In those days the homes I’d seen had no showers; most folk bathed once a week, had water heaters having to be ignited a half-hour before one could bathe. The rule for shampooing women’s hair was that brunettes shampooed once a month - if that - blondes twice a month. Redheads were never mentioned. I should have asked my friend Mona McCall how often she shampooed her hair. As well, the washing of hair was done under cold water from kitchen faucet or pump affixed to a wooden drain board.
Then in 1933 Proctor & Gamble created a detergent that relieved soap scum from more delicate fabrics such as baby clothes and lingerie. It was boxed in a lovely light green carton, the detergent itself a pretty shade of pink. Its fragrance was so beguiling that my mother declared that if I didn’t stop sticking my nose in the carton, all the pretty scent would be gone. How I loved that “soap.”
The history of soap goes back centuries, the Roman baths coming immediately to mind. The internet told me that soap was used in 1500 BC. Fancy!
But the soap flakes I want to get to are character in daytime dramas that continue to draw an audience, one that grows ever smaller with each year. It’s not only that so many women work outside their homes - after all, television programs are easily recorded. It’s that the writers grow ever more flakey, the plots not only absurd but redundant.
Men - most often husbands - would make fun of their wives’ dedication to their “stories.” We were better off before television took over. I was so silly, I thought we’d only see actors and actresses (females were actresses, none of this equality ____ . As Ilka Chase once observed, “I’m not interested in equality: I’ve always been superior.)
The first daytime story I recall was Ma Perkins - and she showed up sponsored by another soap product: Oxydol. “Opportunity knocks at the Oxydol box.” (I don’t make these things up, you know.)
As a child, I thought that Ma Perkins was a real person. I don’t recall how old I was when I became a life-long devotée of daytime stories. There was often a baby mix-up or a lost child. As an adopted child, I paid very close attention to how those children were discovered. It wasn’t until much later that the flagrant scandals erupted to keep up with the blossoming sophistication of the middle class. I remember seeing the word damn in The Saturday Evening Post. I was slack-jawed. Over the years, we’ve heard words that would have - at the time - make the Church People drop dead.
What those God-fearing people didn’t understand was that what they did exclaim were merely euphemisms for God. In my day, “Dagnabbit!” had no relation to Goddammit!
I know only one couple who watches soaps - or soap, as it happens. I record one-and-a-half hours, a week’s worth on one eight-hour tape. I don’t care to clutter up the DVR. At the moment, I have forty-eight hours of The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful. Another friend, a lady lawyer was a Guiding Light fan - as was I. I’d recorded the last weeks of that soap; as usual I hadn’t watched in weeks. Visiting her, we talked the show’s going off the air. She commented on the death of one of the main characters.
I laughed, “Thanks.”
She looked at me. “Oh! Sorry! I thought you’d seen it.”
“No matter. I figured they’d kill him.”
Will I ever watch them the ones I have on tape? I’ll have to watch them I’ve run out of eight-hour tapes.
Who’s flakey now?