Because I'm feeling blocked on scholarly writing, I'm taking a break to do fun writing about Small Mel Self. Here's how I learned what cold cream was used for.

Small Mel Self was perhaps 7 or at the time, and a voracious reader. I read the backs of cereal boxes, the fine print on credit card offer letters, the parenting psychology books in the church library. ("I want to know what grown-ups are supposed to think," I told my dad's best friend when he discovered my odd choice of literature. At least that's how Mr. Zerwic tells the story; I only remember reading the books.) I see this now as an attempt to fill my world with information at all times, in compensation for a hunger for the data I couldn't overhear. But back then, I was just a tiny word junkie.

Wandering down the grocery store aisles, I'd read everything on all the bottles, tubes, and boxes that we passed. All the hair care products, I noticed, seemed to have the word "moisturizing." This was, my small brain reasoned, a good thing. "Moisturizing" was somehow correlated to "lustrous" and "sheen" and higher prices on the labels, which definitely meant the stuff was good.

Some time later, I was in my parents' bathroom getting ready for a shower, because I was a Big Girl Now and showers were what Big Girls did, all by themselves. Besides, the bathtub in the other bathroom was being occupied by my splashy little brother. In the minute or two it took for the shower water to heat up, I grew bored and started pawing through the little vials and boxes on my parents' counter. Lotion. Toothpaste. I knew what those were for. But what the heck was cold cream? Puzzled, I flipped the little jar around: Nourishing Moisturizing Cream.

Suddenly, it all made sense.

(15 minutes later)

I padded downstairs for the Big Girl Post-Shower Evaluation, dripping water on the tiled kitchen floor. My mother glanced at me. "You still have shampoo in your hair," she commented. "Go back and wash it out." Dutifully, I complied.

"Are you sure you washed it out?" my mother said on my second post-shower inspection. I nodded. She came closer and touched my hair, and I waited for praise. Instead, Mom just looked confused. "What did you PUT on your HEAD?"

Used to explaining things to grown-ups, I stated the obvious. "It's cold cream."

Mom still looked confused.

"It's moisturizing," I added helpfully.

Several minutes later, Mom was giving me a Decidedly Not A Big Girl hair-washing with multiple rounds of shampoo that turned into multiple rounds of dishwashing detergent when the cold cream refused to loosen its greasy grip on my short locks. If you've never shampooed with dishwashing detergent before, my advice to you is: don't. Or if you must, wear goggles and try not to breathe. The fumes of Minty Floral Glade Iceberg Freshness was overwhelming, and I emerged smelling like warm tupperware... but with acceptably un-moisturized hair. ("But that means it's good for hair!" I had protested to no avail. "All the expensive shampoo bottles say so!")

That was the evening I found out that cold cream was used to remove makeup. (But when was anybody ever going to use that?)

This story has been brought to you by Adventures of Small Mel Self.