Apparent mix-up on the antiperspirant assembly line leaves an aroma of a different sort


January 14, 2007|By JANET GILBERT

I am smelling like a man.

I don't mean I am bending down to smell something in the way a man would because I have rarely witnessed a man performing the "voluntary sniff." A man, alone in an elevator, might perform an olfactory check of his pant cuffs if he has mistakenly walked through a dog park on his way back from lunch. But this is the "compulsory sniff"; something a man must do, apparently solo.

My point here is, my actual person smells like a man. My best guess is that there was a mix-up at the factory that, coincidentally, makes both my antiperspirant and my laundry detergent. Someone slipped the "Mountain Spring" in the antiperspirant assembly line and the "Baby Fresh" in the laundry detergent line.

"Mountain Spring" is a fine, nongender-specific smell in clothing. I'm not sure it smells like a mountain spring because I've never smelled one. Heaven knows I have opened many bottles of spring water, ostensibly from mountain springs, but I must admit I have never been assailed by quite the level of freshness as when I open my flame-orange bottle of laundry detergent. Once your clothes are washed in Mountain Spring, however, they emerge with an altogether toned-down version of the scent, which isn't quite so in-your-face fresh.

But Mountain Spring in an antiperspirant roll-on is, well, downright manly. We know this to be true because we have conducted extensive tests here in Janet's World.

"Tell me this doesn't smell like a guy's product," I say in an unbiased tone to my control group at 5:57 in the morning as I am getting dressed.

"Yes, it does," he says.

"Smell it," I say, handing him the antiperspirant bottle, activating the compulsory sniff.

"I can smell it from here," he says. "It smells masculine."

I am not a wasteful person, so I am wearing the manly scent until it runs out. I guess I will be wearing it for the next two to four months, which is how long my antiperspirant lasts. It is so effective I can skip a day. On these days, I look forward to feeling positively girly-girlish.

The rest of the time, though, I am moving through my life, inexplicably bombarded by thoughts of my father, a devotee of Mennen Speed Stick, or my late grandfather, who wore Old Spice. Scent is the strongest trigger of memory, as we all know but are too lazy to spend hours wandering around the Internet to document.

I remember a woman from my childhood named Mrs. Hires who would often sit next to us in church. Mrs. Hires wore rose perfume. Or, more accurately, Mrs. Hires marinated herself in rose perfume, and finished off her scentification with a good spritzing of rose toilet water.

I would like to mention that the mere mention of the phrase "toilet water" could trigger in my sister and me the kind of senseless laughter that ends in a half-hour of hiccups.

At any rate, in order not to emerge from church with a whopping headache, one of us had to get a scent on Mrs. Hires quickly, spot her, and direct the family to the farthest pew. I think we could have been in the car on the church parking lot with the windows rolled up and still gotten a whiff of Mrs. Hires.

Now I cannot smell rose perfume without the urge to kneel down and pray for an open window.

My new aroma has affected me in some positive ways, I'll admit. I care about the playoffs, the wear on my tires and the fact that the lawn has patchy areas. I'm feeling unusually confident. In fact, I'm going to call Nancy Pelosi, and lend her some of my antiperspirant. She's going to need it.

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