Monday, October 14, 2002  

The End of Fraudulent Fragrance

Today marks the day I switched back to my old deodorant.

You are probably wondering why I am proclaiming this like a person would announce their decision to become a transgendered person or their candidacy for a major public office. Why even mention brand preference for deodorant at all? It’s not as if the choice of a deodorant is the most crucial spending decision a consumer is forced to make. But I have a good reason, if not the best reason, to make this kind of assertion and it all has to do with fraud and journey a person makes when they get to know themselves a little better.

I’ll explain…

Most modern social anthropologists would not classify me as a “manly” man. When running down the characteristic check list of the human male, yes, I do qualify as male. Fully developed male sexual organs? Check. Continual facial hair growth kept at bay by Mach 3 razor? Check. Rigid disavowal of any knowledge pertaining to plot, characters, theme, and content of Steel Magnolias? Check. Sudden case of illiteracy in situations involving instruction manuals or maps? Check. All this is true, I am a man, but I am not the type of man you would place in that category of men characterized by behavior that is excessively "male".

I do not change the oil in my own vehicle or my wife’s vehicle. I do not hunt. I do not fish. I’ve never used an axe. Unless I’m the survivor of a plane crash in the Southern Andes, I’m not sleeping on the ground beneath the sky. I don’t fix things. I don’t know how to ride a motorcycle. The only time I went to a firing range I was asked by the owner to leave because I missed the target and shot the clamp that holds the target rendering the whole mechanism useless; so guns, not my thing. This is just a small sample from the dossier that attests to my lack of manliness. So you could imagine the lingering self-doubt that started to take hold a few weeks back when I caught the fragrance of the new deodorant I bought and it smelled manly.

There was nothing wrong with my old deodorant. I started using the brand in 1994 and have been religious in its daily application ever since. So when the opportunity to change to a “gel” version presented itself, I was naturally a little apprehensive. But, like all fools who deviate from the rut, I thought that I might be missing something by passing on the sleek packaging of my regular deodorant’s more gelled cousin. I decided I would take the plunge and change the format of my underarms from Invisible Solid:Fresh to Gel:Cool Rush. Big Mistake.

My old deodorant went on with a room temperature slide. It had the same mechanical and comfortable feeling as any habit strengthened by daily regimen. Add to that its fragrance which, while pleasing, did its job at a level that flirted with imperceptibility. But none of this was the case with this new stuff. It went on with a sub-zero shock to the system that an adventurous man might find exhilarating at 5am, but I found distressing. And the fragrance, it was a bold rush of spice that seemed to be trying too hard. I figured I would get used to it, that it would take time to adjust to this morning ritual roster change, but I never did.

The final straw came one afternoon while at work. I was sitting at my desk doing my damnedest to lift the whole of the IT industry to unrealized gains, when I turned just so and was greeted by the over-powering smell of my own manliness…only it wasn’t my manliness. I know it wasn’t my manliness because, as we have already established, I have none. It was false manliness. It was a borrowed, fake over-the-counter manliness that went by the name of Cool Rush. I felt like a fraud. Here my body was, seated in front of a computer in the belly of a huge multinational corporation, millions of bits and bytes being processed and dispatched to do my bidding, and my armpits smelled as if I should be lumberjacking, elk hunting, or replacing an alternator in a Buick Riviera.

This, and instances just like it over the course of a few weeks, led me to abandon Cool Rush and go back to my tried and true solid deodorant. Sure, I was back sliding, falling back into a familiar and habitual comfort zone that didn’t push the envelope of my ability to adapt, but at least I was being true to myself. At the very least I was making the choice to stop pretending to be a degree of manhood I could never back up with manly actions.

Today marks the day I switched back to my old deodorant. Today is the day I accept my place as an unremarkable man.

posted by Mike | 1:51 PM
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