Pure Soap (Demeter Fragrance Library)

Heaven has but one thing Hell doesn't: soap. Catholics, Jews, Muslims, all base their faith on a loving relationship with god, and envisage the afterlife's domain as something splendid, beyond words, truly miraculous and beautiful. Heaven, they say, flutters with clouds of angels trumpeting the glory of the divine.

As an atheist, I say no.

First of all, in all of my trials and tribulations, my gut reflex is not to ask god for help, for mercy, for a sign. My instinct is to internalize, process on a level of "me," and move on, for better or worse. God simply doesn't factor in, for the simple reason that he has never factored into my psyche before, and never will.

My non-belief is based on something that happened to me shortly after I was born. It was about memory. My first memory was not of something I did in the past, but of something I could not actually picture. My first memory - and consider the impossibility of having a "first" memory, yet everyone has/had one - was a comparison to something I knew to be, without possessing any formal way to know; my first memory was linked inextricably to my first cogent (or inexplicable, depending on your religion) thought: I am so lucky to be alive now, in 1984, and not then. Then, life was much, much harder.

This stayed with me, this first real impression of le monde. It was akin to wondering if I had come from somewhere prior to birth, somewhere else on this earth, and from a previous time period. It made me wonder if all men are immortal. Are we like Miriam from The Hunger, simply moving through time, with no end, and no beginning? And what frame of reference can a baby have? Whatever a youngster thinks of the world is isolated experience, to be extrapolated upon by subsequent years of well-contextualized experiences. In my three short decades on le monde, I have seen varying degrees of human goodness, humility, and grace. I've also seen varying degrees of human filth, degradation, and brutality, and have concluded that none of earth's ills would exist if everyone had unrestricted access to one simple thing - good soap.

Think about it. The angry dissidents in Afghanistan, throwing stones in the streets, hurling grenades, and firing ground-to-air missiles from mountaintops, all seem a bit over-scruffed and desert-sanded. When was the last time they washed their faces? There's a lot of B.O. wafting across them mountains. No wonder these guys are always fighting.

The same goes for North Korea, a pathetic totalitarian complex cordoned off from the rest of the civilized world, with its people stuck in a time warp of physically stunted growth, and intellectually stunted compliance to bitter authority. The top dogs, however, always have wry smiles on their faces. They bathe regularly; the North Korean people bathe when they can, between eighteen-hour military shifts and state flyer drops.

There are still segments of Europe that haven't adapted to post-Communistic cleaning rituals, and wait a week between washes in the defunct hope to meet the guys or gals on Bath House Monday (or Tuesday, or Wednesday . . . ) and converse about the latest news. It's a little sad, because of course those bath houses have been closed, and some, especially the elderly, seem to regard their shower nozzles with suspicion. "How, pray tell, did you get into my home, strange metal fixture with cleats and holes? Why do you hiss at me so? Be gone, Komrade!"

Americans are obsessed with cleanliness, to a fault. Soap is what we crave, and we don't even realize we're craving it. When we shower, we slather body washes and sudded bars onto skin with a collective hunger unmatched by other cultures. How else can we explain this incessant need to produce fragrances that smell like soap?

This is what renders Demeter's "Pure Soap" a bit superfluous. There is no such thing as "Pure" soap anymore - soap is everywhere, in a million "pure" forms. Dishwasher detergent. Laundry detergent. Dish washing soap. Hand soap. Body soap. Antibacterial soap. Olive oil soap. Home made soap. Even soap for cars. Soap for kids. Soap for pets. Soap for our houses, our fine China, our fingernails, our makeup. It's all pure soap.

Pure Soap by Demeter has that white, clean, lye-infused, and nondescript soapiness, commonly found in classic soaps by Ivory, Dial, and Yardley. As it dries, a hint of spring flowers rustles through the soap flakes, followed in lockstep by the sheerest white musk I've ever encountered. Ten minutes pass, and it's gone. Apply again, or forget it and move on to something dirtier.

Whatever your feelings about god, birth, death, humanity, religion, and oppression, your feelings about soap are the most evolved. You want it. You need it. When you don't have it for a day or two, you get cranky. When you don't have it for a year or two, you become a psychopath. Things are better now, they really are, compared to the world of a hundred, or even two hundred years ago. We have electricity. We have cars. We have pills for everything, and doctors with fancy computers to diagnose our problems like we're cars. And we have perfumes that take the feeling of having just showered, and extend it into our daily commute. Thus, we're civilized, moving peacefully from here to there, rarely entertaining the honest realization that without soap, everything goes to shit, and there's no one and nothing to stop us from slipping into nothingness.


  1. You really know what you think! It is nice to find religion and the meaning of life discussed in such a confident way on a perfume blog...so thanks a lot. I am European, but I spend a couple of months each year with a family in a little Kurdish town in Turkey on the border with Iran. Even the few families with some kind of bathroom at home have a "religious" respect for the act of going to the public bath-houses to get properly clean. They talk with reverence about it before going and tell their friends after the fact about the experience, like it had a special importance. So thanks for your analysis of the importance of clean - I would not have got there myself.

    1. You're welcome Norman, and thank you for reading! The religious aspect of cleanliness is intricately linked into our psyche - after all, "cleanliness is next to godliness."

  2. The best way to describe the scent of ivory soap(which is what I think this fragrance is based on) would be an aldehyde fragrance. Pleasant smelling but it's not a scent you would find in nature; It's in a class by itself. Even though I tend to prefer gourmand scents I love this fragrance. Ivory was the soap we used when I was a kid and this scent is very nostalgic for me :).

    1. Thanks for your input, Melissa, and it's interesting to note that many gourmands have a very soapy component in them! I love both types.

  3. "When was the last time they washed their faces? "
    Considering those angry Afghani dissidents are highly religious Islamists they probably wash their faces, hands & feet 5 times a day to pray (as proscribed by Islam).
    Actually they make a really nice soap scented with local roses in Afghanistan.
    Soaps in the US (Ivory, Dove, Lifebuoy, Dial) are usually scented with the ubiquitous synthetic white musks, some synthetic muguet, & plenty of powdery synthetic ionones. We Americans like cloying faux powdery/musky fragrances to cover our stenches!

    1. You're telling me these guys smell like roses? They're carrying bars of soap under those M16-laden tunics? Two words: yeah, right.

      I don't doubt Afghanistan produces lovely soap. Europe does, too. Doesn't mean they use it. I agree, though, our soaps are synthetic messes.

    2. Well, having lived a couple years on the Afghan border I can tell you this-
      A little rose, patchouli & oud attar goes a long way. We're talking Hiroshima like projection & sillage.
      I did learn that 'low income' (pc term for poor) Islamic men like to wear Charlie. (Yes, I know that was a shocker to me too.)
      It would seem that the theory behind wearing these Hiroshima-like stenches is to cover one stench with a bigger one. The same belief seems to hold true across India also. Probably a French thing too.


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