In five years of sitting and standing behind tables at craft shows and markets, I have heard many, many remarks from browsers/shoppers, and not all of them are very nice. But by far the majority of people are quite polite and complimentary – or at least they think they’re being complimentary. One of my favorites is “Did you make all these?!”, which I know about half the time actually means “My goodness, I am impressed that you could make these” and the other half represents genuine attempts to determine whether these are directly-handcrafted goods or a reselling operation, which in the current marketplace is a fair question. I always respond with a cheery “Yep, sure did!” and leave it at that, but as anyone who knows me personally can attest, I have a bit (well, OK, more than a bit) of a smart-alecky streak, and sometimes it’s hard not to say “Nope, bought ’em all at Walmart yesterday!” …which would probably not have the desired result, so I refrain from indulging my imp of the perverse. SO FAR.
But that’s not what I came here to talk about today. I came to talk about the “too pretty to use” phenomenon, which is probably the most common thing I hear from people talking themselves out of buying. Now, I am certainly pleased and flattered that my products are seen as being objects of beauty in their own right, and I would never dream about complaining about that. My quibble is somewhat more subtle: Where did we get the idea that pretty things are not to be used? That the attractive soap goes in the guest bathroom soap dish, never to be touched, and we must wash ourselves only with things we deem ugly or plain enough? Besides, beauty which is ephemeral is no less beautiful, as sunsets and fresh flowers demonstrate quite well.
I understand it to some degree. After all, an unused item has a pristine air about it, an aura of freshness, almost a purity of purpose, and once it ceases to be unused and becomes half-used, this pristine quality is sullied in some indefinable way. However, a bar of soap has multiple purposes, and its beauty is only one of them – and not the primary one, either. If it is not allowed to go about its other purposes, of bringing cleanliness and happy skin and glorious fragrances to its users, it must therefore go through its little soapy life feeling thwarted and unfulfilled, collecting dust and gradually ceasing even to be beautiful.
Is it not therefore worth learning to appreciate the different kind of beauty found in a half-used bar of soap? Your skin will thank you for it! Besides, you definitely deserve pretty things at least as much as your guests do!