wild west. Of course, those cowpokes hardly ever washed back in the day. So, you should probably only use this product a couple of times a year when you’re bathing in an old wash tub. But just the promise of being able to step under the shower as a hedge fund manager and emerge as Kevin Costner makes men tingle.

Back in the ‘60s, the scent of patchouli was popular, although I’ll never understand why. Patchouli was one of those scents that could be worn by men or women. I admit that the boldest move I ever made in the ‘60s was trying to wear patchouli. Fran wasn’t a fan. She refused to allow me into the bedroom until I got rid of my patchouli. It’s difficult for me to explain the scent of patchouli if you’ve never smelled it. There’s the god-awful funky odor — kind of like garbage that sat in the sun too long. Patchouli seemed to be the fragrance of choice for self-styled revolutionaries back then. Tom Hayden, one of Jane Fonda’s ex-husbands, probably wore it. That would explain why his marriage to Fonda didn’t last. My patchouli was a purple oil in a vial that looked like something Lucretia Borgia hid in her purse for emergencies.

Then there’s soap-on-a-rope. I have to admit that I don’t understand the appeal of soap-on-a-rope. Two words: Soap dish. Isn’t that why they make soap dishes? So, you don’t have to carry a giant bar of soap around your neck? I got a double hernia dragging around this huge bar of soap in the shower. And I should be ashamed to admit it, but I wore the soap-on-a-rope outside the shower. I figured I made a fashion statement. That was also the time when I grew sideburns so long that they met under my chin. I was a real rebel back then. Burned my draft card at a backyard barbecue. Almost scorched my Nehru jacket.

I never could use Ivory soap. It’s only 99.44% pure. I’m bothered by what might be going on with that last .56%. You would think that if you could get rid of 99.44% of the impurities, you could finish the job.

Remember when everybody seemed to use Lifebuoy soap? Back in the 1920s, there was a sign at Baker Bowl, the old park where the Phillies played, that read THE PHILLIES USE LIFEBUOY. Rumor has it that a disgruntled fan scribbled on the sign — “And they still stink.”

Americans were once in love with antibacterial soap until they found out it had the same effect on the skin as Old Dutch Cleanser. Today, gone are the antibacterial chemicals for the most part. Body soap tends to be more gentle now with all-natural ingredients.

The first evidence we have of soap in the civilized world is from 2800 BC. Egyptians, who bathed regularly, made it from fat and oil. The early Romans used urine in making their soap, thereby necessitating a second shower.

We got rid of our bathtub a long time ago. Most people I know take showers today, except in movies. In the movies, a beautiful woman who wants to entice her husband to make love always rings the tub with candles. When I tried it, I burned my privates trying to get into the tub. Fran canceled that date.

I think I’m going to go take a shower.