Yes, I know, it does sound a little weird, writing a eulogy for a bottle of conditioner. I can’t quite understand myself how it got to this point.
It all started back in 2017. I’d been frequenting this hairdresser that I really liked, they were stylish and were using products that seemed more environmentally and skin friendly than the usual l’Oreal products. I wanted to treat myself at home with the same kind of experience as I received in the salon, and then proceeded to order the same shampoo they used. The fancy shampoo was expensive and so for good measure i got the 1 liter bottle, to get the best value for money. Alas, there was a mix-up in the delivery, and instead of receiving 1l of shampoo, I received 1l of conditioner. At first I considered sending it back, but then i thought, it’s still stuff i’m going to use, so i’ll keep it. If you think that 1l of shampoo takes a while to go through, then think about 1l of conditioner. I’ll answer it for you, it took me over 3 years.
At first I was very excited with my purchase, I thought I was very clever, buying 1 liter bottles that would last me forever and I was happy to be using a product that I felt was good for my hair, which, let’s have a minute of honesty here, has never been that great.
I had done my research on the company and they were using recycled plastic for their bottles and it made me feel like I was being mindful of the environment.
Fast forward 3 years later, I’m now replacing all my beauty products with solid alternatives (solid soap, solid shampoo, solid toothpaste, etc.), it’s funny how such a small time has altered my definition of “mindful of the environment”.
Anyway, after the honeymoon period with my conditioner, something strange happened: i started to hate that bottle of conditioner. Even though I would use it, the bottle seemed to remain as full as ever and I was bored of it, tired of it. For some consumerist reason, I wanted the satisfaction of finishing a bottle and getting a new one, getting that cycle going, but there was no finishing this one. It would go on and on and on.
At that time, i was working in a job that required me to travel frequently and i started to bring conditioner with me on my travel (filling small travel bottles, i did not fly for a 3-day work trip with my 1l bottle of conditioner, I reassure you), with the intent of not losing one opportunity to finish it faster.
Why the rush? Why the need to finish the bottle? What did it matter as I would buy the same one again after (albeit a smaller bottle) or a different one (that in all truth would most likely make absolutely no difference to my hair)?
Why the hate? Why did I take the time to hate my bottle of conditioner? It was sitting there, in my shower, taking space, and dust and limescale, being a pain to keep clean, a never-ending presence that seemed to be judging me for my foolishness, my selfishness. Maybe it was just a symbol. Truth be told, I was mighty unhappy in that job, and not just because I was travelling too much for my liking. Plenty of things were not suiting me. Maybe hating an innocent bottle of conditioner was the easiest thing to do, a way to be angry about my day that was about to start, the day that I didn’t want to go through and I blamed it all on that bottle of conditioner.
I’ve always been a bit weird with objects, it’s like I can never quite completely treat them as innate things. I’ve got many things in my home that I keep because I feel too bad to throw them away. Because I feel it would be disrespectful to just throw them away. As if they had feelings and by discarding them i was hurting them in some way, disappointing them.
Local charities probably hate me because, for that reason, I throw away nothing, I give it all away, hoping for them to have a 2nd chance at a happy non-life with someone who has the use of them that I no longer have. Giving things away makes me hope of a better life for them. In my mind, this must be located close to the magic land of disappearing single socks, elastic bands and Tupperware lids (my phone frequently likes to visit too, though would usually come back).
So I felt guilty about how I felt about that bottle of conditioner. I hated it, and I hated myself for hating it. It had done nothing but loyally fulfilling its duty to me, being a long-lasting beauty product and giving good conditioning to my desperate hair. Maybe it represented what I didn’t want to face in my day, maybe it represented my failure to resist girly consumerist behaviors, maybe it represented my inability to say no when something wasn’t right (I could have sent it back, it wasn’t what I ordered, but I didn’t).
Maybe it was just that it bore witness of me going through a period of my life that was dark and troubled and lost.
A bottle of conditioner in your shower might see a lot. Think about it, there’s nothing to hide from, in your shower. You’re in your original plain undisguised glory. Whatever persona, or mood you might pretend to be in another room, in your shower, you’re only the raw you. You, your thoughts, your skin.
I’ve always felt like the shower was the best place to let go of your emotions, to cry your heart out. It’s something about the water, the noise masks the sound of your sobbing, the water on your face masks how much you’ve cried, and the fact that I’m not wearing my glasses gives the illusion of a blurry non-space that doesn’t entirely exist, that is not entirely real. If I feel really sad, I might get in the shower and let the water cry for me, when i can’t. Or let the tears run their course, when I can’t keep them in.
When you live alone, there’s nothing as lonely as crying your eyes out, sobbing loudly for a long time, until it’s run its course, and no one notices. No one knocks at your door, worried by the sound, no one felt the need to call or text — emulated by a 6th sense that let them know you needed support. You’re left with a sense of emptiness, your eyes are heavy, raw, your head is pounding, hot. And when you’re done sobbing, the silence replaces it. The contrast showing how much you were breaking inside.
I much prefer crying in the shower. It feels more private, and less disappointing. People say I’m strong, people say I’m brave, my bottle of conditioner knows better. And in those 3 years, it’s seen a lot of ups and downs.
The drama of the inadequacy of my work-life, the men who came and went and broke my heart, the friends who changed, the lonely christmases, the single-post-mid-thirties-woman’s fear of the dreaded “biological clock” and the shocking impact of dealing with it.
I fell and I fell and I fell, until I could fall no longer. I hit rock-bottom. I am lucky, because I fell a few times in my life, but my rock-bottom has always come with a fluffy soft cushion, though it’s hard, painful and can take many shapes and forms, I bounce back. Maybe it’s a fluffy rubber cushion. I’ve always felt protected in that way, I call it my “inner auto-pilot” that is going to kick-in, if necessary, and save the day. The saying goes “what goes up must come down”, it is my belief that the reverse is also true (metaphorically I mean, don’t throw a bottle of conditioner from your window and expect it to come right back to you). I know that whenever I go down, I will know “up” again, “down” is a phase that is no more permanent than “up”, and that if I just hang in there, it’ll eventually get behind me. And it does, every single time. All of my “downs” have been followed up by “ups”. Sometimes I had to be patient, sometimes it was hard to think there would be an “up”again, but they always came.
And when “up” came, this time it was a bit of a massive change in my life. I left my job, took a year off and set off to do an entirely different career by the end of it. I learned many things, about myself, about the world, about life.
And along the way, my relationship to my bottle of conditioner changed. Because it’s been there with me through it all and it’s felt like an old friend, always there for me. And my attitude changed, instead of trying to get to the end of it, I wanted it to last as long as possible, holding on to that reliable presence in my bathroom. Mixing the product with water when the pump could no longer bring the product up. Until one day, there was just no more left.
It’s been months since I used the last of the conditioner, and the idea of this eulogy has been in mind, maybe all this lockdown business has gotten me to spend way too much time inside my own head, but the bottle is still there, on the shelf. I can’t bring myself to throw it away. To end this phase of my life. How do I honor my companion? I can’t just throw it away in the recycle bin, what if it lands in a landfill? What a horrible fate! And yet, what can I do?
I want the bottle to be molded into something and to be repurposed and maybe end up at some point in someone else’s bathroom and be part of their journey, for a little while.
Years ago, I took theater lessons in a small amateur Parisian theater, and the teacher gave us an exercise to do: we would each take a turn at being the last remaining corn kernel in the can, arguing for our fate. Most people — as the corn — asked to be spared. But I asked to be eaten, I asked to be given the opportunity to fulfill my destiny, as a corn kernel, to be eaten and provide sustenance to my eater, to accompany my fellow corn kernels who had already gone and share their fate. This was my reward as a corn kernel and I embraced it. On the contrary, leaving me alone at the bottom of the can, and throwing me in the bin was the worst possible offence you could do to me. A waste of my life and of my gift to the world.
And I want my bottle to meet its rightful fate, serve its purpose in the grand scheme of things and find its way to the cycle of life that it belongs to. Sometimes I imagine it as a particle of plastic that ends up in the belly of a fish, or in one of these dead birds full of plastic on a beach, and i don’t want that. Not for the fish, nor for the birds, not for it and not for me. How do I honor it?
I don’t need my bottle anymore, its presence in my bathroom is no longer impacting my well-being, but i’m grateful for having had it my life. It makes no sense that it became such an important item and symbol, and yet i cannot deny that it did — and like all things that happen without you asking for them, it’s always good to pay attention and honor the message.
I haven’t cried in my shower for a while now, I replaced the tears by little messages that i write on the walls through the steam, simple positive affirmations that i write again and again, every day (because yes, french people do shower everyday, shocking I know), feeling that their superposing presence, though invisible to the eye, created a new energy in my shower. No longer a place of refuge, but a place of renaissance. No longer a place of hiding, but a place of becoming, of regenerating. A place of worthiness, of acceptance and of belonging. A place that feels like home and accepts all parts of me.