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Hollow Necessities

When was it that people stopped deciding what is necessary and instead handed that power to the very same industries that will reap the rewards?

I recently saw a blog a friend shared in which the author had stopped using shampoo and conditioner, altogether. It piqued my interest so I started digging. I wanted to learn more about what motivations there are for completely quitting a modern day convenience. As I began I realized that other than knowing what brands work with my hair, my knowledge on shampoo left much to be desired. Side note – I find this mildly concerning – I don’t know anything about a product I use frequently, on my body no less. So I started researching: when and why it was created, what it is made up of (then and now), historical hair care techniques, alternatives, etc. I figure before I can make the decision to quit something, I should at least know what I am choosing to leave behind and why I made that choice.

After actually doing my research, I’m left wondering how much of my modern life is necessary and not just something commercialization has made me believe is necessary. Take hair care for instance, it is a widely held belief that oily hair is dirty and gross. The general stance is that the natural oils and secretions your body produces are gross and therefore need artificial products to remove them. Older generations were on the opposite end of the spectrum, eschewing all artificial additives because they weren’t ‘natural’.

From my reading, as late as the 1940s to 1960s it was common for middle class women to only get their hair shampooed once a week, and that was done at the salon so it could be styled. Today, most people wash theirs multiple times a week, if not daily. Based on my reading, the daily stripping of oil leaves the hair dry and prone to damage, which is then what necessitates conditioning treatments – something almost completely unheard of before hair care rituals. So when did that widely held belief of the 40s-60s begin to change? Does it coincide with the commercialization of our society?

I am left wondering, how many products do I use that I actually need? How many items do I use that I only think I need. How many of my “needs” are little more than a billion dollar industry telling me how necessary something is just so I’ll buy it? Why do I allow these industries to make me feel like the bad person when I don’t agree on necessity?

Think about the car industry. Older generations used to purchase cars and expect to keep them for 10-20 years. YEARS. Today, it isn’t uncommon for people to trade in for a new car every other year or maybe purchase a new one every 6 years or so. In older generations, cars came basic and you decided the features you wanted to add. Now when you buy a car, it is highly difficult to find a “bare bones” vehicle. Most of them are overloaded with features, almost all of which aren’t necessarily needed but make you feel “cheap” if you don’t have them.

When was it that people stopped deciding what is necessary and instead handed that power to the industries that are admittedly just trying to profit?

My parents told me college would help me better myself so I trusted the industry that has become college education to point me in the right direction. Because who would know better than the people responsible for teaching me, right? Well the University told me I needed a college degree to get a good job. Then I was told in order to get that degree, it was necessary to take general education courses so I would be a “well-rounded” person. Thank you universities. I really appreciate that you would tell me I need to be a more well-rounded person and then charge me thousands and thousands of dollars to do it. Just for my own personal benefit. That you felt was necessary. Really charitable. Thank you for that. I really feel like what’s in my best interest is your top concern. As long as it costs money.

When was it that I stopped making decisions for myself and let companies tell me how to think and feel? Or have I always been following so blindly?

I’m left feeling as though I need to sit down and think. I need to find out what I think and how I feel about things. Well about everything, really. I need to develop my own opinions and ideas independent of society and only then will I incorporate the outside influences. I am in control of nothing but myself; my own personal world. I am no longer going to let businesses dictate how I think and feel.

I’ll do that myself, thank you.