When I saw the “Violet Days” comic strip about keeping untouched decorative soap, I couldn’t help but relate. Thanks to a childhood passion for collecting and parents who haven’t moved, I was able to dig up my own collection of unused, dusty, nearing-antique-status decorative soaps. The whole menagerie, from the l’Occitane bar that was a party favor at my friend Susan’s birthday to the partially deteriorated Aunt Jemima Puddleduck, are pictured here.As attested to in the cartoon, decorative soaps can be pretty confusing! Are they soap? Are they toys? Are they decorations? As a kid I clearly thought they were some combination of the latter two, since they are (mostly–Snoopy is missing part of his face) intact after more than 20 years. It reminds me of something I heard once about fingertip towels–you know, the doll-sized towels that you see in guest bathrooms that are almost always decorated with kitschy embroidery or lace of some kind. It’s said that almost no one uses these because they are, like decorative soaps, confusing. Does your host intend for you to actually use them, or are they meant to be looked at and admired while you shake your dripping hands and then pat them dry on your dress pants?
I once had this dilemma while a house guest in Switzerland. The only soap available in the guest bath was a completely untouched, wrapped l’Occitane bar as if I were in a five-star hotel. Almost wincing, I forced myself to peel open the crisp paper and mar the pristine surface of the smooth soap with water. “You are the guest,” I pep talked myself through the harrowing experience. “They want you to use this.”
Why do we have resistance to using nice things? Is it our upbringing when we were taught that the good silver only comes out on holidays and not to nibble on the dessert until the guests arrive? We deserve to use nice things. Like Chris Monroe says in the comic strip, “I should have just used it in the first place.” We are deserving of the fingertip towels and the good soap. So I’m going to put Snoopy in my bathroom right now and go use him to wash my han–on second thought, never mind, I can’t quite seem to bring myself to do it.