Multipurpose products have a special allure. Like white vinegar, for example: it removes odor from gym clothes, helps dye Easter eggs, and unclogs drains! Or Benetint: it stains lips AND cheeks. The allure is doubled if you live in a small apartment with limited storage space. Every item you own must work hard to deserve its portion of your 300 square-feet. Multipurpose items have an obvious advantage.
Their appeal is intensified by the onset of spring. Spring is the season of simplifying and scrubbing. Every April, like clockwork, I start thinking about how nice it would be to have a uniform. What if I wore a white shirt, leather jacket, and 501s every day? Or a navy silk dress? I could just buy copies of each item, and then I’d never have to worry about what to wear…
The conceptual pleasure of simplifying is real—but for me, it is also short-lived. I like the idea of eating the same thing for lunch every day, but not the monotonous reality of it. I like the notion of Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Peppermint Castile Liquid Soup, but it is exceptionally drying. Benetint makes me look like a clown.
There is one exception, and that is Mane ’n Tail Shampoo. I use it as a shampoo and body wash, and I could also use it to wash my horse, if I owned a horse. It has a light scent and lathers up in cloudy suds. The bottles are comically large—if you keep one in your shower caddy and it falls off in the middle of the night, you will wake up believing that an intruder has invaded the premises.
But the jumbo size is good, because a bottle lasts six months—and two bottles of shampoo a year is a pretty good burn rate. (It comes out to 8 cents per shampoo, if you wash twice a week.) The bottle weighs exactly 2 lbs, which means you can also sub it for weights in the Tracy Anderson routine of your choice. Printed on the side are two sets of instructions—one for humans and one for horses. See if you can guess which one this is:
Add a liberal amount of Mane 'n Tail Shampoo into a bucket of warm water. Pre-wet the coat with just water to remove excessive, loose dirt. Apply shampoo solution with a sponge and massage until a rich lather appears. Let lather remain on the hair for several minutes. Rinse until water runs clear. Towel dry.
Applied in the usual human fashion, Mane ’n Tail leaves my hair shiny and clean. A coat of Mane ’n Tail Conditioner on the ends keeps it moisturized, too.
Is Mane ’n Tail the best possible treatment for human hair? Probably not. But it works, and it’s cheap, and you can buy it at nearly every drugstore. It’s a simplifying mechanism that I can stick with. I will never eat the same thing for lunch every day or consolidate my closet into a row of identical black dresses, but at least my shower is sparklingly minimal: one shampoo, one conditioner, one soap, the end.
Photo by Annie Kreighbaum.