On a day not so long ago, I was helping to hang an art show. It was a hot day – much warmer than what had been forecast - and as a result, everyone there was dressed in outfits better suited for a polar vortex than a lava rinse.
At some point in the afternoon, I started to smell the faint stench of body odor.
My mind was immediately transported back to the summer after I graduated from art school when I worked at a gallery with a woman who eschewed deodorant. It was a particularly challenging time of my life since the office was exceptionally small and had no air-conditioning. I mean honestly, walking into that place was like being surrounded by fifty 9 year old kids, just developing sweat glands.
My colleagues and I had so many questions about our co-worker.
Did she not know she reeked like dirty socks soaked in fish goo? Could she not smell herself? Dear god, did we all stink?It was a superficial summer to remember.
Meanwhile back at the art show, I scanned the room to see which one of us was fouling up the air. My gaze rested on one volunteer unpacking paintings. She must be so embarrassed, I thought as I wandered to the restroom.
Then, the unthinkable happened. The body odor didn’t disappear as I walked away from the crowd. In fact, it intensified.
Oh dear lord. The pong was coming from ME.
My mind raced…
Did I forget to put on deodorant this morning? Is this shirt defective? Have I always stunk and am only just now discovering it? Is this why I never get invited to parties?I rinsed my arms in the bathroom sink, making the woman in stall #1 nervous enough to stay put until I left the room.
Fast-forward ahead three weeks. Geoff and I are getting ready for dinner out with friends. It is hot. Really hot. Sun scorching at 7pm hot. And so, I choose a black shirt and black pants. Because, of course I do.
Since this is to be a fancy dinner, I want to be sure I don’t stink like a 5th grade classroom during standardized test week. So, I grab a heavy-duty antiperspirant/deodorant that I've never tried before. The bottle claims to make the wearer smell of oranges and bamboo, lasts for 24 hours and won’t let anyone down. Ever.
I put my faith in the fine print, which promises that the white film will fade as it dries.
In the car on the way to the restaurant, Geoff looks over at me and asks if I’ve been eating icing sugar. I look in horror at the shockingly white dust covering my ultra-black pants.
I peer under my arms and discover what looks like shredded coconut under my pits. It’s like the deodorant isn’t even trying to dry clear. But I do smell like orange slices. Sweet, sweet oranges.
“Go back, go back!” I shout, desperate for a do-over.
“There’s no time!” shouts Geoff back at me.
I frantically search the car for napkins or paper towels and settle instead for a supermarket receipt with an exceptionally large number of potato chip purchases.
After carving away part of the mess from my skin, I tackle my shirt and pants, which now look like they were worn during the clean up after a flour factory explosion. I complete the gargantuan task of rubbing away most of the white just as we arrive at the restaurant.
Wandering to the door, I leave a trail of deodorant on the ground and I imagine what the people walking steps behind us must be thinking…
What’s going on up there? Is that rice? There’s confetti all over the pavement. Did someone just get married? Oh there, up ahead, there’s the lovely couple. It must have been a Goth wedding because the bride is dressed completely in black and it’s one hundred degrees outside. Poor dear, she’s obviously used to wearing Doc Martens because she’s clearly having trouble in her heels. Maybe she’s one of those punks, I mean look at her hair. It’s enormous!We meet our friends for drinks on the deck. I escape to the restroom to perform a scent check and do a happy dance when I realize I still smell like oranges and bamboo. I decide that panda bears must smell terrific. I then notice a white deodorant streak stretching across my stomach towards my back and realize there is no way I can pull off the amount of class required of me tonight because no amount of rubbing is going to get rid of this smear.
Fortunately, the restaurant was dimly lit with no signs of a black light. Geoff, our friends and I had a tremendously fantastic dinner and in spite of the heat, I smelled like citrus punch all night.
And, my dinner companions didn’t have any idea how utterly embarrassed I was. Nor did they know how much Happy Time deodorant had fallen into in my underwear.
Well… they didn't. Until now.