Where di soap is?

The other day I took a shower at my girlfriend’s house. This was a little unusual for me because usually I don’t bathe anywhere other than in my own home. Its not that I’m a snob or anything, its just that my mother (being a proper Jamaican lady) raised me not to ever be a burden to other people. Being a “burden”, by her reckoning, involved doing anything that caused the least bit of inconvenience, embarrassment or nuisance to others. One did not stay too long at other people’s houses, one did not spill things on other people’s rugs and one certainly never ever showered anywhere other than in one’s own home or maybe the home of a blood relative (and then only after a hurricane or some other natural disaster caused an extended disruption in the supply of water). Anything else would be unseemly.

I made an exception to this ironclad rule only because I was at the home of my established girlfriend (by “established” I mean she had occupied the post for over a month) and because, having slept over the night before, I now desperately needed my morning shower. In any case, I had made extensive preparations for this singular occasion by packing a change of clothes, a towel and a washcloth (known in Jamaica as a “rag”) in my overnight bag. My girlfriend had given me a funny look when I announced that I had packed my own towel (weren’t her towels good enough?), but no worries: I would be a burden to no one. Of that I was sure.

So I made my way to the bathroom and deposited my supplies beside the bathtub.

My girlfriend’s bathroom, by the way, is a rather fancy affair: sponge-painted walls, indigo-coloured marble tiles, full-length mirrors and the like. The “fanciness” extended to the fixtures: the shower controls resembled those of a fighter jet and it took me a good five minutes of fiddling with the faucet and cursing softly under my breath to get the shower to produce hot water.  That done, however, I quickly undressed and stood under the spray of water. I shivered slightly and exhaled. Thank god for hot water.

Then I reached for the soap…


I was mildly surprised when I realised there was no soap there. The little hollow in the wall of the shower, which, in most Jamaican homes, usually contains a bar of Dove, Ivory, or the ever-popular Irish Spring, was empty.

Undeterred, I looked around quickly and located a sort of wire basket hanging beneath the nozzle of the shower. It was chock full of bottles and containers of all varieties and shapes. Surely, there must be a bar of soap in there somewhere, I thought.

Fat chance.

Among other things, the wire contraption contained Moisturising Shave Mousse, Cherry Blossom Shower Gel (I wondered idly what cherry blossoms added to the experience), Moisturizing Shampoo with eucalyptus oil (Eucalyptus? Isn’t that what koala bears eat?), Styling Mist (Mist? What and how does one style with a “mist” anyway?), Lavish Conditioning Shampoo with polymeric conditioning and silk protein/ keratin protein (This was something people put in their hair? God forbid.) and Oil Free Moisture (Why would there be oil in the “moisture” in the first place? And why would one buy moisture? I thought moisture was the stuff you got when you turned on the shower?).

Everything but soap.

I decided to take another look. This time my search produced a tube of Advanced Wrinkle Therapy (Alarm bells went off here. Why would my 30-year-old girlfriend need wrinkle therapy? I made a mental note to demand an explanation sometime later), Sculpting Delight (Not sure what we were sculpting, or why the process was such a “delight”.), Deep Conditioner (Because a shallow conditioner wont do?) and a bottle of thick grainy brown fluid mysteriously named “Cocoa Delight”.
I was starting to panic. My girlfriend’s shower contained more potions, elixirs and unguents than the back room of a well-stocked obeah man. Ancient Shamans had cured fevers and cast out evil spirits with a fraction of the items at my girlfriend’s disposal. But still there was no bloody soap!

How could she possibly have not one single bar of soap? How did she bathe? How were her daily ablutions accomplished? She generally smelled quite nice, but I was beginning to wonder how she managed that without soap? Was she using all these products to cover the smell of her unwashed body?

Well, I would be damned if I joined her in that sordid, unclean state! I stepped gingerly out of the shower and tiptoed unsteadily to the cabinet below the washbasin. Backside! Stashed under the basin were enough products to stock a small pharmacy.

This was typical of your modern Jamaican woman, I thought angrily; so hell bent on having all the trendiest products that she neglected to buy the essentials. This foolish pawn of mass media bought everything the commercials told her to, and nothing that she (and her unwashed boyfriend) actually needed. Well, generations of strong Jamaican men had managed with nothing but a bar of soap, a rag and a basin of cold water and I was damned if I would be made to do any less. By god, I would make my grouses known.

So I cast my reluctance to be a nuisance aside and called out bravely: “Um, honey. Do you have any soap?”
The answer came back quickly: “Of course I do”.
“Yes, well where is it?” Said I, with some irritation.
“In the wire basket under the shower” she called back.
“THERE IS NO SOAP THERE!” I answered with some heat.
“ So what do you think the Cherry Blossom Shower Gel is?” she answered truculently.
“Well where I come from, “soap,” means a rectangular bar of vegetable fats and oils usually measuring 3 and a half inches by one and a half inches, commonly used when bathing. You appear to have every product except that.” I replied. Rather cleverly too, I thought.

I was rather taken aback when the bathroom door flew open, my girlfriend stepped in, removed the Cherry Blossom Shower Gel from its resting place, thrust it into my wrinkled hands and declared “Well where I come from “soap” is whatever I damn well say it is!”

It’s amazing what a rich, thick lather the Cherry Blossom Shower Gel produces. And I must say the Cherry Blossom fragrance is really quite invigorating.