Thursday, 7 January 2010

Give 'Em Enough Soap

article and artwork by Mrs. Tami Thirlwell-Nicol

In grade eight a funny thing happened on the way to high school. I discovered that not only do I perspire but that things can get fairly ripe. So noticeable was this advanced state of hormonal display that I felt forced to enter the less-than-intriguing adult world of antiperspirant products. I knew nothing about the landscape except for ads on TV like, “Aren’t you glad you used Dial, don’t you wish everybody did?” Hmm, I wondered, could it be that my whole class wishes I were hip to this deodorant business?"

My first treatment was Secret: scented (because really, who doesn’t remember their first), an ozone-destroying family-size can of the finest aerosol around. How ironic to think that heat and sweat prompt the buying of spray deodorant which then effect climate change creating yet more heat thus necessitating the use for more deodorant. But I digress; this is Beauty Skool after all, not Science class. 

A cold blast of toxicity under the arms at seven a.m. was all that one needed to wake up; handy too, because at 13 I hadn’t yet discovered the joys of a caffeinated morning. Before I could get to my first class one of the uber-cool chicks in my grade walked past me, stopped, turned and said, “Hey, nice perfume, what is it?” I was mortified. I wasn’t about to cop to the fact that it was not indeed perfume at all but some lowly B.O. spray masquerading as such. My mind raced and with deft mental agility I blurted out, “Uh, it’s a …secret…?” I felt partially satisfied with my mysterious answer, but wished I could have told her it was the very chic 1970s cologne, Charlie (“kinda free,

kinda now, Char-lee") or the sweet and fabulously unsophisticated scent, Love’s Baby Soft. Still, approval from the upper echelon of tween city was all I needed to convince me that continued use of that spray can was the way to go.

I continued to take note of all sorts of colognes TV commercials had to offer. If I was a man I think I would have investigated Hai Karate. The ad advised men to read the instructions first or suffer the consequences of hordes of women chasing you like you were the fifth Beatle.
Old Spice on the other hand seemed to feature the elusive fisherman who breezes in to town (baby don’t get hooked on me, you know I’ve got to ramble on) and hooks up with that special lady-- in every port. All very romantic stuff and yet it was rather mythical as no one I knew used these products. I may have bought an ex-boyfriend “Soap on a Rope” once in the hopes that he might accidently hang himself with it in the shower.

I was satisfied, however, with my hygiene regimen and wasn’t really all that interested in actually wearing cologne or perfume in my teens. My only real exposure to scents was my mother’s penchant for musks, which creep me out, and my grandmother’s hankering for rose, which I therefore associated with the grey hair set. At one point I was gifted with a twin set of Jean Nate body lotion and after bath splash. I was perplexed. Is it age appropriate? I had no idea because I’d never seen an ad for it, but what the hell, it smelled as good if not better than Secret. It was a real perfume. Rather fresh. Was this to be my signature scent? I still had very little to compare it to, but I would sort that out when I got a little older. I continued to blast more holes in the ozone for a few more years.

By the time I hit the punk scene I still hadn’t discovered an appreciation for olfactory accoutrements – besides, by spending so much time in bars and clubs I felt I was already marinating in Eau de Pale Ale and L’Air de Stale Tabac. An average night out presented itself with a plethora of scintillating scents given the establishments frequented in the scene. One can never be disappointed by a lack of Mosh Pit odor offerings that usually come complete with plenty of precipitation. Depending on the band playing, DOA for example, it was sometimes wise to bring an umbrella. Other notable nasal delights haunted many clubs, including the glamorous backstage of puke-tinged carpets and sofas and a fragrant mix of urine and aged beer kept the air well lit. No amount of Jean Nate is going to cover that up. Even Prince Matchabelli is no match for it.

Mine was not usually an Aviance night, and much imbibing manufactured a by-product of its own and rendered one’s pores the escape route the next day. The synergistic effect of alcohol, hairspray and cheap perfume absorption made me highly flammable. Cigarette smoking would prove to be a very risky habit. In fact avoiding open flames after a night out was a prudent choice. Life lesson tip: Definitely do not bend down and try to light your smoke on the gas range when you stumble into the kitchen.

It wasn’t until I moved to Toronto in 1981 when one of my more flamboyant male friends introduced me to the popular men’s cologne, Halston Z-14, a force to be reckoned with. It sounds like a sports car but it has a wonderful woodsy smell. I would douse myself with it whenever I visited my pal, Michael. Why wasn’t there cologne for women that didn’t always include sweet feminine notes? Maybe just the sheer act of ignoring gender specific products is in essence a punk scent statement. But it’s important to note that a gal must be able to make the distinction between men’s cologne and aftershave. No lady should smell like she has just shaved her face. 

Later in the 1980s Calvin Klein came out with CK One, a unisex cologne. Nowadays there is no shortage of high-end ‘bi-scentuals’ from various houses such as Cartier and Guerlain. I continued to experiment with all types of perfumes. Some favorites were classics like Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps and Estee Lauder’s Pleasures. But when the mood strikes I’ll still mix it up with certain men’s colognes (hold the Brut 33).

It’s been a long time since I deployed an aerosol can of Secret. In fact, I don’t even know if they are still legal. After continually mixing up my Secret with Final Net hairspray, (one is a little stickier than the other), I’ve left the ozone alone and I have been using stick deodorants, still loaded with toxins, but somewhere my old grade 8 class thanks me. At this point my system is steeped in so much aluminum chlorohydrate I’ll be dedicating my body to recycle as coke cans. It’s the least I can do.

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