1. the other day in the shower, i noticed my can of shaving cream on the windowsill. my hair was full of shampoo and i was in a bit of a hurry, but i picked it up and looked at it anyway. the back of it read:
Skintimate® Shave Gel has a unique blend of eight skin conditioners, emollients and lubricants that are especially made for a woman’s needs, providing a close, comfortable shave and smooth, soft skin. Sensitive Skin formula, featuring Aloe and Vitamin E, helps shave even the most sensitive skin without irritation, leaving your skin feeling smoother and more moisturized. The light pink gel foams into a white, rich lather for easier razor glide and unbeatable razor protection against nicks and cuts.
it was the phrase “white, rich lather” that had caught my eye. why, i wondered, had they chosen to describe their product in such an awkward way? wouldn’t “rich, white lather” have sounded a little smoother? perhaps the writer had gone with “rich, white lather” initially, but the higher-ups worried about their product’s minority appeal. i pictured the board meeting:
bigwig: i’m not sure we should say “rich, white lather” on the back of the can. it sounds like “rich white men,” and we don’t want people to think our product is only for wealthy caucasians. i’m worried we’d alienate a good portion of our customer base.
writer: um, okay. what should it say instead?
bigwig: what if you just switched the words around? a “white, rich lather.”
writer: that sounds kind of funny, don’t you think? and it’s really not that much different.
bigwig: it’ll be fine. just change it.
writer: (thinks about the novel she was going to write and the short stories she was going to have published and all the people she might have inspired, and briefly considers sprinting down the conference table and jumping out the plate-glass window.) i’ll have it on your desk this afternoon.
somebody out there makes a living writing the product descriptions on the backs of shaving-cream cans. somebody makes a living writing directions for use. somebody writes the warnings and the legal disclaimers and the assembly instructions and the technical specs. the thought that this might be my eventual fate is an awfully depressing one.
2. i work mostly from home lately, so outside of trips to the grocery store and extremely rare social gatherings, i almost never leave my apartment. it’s hard to write when there’s nothing to write about.
3. as you can see, i spend a lot of time extrapolating large worries from the small print on the various products that surround me. how can i write anything when i’m so busy being insane?