all of the selves we Have ever been
That’s not a name you hear often.
The only Madge I ever knew was Madge the Manicurist. She surprised her customers by revealing to them that their hands were soaking in Palmolive, the product that “softens hands while you do dishes.”
Madge became a familiar face to me at a time in my youth when I did not know any real women who went for regular manicures at nail salons. Madge was ahead of her time!
I’ve been thinking of Madge during this pandemic. My hands are regularly soaking in dish detergent, liquid Lysol, Clorox Wipes, and a variety of antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers. I wouldn’t say that any of these products are “gentle.” And I would not say my hands have softened while soaking. In fact, the flesh around my fingernails is dissolving right along with the microbes being killed by my inventory of sanitizing products. Where is Madge when you need her?
Perhaps she’s hooked up with Mr. Whipple in that heavenly supermarket in the sky, the one with the well-stocked, orderly toilet paper aisle. I assume they must have met when Mr. Whipple was a store manager and Madge was shopping for her Palmolive.
With toilet paper returning to the shelves and nail salons re-opening, I have been thinking about both Mr. Whipple and Madge. I have been thinking of them because of toilet paper shortages and raggedy fingernails and because of a certain lesson their lives contain about re-invention and unexpected outcomes.
In this time when the future seems so uncertain, especially as it pertains to work and the economy, I think about Madge’s lengthy and real life career as Jan Miner the stage actress, and Mr. Whipple’s true identity as Dick Wilson the actor who played in 38 films. Without research, I cannot name a single play that starred Jan Miner or a single film in which Dick Wilson played a role, but I will never forget Madge or Mr. Whipple. Their longest running gigs and greatest celebrity came from those commercials—selling soap and toilet paper. Mr. Whipple starred in 500 Charmin commercials. Madge was a regular in our lives softening hands from 1966 until 1992.
We are living in an uncertain time, a time of re-invention. Maybe what we’ve prepared for, what we’ve always done will continue to work out. Maybe it won’t. Sometimes life takes a turn and leads us to a supermarket aisle or nail salon. There are times when what seems minor or unimportant becomes essential, even extraordinary. Humble jobs can become exalted positions. And we never forget life’s teachers, the people with familiar faces who provide us with reassuring, consistent, and reliable messages even if the message is about how to handle toilet paper or soften our hands while we work.