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Thursday, June 29, 2017

What Not to Wear (for an Interview)

I entered the restroom on the first floor because I was on crutches. Normally, I take the stairs to burn a few calories and use the second floor bathroom. But today I went into the first floor bathroom. I mention this because I kind of wish I'd taken the elevator upstairs. I wish I'd followed my sense of adventure and done something different because I could have avoided this whole thing. 
There was a girl I'd never seen before standing at the mirror fussing with her hair and her clothes. Since that's not an unusual scenario for a women's restroom, I just crutched on by her minding my own business. In fact I was so much minding my own business, when she spoke to me it took a second for me to realize that she was directing her panicky question to me. 

"You know how sometimes you put on a pair of pants and you don't realize that you can see the underwear line until it's too late and you've already left the house?"

I was, understandably I think, taken aback by this question from a stranger. I mustered up all my friendliness and tried smile. 

"Um...well....I guess. That sounds rough." 

And I tried to avert my gaze from her tight, salmon-colored pants and the very obvious underwear line. 

"Yeah, I just totally didn't notice. That's so awful..."

I tried to sympathize, but the truth is that I don't have any such pants in my wardrobe.  
So I said, unhelpfully I'm sure, "Well....at that point I usually just get rid of them...."

"Yeah..hahaha...I know...." She laughed awkwardly.

At this point I'm thinking, "No, you don't know. You don't know me. You don't know about my pants. And I don't really want to know about yours. I don't want to continue this conversation." But I just ducked into the handicapped stall thinking that this would cut off the conversation. 

It didn't. 

When I came out to wash my hands she was still there fussing and jabbering to me about her underwear. I was trapped and stressed about the layers of social awkwardness, and these feelings were exacerbated by my inability to make an efficient escape. Clearly her insecurity was driving her to extremes. I didn't know how to help and I needed to get back to work, a feat that would take a few more minutes than usual because of the crutches. 

I must not have been hiding it very well that I wanted to politely exit because she made jokes about how weird it was to be talking to a stranger about this sort of thing. I couldn't disagree. Not knowing what to say but thinking she probably just wanted some reassurance I said, 
"Well, there's no judgment from me anyway." 

And I left to return to my office to get ready for an interview at 11:30. 

The candidate for the position didn't show up until 11:50. 

And who was that candidate? 

A girl wearing salmon-colored pants. Only somehow magically now without an underwear line. 

When I crutched into the office to join my supervisor for the interview the girl turned a very bright red and started laughing.  

"So you've met before?" my supervisor asked. 

"Yes. Briefly. No pun intended." I replied.

Finding the One

It was a beautiful fall day; my favorite kind. My sixth grade class had just returned to the classroom after intensely battling it out in a game of soccer. We jostled each other while navigating the narrow pathway between the backpack rack and the first row of desks before finally settling in to work. Moments into my English workbook page, I noticed our teacher struggling with an interesting facial expression. She was trying to hide it, but I can pay no homage to her success. She took short, infrequent breaths followed by traces of a grimace and then rustled around in her desk drawer for a moment. Procuring a match, she quickly lit two candles which were strategically placed on opposite sides of the room. One apple cinnamon. The other pumpkin spice. A few moments later, she visibly relaxed into the ambient aroma.

This was the first time I recall feeling any embarrassment about body odor. I had been using deodorant by this time for a couple of years, but I still felt shame for our class. Those poor clueless souls who weren't even aware of their own stink! The event impressed me. I vowed never to experience it again, especially on a personal level. But I thought I was safe enough with my Sure brand deodorant. It wasn't fancy, but it got the job done. Even basketball games were no match for my antiperspirant; (though admittedly, I spent most of that time on the bench.) Still, I would occasionally sneak a whiff of my underarm to make sure it was still working. (You know what I mean, the stretch-arm-up-head-turn-quick-inhale move.)

My fear of odor followed me into adulthood. Last summer I was 45 minutes from home on my way to an all day teacher training when I realized that I'd forgotten to apply. Thankfully, the training was held in a hotel where I surreptitiously posed as a guest at the front desk and asked for a travel size deodorant which I now carry around in my purse just in case I ever make such a grave mistake again.

Somewhere around college, my armpits began sending me a complicated series of messages about the deodorant I used. My skin turned red and the itching drove me mad. So I switched. From Sure to Secret. Same effect. From Secret to Dove. Each new product would seem to work until a few months in, when suddenly my skin would realize that I was trying to pull one over on it and it would erupt in painful, itchy redness. Nothing was good enough for these elitist pair of pits. If it didn't result in itching, it also didn't result in odor-busting. And I couldn't have that. So the saga of my relentless search for the perfect deodorant continued.

A few years ago, I learned that deodorant can actually be made at home using the simple combination of coconut oil, baking soda, and arrowroot powder. I had to search diligently for the arrowroot powder, but the results were fantastic! I reveled in my lovely smell and my happy skin. Enjoying the natural independence of making my own deodorant, I thought I'd found the one. I thought we could be happy together forever. Until this past spring when my very own creation turned on me like the sad ending to a miserable Frankenstein flick. I woke one morning to the old rash and burn under my arms. It was like fire burning from my underarms, which might make for a really interesting superpower, but it's an awful day-to-day experience for a mere mortal like myself. I wept tears of frustration and headed back to store to try to find something, anything, that might relieve the symptoms.

I applied aloe for a few days and then purchased a new deodorant. This was a little more extreme. It was a rock crystal that claimed to be safe for skin as well as do an awesome job of killing odor. (Haven't I heard that one before though?) I ended up returning it unopened after reading online about some of the ingredients being harsh on skin. The quest seemed endless. I was a hapless knight attempting to slay the dragon of random allergic reactions to who-even-knows-what while the monster of body-odor loomed behind me with deadly toxic breath. What was I to do?

My situation, as you can now tell, was quite dire. Until I happened upon something simple and something that (fingers crossed) seems to do the job quite well for a mere $1.88.

Arm and Hammer Essentials Natural Unscented Deodorant

Now I must talk myself out of an overwhelming desire to hoard this product in case of zombie apocalypse or some other disaster. I might get eaten, but at least I'll smell great.