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I'd like to get hold of a hair shirt. Not because I'm into sin or self-torture; it would simply give me more hair to wash. Anything for an excuse to buy more shampoo...

Not long ago, I shared a house with two other women, and we shared the house with eleven bottles of shampoo. They lined the towel rack over the tub like the two jars of raspberry jam, three different kinds of mustard, and six different kinds of salad dressing lined our otherwise empty refrigerator shelves. Hair condiments.

Each bottle promised to spice up our lives. Each bottle promised "a brand new you." Which is, after all, a big part of shampoo's appeal: its promise of transformation, beginning with the word itself. From the tentative "sh" to the affirmative "am" to the playful "poo" the word mirrors the transformation of the actual substance: liquid to foam to invisible scent. The suds make me taller; they are a light, whimsical crown for my worried head. A crown that's reinvented every day and doesn't have time to become burdensome.

Like a lot of people, I started out using Johnson's Baby Shampoo. The slogan, "No more tears," reminds me of those first shampoos, when, no matter how non-irritating the shampoo was, I scrunched my eyes up tight and cried. I was young, and didn't yet appreciate what shampooing was all about. I was ambivalent. The fact that I had to close my eyes and didn't know what was coming next made me anxious. But once I got into it, and nothing terrible happened, I relaxed and even felt comforted because the shampoo smelled good, and I liked having my soft little scalp massaged. I also liked hearing my mother coo endearments after my transformation from goo-head to sweet-smelling cherub. "What a pretty little girl you are! Such a lovely, clean baby!" Yes, yes, that's me. More please.