One night while taking in a little before-bed Moby-Dick, my beloved husband got up, wandered into our bathroom, and came out reading the ingredients on a bottle of my body wash.
That’s it, I thought, Melville bored him to the point that he’d begun reading lists of unpronounceable cleansing agents. Man overboard.
“Nope,” he said, momentaritly stopping me from throwing out the life-preserver, “just as I thought. It only says ‘fragrance.'”
I quickly forgot the life-preserver and decided to send in Queequeg, because my spouse seemed deeply embedded in a whale’s head, or worse yet – Herman’s, and our friendly cannibal was the only one with the midwifery skill-set necessary to deliver this drowning soul.
I suppose I shouldn’t have worried about his sanity so soon. It’s not like he nailed a 50-cent piece to the wall, gathered the boys, and told them that the first one to spot the original white color of our living room carpet would be a half a dollar richer.
That was me.
No, with his discovery of Chapter 92, Jerry was just getting to the bottom of a mystery that had boggled me ever since I discovered Bath and Body Works’ “Sensual Amber.” Those smooth beautiful deep yellow-orange gems on the front caught my eye, and the scent, described as “pink lotus petals enveloped in golden amber” made me sigh deeply every time I caught a whiff.
But my logical side always wondered, does fossilized resin really smell? It seemed pretty unlikely, but who am I to argue with successful commercialization?
Little did I know, the amber in my shower gel was not a olfactory throw-back to Jurassic Park, no, the perfume’s inspiration is ambergris – the flammable, waxy substance harvested from the intestines of dead whales. I’ll let you breathe that in deeply for a second.
Scientists theorize that sperm whales make ambergris to help them pass hard, sharp objects they might have eaten. I’m guessing it would take a boat-load of ambergris to help Moby-Dick pass the masthead of the Pequod.
We’ll never know, but Melville does tells us how Stubb diddled a novice French whaling captain out of his stinky, dried up, roadkill of a whale so that he could himself harvest the “handfuls of something that looked like ripe Windsor soap, or rich mottled old cheese,” that “you might easily dent . . . with your thumb;” and “is of a hue between yellow and ash color.” Appealing.
Granted, my body wash contains no more whale guts than it does shiny, fossil-holding rocks, so I suppose I can’t begrudge BBW their little marketing fib. I doubt a rotting whale would sell much soap.