The Guilty Party

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I Wouldn't Want to Be Stuck in an Elevator With Him, But....

December 8, 2008

...he makes a pretty good soap.

A couple of months ago a newspaper article by Mary-Jane Butters* caught my wife's attention. The headline was "Antibacterial soap's dirty secret". As a family we have long been aware of the arguments against anti-bacterial soaps (the active ingredient in most of them is a pesticide called triclosan and killing bacteria indiscriminately is not the brightest thing in the world since a goodly number of them are what you call beneficial to humans) and although you can't avoid them in public restrooms, we make sure we use plain old soap at home. So although my wife needed no convincing, she not only read the article, but cut it out and kept it. Let's face it, we are all attracted to things and people that reinforce our own beliefs. Sometimes that is harmless and sometimes it results in certain radio talk show hosts and religious figures attaining way too much influence.

But the reason she kept the article had nothing to do with the triclosan warning, it was so she could use a sidebar list of "Ingredients to avoid in
natural soaps" as a reference when shopping. Snuggled in there with the nasty pesticide were things like alcohol (just in soap, the internally applied restorative is still safe, DEA (diethanolamine), FD&C color pigments, PEG (polyethylene glycol), and the seemingly ubiquitous Sodium laureth sulfate.

So for the past several weeks we have been in search of personal hygiene products that do not contain any of the ingredients listed in that sidebar and let me tell you, it hasn't been easy. Well, actually it is pretty easy to find the kind of products the article's author recommended, which are "handmade in small batches by community artisans". Only problem with them is the cost. A seven dollar price tag on a bar of soap makes one pause and consider. Twice that amount for a decent sized bottle of liquid hand soap is equally intimidating, at least to us.

And so last week while we were doing the family grocery shopping at our local Trader Joe's we paused to study their soap selection. Avoiding the triclosan was easy but the cheap detergent and sudsing agent sodium laurel sulfate and its close kin sodium lauryl sulfate were all over the place, including products labeled "all natural". Then, on the top row, I spotted something called "Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap". It was a quart sized bottle, the price was a fairly reasonable $8.99, and on the large print areas the label featured phrases like "PURE CASTILE SOAP" and "CERTIFIED FAIR TRADE" (I always look for that in my coffee and chocolate purchases) and "MADE WITH ORGANIC OILS". But what really caused me to grab a bottle and submit it to closer scrutiny was all the rest of the verbiage on the label, and let me tell you, it had a lot of it. And in very, very small print. Teeny tiny print packed with a life philosophy uniquely rendered into words. It was like Ornette Coleman had taken about thirty of his saxophone solos and transcribed them into a soap label.

Here are a couple of samples, one seems to be some sort of uses instruction. Out of consideration for my Dear Readers I have not retained the teeny print size**.

Enjoy only 2 cosmetics, enough sleep & Dr. Bronner's "Magic Soap" to clean body-mind-soul-spirit instantly uniting One!

1st: A human being works hard to teach love his enemy, to help unite all mankind free, or that being is not yet Human; so go the second mile, hold the other cheek brave, not meek! For we're All-One! Exceptions eternally none! ABSOLUTE NONE!

I found the ingredients list without too much trouble (after I asked my daughter to assist that is, the trifocal life can be a trying one) and with the most intimidating ingredient being something called "saponified organic coconut and organic olive oils" it certainly passed the Not In the Sidebar Test. But the label is so chock full of what can only be called exhortations that I stood there in the middle of the aisle somehow unable to either put the thing in the cart or back on the shelf. I had to read it, even though my eyes objected all the way and the syntax had the writer part of me screaming "Somebody give me a blue pencil!". If you can imagine a product label that is the equivalent of being stuck in an elevator with a person who has very definite ideas about Life, the Universe and Everything, a zealot's commitment to spread the word and a second grader's command of sentence construction that will give you some idea of what Dr. Bronner's label is like.

Oh, heck, here's another sample:

8th: More good is caused by evil than by good, do what's right! Enlarge the positive! Replace the negative with the Moral ABC's (a recurring theme) ALL-ONE-GOD-FAITH that lightning-like unites the Human race! FOR WE'RE ALL ONE OF NONE! "LISTEN CHILDREN ETERNAL FATHER ETERNALLY ONE!" WE'RE ALL ONE OR NONE! EXCEPTIONS ETERNALLY? NONE!!

Not all of the material is original, he cribs from Abraham Lincoln, Booker T. Washington and even Joe Darion, whose lyrics are a lot more famous than his name:

To dream the impossible dream!

That sort of clinched it for me. The man knew his show tunes!

So we bought Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap. And you know what, it's pretty good stuff. But I've got to admit I was rather relieved when I read at this bottom of the label:

Emmanuel Bronner passed away peacefully on March 7th of 1997.

Now I don't have to worry about being stuck in an elevator with the man.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

* yes, that Mary-Jane Butters, of United Features Syndicate fame.

**Okay, here you go: "The 2nd Coming of God's Law! Mohammed's Arab's, 1948, found Isreal Essene Scrolls & Einstein's "Hillel" prove that as no 6-year-old can grow up without the ABC, so certain can no 12-year-old survive free without the Moral ABC mason, tent & sandalmaker Rabbi Hellel taught carpenter jesus to unite all mankind free in our Eternal Father's great All-One-God-Faith! For we're All-One or none: "Listen Children Eternal Father Eternally One!"

P.S. If you would like to have a look at the label itself and either don't have a nearby retailer or would simply rather not move from where you are right now, here is a link to Dr. Bronner's soap website that will allow you to see the thing right on your screen.

Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap label


Timberati said...

Wow! Way too many exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anna said...

Plum - you got someone to comment on that! Well done! Well done to Timberati too! I was exhausted! Too much so to wash!

Sorry thought I'd add a few !!

Anna said...

My husband has been informed that the star Christmas Present for him this year will be a little delayed.

Boomerang will be all the better for the wait.

Do all your readers know where to order it from, Plum?

A Bit About Me

My photo
I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.