From unctions to ointments, pomades and liniments; from preparations to suspensions via balms, gels and tinctures...there are so many words for goo. It is a lexicographer’s Lotto win and a linguist’s afternoon well spent. But this is not the only reason I love a bathroom cabinet. They are both a window on the soul of their owner and contain solutions (yet another word for goo) to almost all our ills, both moral and physical. The hope contained within is tangible. The presence of an overflowing cupboard above the sink reassures me that everything might just be all right. Those I have glanced at during brief stopovers at friends’ houses are usually stuffed full - their owners’ discontentment writ large in their Olbas Oil, their withered tubes of Anusol and their efficient-looking bottles of Neutrogena T-gel. The cabinet of the anxious high achiever always contains answers to conflicting problems - Bach remedies to calm you down, ProPlus to pick you up and Vicks to clear your airwaves when your immune system gives way under the strain.
My own cabinet is no different. I try to be a frugal shopper, but clearly something in me can never resist the hope offered by a trip to Superdrug. My instant reaction to discomfort is "Is there something for that?" Any sign of an itch or an ache and I’m sprinting up the high street for some overpriced bottle whose first ingredient is usually "Aqua". Do the makers of these products seriously believe we are fooled by such terminology? It doesn’t matter. They count on the fact that - in the haze of misery caused by the fast-paced boredom of modern life - people will cling to the slight hope offered by the 0.01 per cent 'active ingredient'. My side of the cabinet bristles with evidence of life's endless challenges: tea-tree oil for post-birth vaginal healing, lavender oil for insomnia and four kinds of face cream (I lurch between insanely cheap and stupidly expensive, depending on how optimistic I feel- I'm currently siding with Lidl own brand). My husband's side of the cupboard contains nothing but a single enormous cock-shaped deodorant from L'Oreal. I'm not sure what this says about him but we should perhaps keep him out of this.
I am a tired-out mum-of-three gnawed half to death by a sense that my career has shrivelled and died. My daily grind of scrubbing, mopping and barking instructions at lunatic children does nothing for the self-esteem. It is perhaps only natural I look to Proctor and Gamble. It is easier to exfoliate one’s butt-cheeks with a six pound St Ives body scrub - and enjoy the subsequent short-lived satisfaction - than to actually decide what to do with your life.