By: Shannon Ralph
I must have looked like a deranged person standing there all alone in the aisle pulling the tops off all of the deodorants and sniffing them. This was important, however. I was about to purchase my nine-year-old son’s very first tube of deodorant. It was crucial that I got this right.
I was a bit alarmed to recently discover that my eldest son needed deodorant at the young age of nine. I first noticed his stench when he went back to school a few weeks ago. I am used to my children coming home from school smelling. Typically, it is that sweet sweaty smell that tired young children possess. Slightly pungent, but somehow kind of pleasant at the same time. Lucas, however, had an altogether different odor permeating from his pores. When I hugged him after a long day at school, I was overcome by the smell of funk. My sweet little guy with the dimples and the chubby cheeks was emitting full-on grown man body odor. It’s been quite a while since I’ve lived under the same roof with a grown man. Manly B.O. is nothing short of toxic.
Of course, being a clueless parent, I immediately assumed there must be something wrong with Lucas on a glandular level. I mean, he is nine. He’s a kid. A little boy. Nine year olds shouldn’t smell like grown men, right? As with all things that confound me about parenting, I turned to my source of truth. A scholar of all things parental. My mom. I immediately called my mom to inquire about when my younger brother started wearing deodorant. I am sure I was away at college at the time, so do not remember. My mom seemed to have trouble remembering also. So I pushed a bit further and asked her when she thought it would be appropriate to buy deodorant for a young boy. Her sage advice was simply “When he starts smelling.” God, I wish I had her infinite and admirable wisdom.
So that is how I found myself sniffing men’s deodorant in Target all alone on a Saturday afternoon. I had to get this right. Yes, Lucas stunk. But he is nine years old. I did not want him to smell like B.O. But at the same time, I also did not want him to smell like Alec Baldwin after a 3-day bender. (Disclaimer: I have never personally smelled Alec Baldwin, but I assume he smells oily and musky and robust and virile and MANLY.) I immediately crossed Axe body spray off my list. Apparently—and I am a lesbian, so I do not speak from personal experience—young women cannot resist the pheromonal tug of Axe body spray. I do not need to pry prepubescent fourth grade girls off my musky son with a crow bar. I also immediately dismissed Old Spice for similar reasons. I’ve seen the commercials. I know the power of Old Spice. Besides, Lucas can’t even ride a horse. So that one was out. That left me with several options that I inhaled to find the perfect ratio of odor control to Alec Baldwin.
I eventually settled on a scent that smelled more sporty than cologne-y and, with great ceremony, introduced the deodorant concept to Lucas. I expected him to be moderately offended when I told him that his pits stink like toe jam. Instead, he seemed strangely pleased. I have found him on several occasions standing topless in front of our bathroom mirror sniffing his own arm pits with a smile on his face like that of an rapturous cherub. Yesterday, while standing in that exact position, he announced loudly to the entire uninterested house, “We’re going to put this deodorant to the test today! I have gym!”