Shampoo Planet Douglas Coupland Book Cover

Shampoo Planet

Author: Douglas Coupland

Release: September 1, 1992

Publisher: Pocket Books

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Satire

ISBN-10: 0671755056
ISBN-13: 978-0671755058

Main Character(s): Tyler, Anna-Louise, Jasmine, Dan, Daisy, Mark, Stephanie

Synopsis: Tyler Johnson attempts to make his way in the world, while his world descends into chaos.

Declassified by Agent Palmer: Shampoo Planet by Douglas Coupland is a chance to revisit the conversations of Youth.

Quotes and Lines

Your hair is you–your tribe–it’s your badge of clean. Hair is your document. What’s on top of your head says what’s inside your head.

Me? I’ll escape. I know that. I have a plan. I have a brother and sister. I have a good car and a wide assortment of excellent hair-care products. I know what I want from life; I have ambition.

Jasmine was an earth mother back in the 1960s. Sometimes we call her this . . . oh earth mother, dear! But more often than not we just say earth to mother . . . earth to mother. . . .

And yes, I still live at home, but then, who doesn’t? And besides, I need to save my money–build equity–hone my abilities, increase my marketworthiness, and all of this activity takes time and freedom from poverty. Poverty. Ick. Like a wolf baying and clawing at my door, strip by strip inching that much closer to me.

“You shouldn’t be so afraid of being poor, Tyler,” says Jasmine. “You’ll only call poverty onto yourself by running away from it.”

Meeting Anna-Louise was like finding a stranger’s shopping list on the mall floor and realizing there are other, more interesting diets than your own. It was the first time I ever felt incomplete.

I think hotel/motels are a career with a future. I like hotels because in a hotel room you have no history, you have only essence. You feel like you’re all potential, waiting to be rewritten, like a crisp, blank sheet of 81/2-by-11-inch white bond paper. There is no past.

Imagine you are sitting down in a chair and on a screen before you you are shown a bloody, ripping film of yourself undergoing surgery. The surgery saved your life. It was pivotal in making you you. But you don’t remember it. Or do you? Do we understand the events that make us who we are? Do we ever understand the factors that made us do the things we do?

When we sleep at night–when we walk across a field and see a tree full of sleeping birds–when we tell small lies to our friends–when we make love–what acts of surgery are happening to our souls–what damage and healing and shock are we going through that we will never be able to fathom? What films are generated that will never be shown?

When I first started going with Anna-Louise, her friends laser-scanned me with actuarial glances and found me a bit dull–marriage material. I think they figure that with types like me they can return later, after they’ve been for a spin around the block.

I think we’re simply going to run out of Nature before we have a chance to destroy it.

Always keep your mouth shut with a drunk. You can never win with piss tanks. The most you can hope for is to break even. The tactic of choice? Preemptive boringness. Being one-dimensional is the most satisfying method of coping with out-of-control people–with any situation that’s out of control.

Flippant. I don’t like flippancy. Not in my room. Flippant people ask stupid questions and expect answers. Secrets divulged under filippant circumstances aren’t valued. People don’t value other people’s secrets, period. That’s why I keep my secrets to myself.

I think about how I think I know a person then poof! I discover I only knew a cartoon version. Suddenly there’s this fleshy, demanding, noisy creature in front of me, unknowable and just as lost as I am, and equally unable to remember that every soul in the world is hurting, not just themselves.


“Fair’s fair,” added Anna-Louise. “I mean, if we’re supposed to learn all of the new information people are inventing, we have to throw old information out to make way for the new stuff.”

“I like you because you have never been in love before. And when you do have love, I know you will survive such pain when it ends. You will always recover. You are the New World.”

I feel I am forgetting how I felt when I was younger. I have to remind myself that forgetting something behind you is not quite the same as throwing it away.

“You just wait, young man. Around thirty you’ll start losing interest in meeting new people. Just mark my words. The thought of creating a new history with a new person will seem so exhausting you simply won’t want to be bothered. You’ll become too lazy to invent new memories. You’ll rather hang around people you don’t like simply because you already know them. No surprises.”

I have this feeling watching Jasmine–that as you grow older, it becomes hard to feel 100 percent happy; you learn all the things that can go wrong; you become superstitious about tempting fate, about bringing disaster upon your life by accidentally feeling too good one day.

Regardless: clean hair, clean body; clean mind; clean life. You could become famous at any moment and your whole personal history could be unearthed. And then what would they find? Turn on the shower.

I love the mall. I always have. The health of your mall is important. At the mall people are interested only in staying as modern as possible, continually forgetting the past while envisaging a shinier more fabulous future. Just think of all the wonderful products to buy . . . do these products sparkle? Can you see your face reflected in these products? Are they made of a wonder material like Lucite or Kevlar that exists nowhere in the known universe save for Earth? We are so lucky to be living in the times we do.

Malls are the best. But maybe not the Ridgecrest Mall, and maybe not today. In fact, I’m going to have to face the fact that Ridgecrest Mall is pretty much just a husk of its former self. We had plenty, and we blew it. I guess human beings just weren’t cut out for plenty. Well, most human beings. I sure am, but where did plenty go?

Life is maybe like deep-sea fishing. We wake up in the morning, we cast our nets into the waters, and, if we are lucky, at day’s end we will have netted one–maybe two–small fish. Occasionally we will net a seahorse and sometimes a shark–or a life preserver or an iceberg, or a monster. And in our dreams at night we assess our Catch of the Day–the treasures of this long, slow process of accumulation–and we eat the flesh of our flesh, casting away their bones and weaving the memories of their once glinting skins into our souls.

In periods of rapid personal change, we pass through life as though we are spellcast. We speak in sentences that end before finishing. We sleep heavily because we need to ask so many questions as we dream alone. We bump into others and feel bashful at recognizing souls so similar to ourselves.

I am writing a list of tragic character flaws on my dollar bills with a felt pen.

Your inability to achieve solitude makes you settle for substandard relationships

You don’t believe magic is possible in lives lived within traditional boundaries

You disguise your laziness as pride

You are paralyzed by the fact that cruelty is often amusing

You pretend to be more eccentric than you actually are because you worry you are an interchangeable cog.

You mistake motion for growth and are lured into vexing situations

You defend other people’s ideas at the expense of your own

You still don’t know what you do well

You are unable to visualize yourself in a future

Your inability to sustain sexual interest in just one other person drains your life of the possibility of intimacy

Your own ability to rationalize your bad deeds makes you believe the entire universe is as amoral as yourself

You willfully ignore the small, gentle observations in life which you know are the most important

Your fear of change is too clearly visible in your eyes

You are wasting your youth, your time, and your money because you won’t acknowledge your shortcomings

Your refusal to acknowledge the dark side of humanity makes you prey to that dark side

You worry that if you lower your guard, even for one second, your whole world will disintegrate into chaos

You wait for fate to bring about the changes in life which you should be bringing about yourself

You are dazed by the ease with which obliteration can be obtained

You feel you have more memories than you have energy to process those memories

You are unable to differentiate between facade and substance

I am afraid of the dark ages

Let’s just hope we accidentally build god

For breakfast this morning, in Kern County, California, we ordered orange juice in an extremely Marge roadside diner. There was a fry frill framed with Polaroids of overweight people, a stainless-steel basket filled with eggs, peanut-butter sandwiches on the menu, and hugh portions–truly terrific plate coverage.

Road trips are like fast-forwarding through life, zapping out the boring bits, fulfilling my (according to Anna-Louise last Christmas during a long bout of zapper-intense TV-channel trolling) male need for magic.

Imagine yourself befriending a monster

You are never far from the sound of an engine

Grow a tail

We’re all theme parks

Technology favors horrible people

“People in California meet people they have not seen for two years,” she says while driving home from Venice, “and they say to each other, ‘So who are you now? What is your new ray-ligion? What new style of clothes are you wearing these days? What kind of diet are you eating? Who is your wide? What sort of house are you in now? What different city? What new ideas do you believe?’ If you are not a completely new person, your friends will be disappointed.”

Only democracy saves us from the ravage of being animals

“It’s just that all of your history in Europe is so seductive. All of your costumes and buildings and old music and perfect little tins of cookies. History tricks you into not valuing what you have now. History’s dead, but right now is alive. History is jealous of right now–jealous of that life.”

Fun Fact: 4,5560,110 Earthlings fell in love today; 4,560,007 fell out of love.

There is a reason I am walking down Hollywood Boulevard today. I quit my job at WingWorld yesterday. I decided I will not burn wings every day merely to give myself enough sustenance to be able to continue working at WingWorld to make enough sustenance to continue working at WingWorld to . . . The loop of evil. Who invented these McJobs, anyway? They’re work, but they’re not a living. The undead working at unlabor.

In a way I’m saying, butt out, but in a way I’m also saying, I have enough faith in you to let you go your own way. Don’t be too preoccupied with the actions of others.

Our achievements may make us interesting, Tyler, but our darkness makes us loveable.

Lying here on the floor, sipping a cola, looking at the ceiling, I make a tally in my head, I make a sum–credits and debits–a balance of accounts. What secrets have I traded these past months for other secrets? What sweetness for corruption? Light for darkness? Lies for truth? Curiosities satisfied in return for anxieties?