As a preteen I picked up on standard female grooming techniques and methods in the same way that many young girls did in the ’80s: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Oh, and also that 5th grade girls-only video with lots of white-pants-wearing, tennis playing and bike riding.
I was fairly prepared for leg shaving, period management, bras and objectionable body hair. What I overlooked was deodorant. It seemed only mildly important, and I was more worried about the terrifying tampon insertion process using what looked like a tiny cardboard toilet paper tube than keeping my stink in check.
While I stewed about what would certainly NOT be a gentle glide, I missed the memo on deodorant/antiperspirant entirely. I still don’t know the difference between the two. The truth is … I still have not gotten the memo. It’s probably been sent to me, but I either thought it was junk mail or figured it was delivered to the wrong house.
I have gym class memories of girls freaking out because they were out of deodorant. Meanwhile, I was thinking, “I forgot mine too … forever.” I wondered if anyone noticed that I’d skipped this little step on the personal hygiene hierarchy, while my girlfriends went into high-gear drama about the climate change happening in their underarms.
Are you slightly concerned about my current state of aroma yet?
It isn’t that I’m odorless; in fact, my high school boyfriend told me that my feet smelled like “the steam off an elephant’s ass,” an issue that unfortunately has not yet resolved itself. I have an entire body’s worth of funk being detoured to a tiny and distant pedi-exit.
Back to the armpits, though.
At some point I deemed it unnecessary to wear deodorant, and I never looked back. I was insecure about all the typical teen concerns, but for some reason I believed myself above needing roll-ons and sprays to make my presence tolerable during a stiff breeze.
It wasn’t as if I never did any sort of investigation into the issue. My adventurous husband has completed a deep breathing sniff test and reported that levels are well below the maximum acceptable threshold.
Is he just used to my smell?
Is he being nice?
Are people lying to me?
Or am I an unfragranced freak of nature?
Are there others out there like me?
Should we unite and use our powers for good?
The curious part is that I am ultra sensitive to other people’s B.O. I’m talking stop, drop and roll sensitive. I have been known to use turtlenecks as barriers to keep from smelling others in elevators and at holiday church services as they are beginning to spoil.
Now that I have children, it has crossed my mind that they too will miss the deodorant memo, given their poor roll-on role model. Maybe I should make sure they read it. This thought creeps in as I get a whiff of their sweaty heads smelling like wet dog as I go in for late night tuck-ins.
I am more anxious about having the underarm talk with my kids than I am about having the other talk. I have never been a deodorant user, so who am I to tell them how and why to use it?
Will their dad have to have the talk with them? I can’t subject my daughter to a dad-delivered pit talk. No, when the time comes and she is no longer smelling like Teen Spirit, I guess I’ll have to pull a ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ talk and direct her to the appropriate aisle in Target. Luckily, she can Google the differences between antiperspirant, deodorant, and whatever else has come along since I last checked in the ’80s.
Maybe #NaturalPits or #RockYourPheromones will be trending and let me off the hook.
Or maybe genetics will be in her favor and she, too, will be naturally unscented above the ankle. Just like me and my cardboard applicator tampons.