by Laura Pilati
I have an uncanny ability to remember the exact moment in time when life-changing events or realizations took place. I remember the moment when I first became aware of the concept of time telling (1st grade), when I saw my [now] boyfriend for the first time, when I fell in love with geology, and when I met my [also now] best friend. There are other moments, but those have remained some of the most cherished to me. One of the “others”, however, was when I first felt pressured to bathe every day.
It was 7th grade (doesn’t that statement set the stage?). I was on the volleyball court with my middle school team, in the position of server. Out of the blue (seriously, there was probably nothing contextually that would have brought this up, just the fact that we were middle schoolers), one of my teammates said to another: “Did you see so-and-so? Her hair is so greasy. She must not shower every day.” What a weird thing to say, right? Not to me. The cogs immediately began turning in my 12-year-old mind: “Does my hair look greasy? God, it must. Are people talking about me like that? I have got to start showering every day.”
Circa 2001. Don’t judge until you post your own.
Most people in the U.S. do bathe every day, and they generally don’t think twice about it. But up until that decisive moment, I didn’t. My Mom made us bathe about once a week growing up, and that was usually enough. There was no fuss about appearances other than what was necessary: to make sure our hair was combed in the morning and our bangs (in the days of the bowl cut) weren’t hanging over our eyes. I never found myself thinking about make up or curling irons for the simple reason that they were not necessary and part of our routine. It was this upbringing that troubled me from that moment on the volleyball court onward: I didn’t start showering every day wasn’t because I felt like I needed to or it’s what my Mom taught me. It was because I felt like other people expected me to.
I realize that at this point my post could evolve into an essay about bullying (and if this was a pick-your-own-ending, perhaps it would!), but this anecdote is really to set the stage for the next: flash forward about 7 years to 2007. I’m starting up my second year at Mary Washington, totally wrapped up in the youth environmental movement, and meeting all of these crunchy college kids. In what was perhaps a bizarre twist of fate, the following things happened near simultaneously:
- I met Madeleine Hawks (no explanation needed at this point)
- My boyfriend started using Dr. Bronner’s because “hikers say it’s not as bad for the water and stuff.”
- Somehow I came across this short film
- A fellow Eco Club friend told me about how she used to work at a vitamin/health food store that had the motto “don’t put anything on your body that you wouldn’t eat.”
- I decided I wanted to grow my hair out really long, so I started following this LiveJournal community, which in turn prompted me to start following this LiveJournal community
Oh, and this. Bonnaroo circa 2007.
And at some point in the Spring of 2008, I took a look at my shampoo bottle (at the time, Aussie’s Sydney Smooth) and I didn’t like what I saw. Now that I had the information I needed to understand it, I inherently felt as though it did not connect with who I was and what I believed…and how my Mom taught me to think about caring for myself. So, I went to the Giant down the street (our only grocery store) and picked up a bottle of J.A.S.O.N. shampoo and conditioner (that same stuff I cursed just a few weeks ago). So began the long and continuous process of self-analysis, skepticism, and experimentation!
Four years later…here I am!
Smooth and sassy…or just tipsy.
You know how they say that it takes 21 days to make a habit? Or that you can plant a seed of knowledge and have it lay dormant for years? I may have a knack for remembering influential instants in time, but I realize that, more often than not, it’s what happens before, in between, or after those moments which makes us who we are or leads to an “ah ha!” moment…the journey, not the destination, so to speak!
But I believe that learning about yourself, your health, and how we each impact our environment and fellow humans is a lifelong process that can be instigated by one of those moments (or several simultaneous moments..). Each of our minds will decide when it is fertile enough to let the seed grow. Are you ready?