Wednesday, September 11, 2013

childhood obsessions: Bath and Body Works.

Remember how, in the first few years of elementary school, everyone was friends with everyone else? You exchanged those tiny less-than-wallet-size school pictures with every last classmate, and no one cared if you sat with the “wrong” kids at lunch because there WERE no wrong kids. (Not that kids are ever actually “wrong” kids, but you know what I mean.)  Everyone got along, and life was good.

But inevitably, the tides start to turn. The cliques begin to form, and clear lines are drawn between who is cool and isn’t cool. In my class, the change started to happen at the end of second grade. That’s when it started to matter what you wore and it became a major goal to get a boyfriend – yes, in second grade.

As we got older, brands and trends started to matter more and more. You were cool if you wore Tommy Hilfiger, but God help you if you showed up to school in Jordache. You were cool if you had a pair of clogs, but you were uncool if you wore them past 1998.

It will probably not surprise you to find out that I was a solid member of the uncool. I was doomed from the start: brand names and fancy clothes meant nothing to me, and I didn’t have a crush on anyone until Leonardo DiCaprio circa Titanic.
So dreamy.
Even though I was uncool and knew it, I still wanted what those cool kids had. I got my mom to buy me a pair of navy blue clogs at a consignment store, and I traded my tapered Jordaches for a pair of $7 WalMart flare jeans (which were technically not cool since they came from WalMart, after all, but I could get away with it because no one could tell).

When I was sixth grade, the big cool thing was to have lotion from Bath and Body Works. Yes: cool had a smell, and it was sun-ripened raspberry. Remember that kind? I think it's been discontinued, but sun-ripened raspberry was the must-have scent of sixth graders in Arlington in 1999.
I tried to find a picture of the
lotion in the 1999 era bottle,
but the best I could do was hairspray.

The Bath and Body Works trend continued through junior high, but the “cool” scents changed from year to year. Sun-ripened raspberry fell out of style in favor of pearberry in seventh grade, and coconut lime verbena was the scent of eighth grade. There were a number of other acceptable varieties, like cucumber melon and juniper breeze, but they weren’t at the top of the list. However, it was not ok to be the kid wearing sweet pea lotion.
As its name suggests, it was sickly sweet and would induce headaches upon whomever was unfortunate enough to sit by the wearer of said lotion. So the smell of perfumed lotion hung heavy in the air throughout all of junior high, but it’s better than the usual junior high smell of overpowering body odor.

There was a Bath and Body Works in the Watertown mall, but I never paid attention to it until I decided that I wanted some overpriced lotion of my own. However, when I got to the store, I experienced sixth-grade sticker shock: $12 for a bottle of lotion?! I don’t think so!! Twelve dollars was a fortune for an eleven year old (let’s be honest: I have a hard time paying $12 for lotion now, fifteen years later – remarkably, the Bath and Body Works prices haven’t really changed).

So, instead of spending my hard-earned allowance money on overpriced lotions, I did what any sensible kid would do: I got someone else to buy them for me by asking for them for my birthday. One year, I got a whole set of cucumber melon stuff – soap, lotion, body spray, you name it. I also received the coveted sun-ripened raspberry lotion (while it was still cool! score!), but I rationed it carefully. I used it only on what I deemed to be special occasions, so as a result, I was left with a whole ton of sun-ripened raspberry lotion after it had fallen out of fashion at Arlington Elementary. Story of my life.

When high school hit, carrying around Bath and Body Works lotions was no longer the thing to do – you had to buy actual perfume. That was WAY outside of my price range, so I didn’t even bother. Nowadays, Bath and Body Works is still popular – they’ve got some delightful soaps, and I almost always have a travel-sized lotion of theirs in my purse. But now, it’s not about being cool: it’s just about my hands smelling good.

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