It was wine night on my deck. Two good friends, a few bottles of wine and some snacks. I was ready for adult conversation. We were kid free. I was craving talk about subjects you save as a parent to talk about when there are no kids around. I know men believe that when women get together we talk about our “periods” and other “women stuff”. Not true! We talk about politics, world views, sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. We are evolved women dammit.
Well…most of the time.
This night we were discussing our daughters “coming of age”. We are fast approaching this next adventure in parenting. One of my friends already has older girls, so we leaned in while she shared her sage advice.
We are still a couple years from the big, looming menstrual cycles. So, we somehow got into a discussion about deodorant. Yes, the day your baby girl needs to start wearing deodorant is a big deal.
My own childhood deodorant story is traumatic
I was on a much anticipated trip with 5 family elders. I was the only kid invited to go on their summer vacation. My grandparents, two great aunts and one great uncle all to myself. We drove in two cars to Colorado Springs, Colorado to stay for a week in a mountainside cabin. I rode alone in the backseat of a Duster with no A/C owned by my great aunt, Eunice. I would slide on a pool of my sweat when we made turns. It was bliss. I was on-my-own in an all adult world.
My great aunt, Eunice, a single woman, was the only member from that generation of my family that lived in Kansas City. All my other “greats” were in mid-Missouri. So, I was close to her. She was the “great” that took us to the Zoo and World’s of Fun every summer. We had bunking parties at her house. She made individual jello servings in little bowls with fruit when we visited. She took us shopping and lunching about town.
Eunice was generous and loving. Eunice traveled. Eunice was a “city girl” that lived in her own house. She was independent and worked full time. She dressed nicely and lived simply. I looked up to her and loved her deeply.
She was also very direct and pragmatic. So, when I was stinking up the cabin with my sweaty 10 year old funk, she told me, directly to my face, in front of a room full of my elders without any softness…no hug, no let’s “have a talk”, no warning. Just a flat out “you need to get some deodorant kid, you stink”, I was crushed. I was embarrassed. I was mortified. These were not subjects you discussed in public.
My grandmother Gladys, her younger sister, saved me. She called me into the kitchen under the guise to help her cook and then took me outside the mountain cabin for a short walk to let me cry and to give me a much needed hug.
She also took me the next day to get my very first deodorant.
As I sat on my deck with my friends I shared my story. I also shared my plans to guarantee that my daughter did not suffer the same humiliation. That when she was in her mid-forties sharing wine with her friends she would not have the same sad tale. She would tell a story of her remarkable mother that handled every situation with gentle, loving kindness.
The next day, out of the blue, my daughter walked into the kitchen and said, “Hey Mom, we need to go to CVS and buy me some deodorant. I am starting to get stinky pits.” I was speechless.
I laughed until tears fell down my cheeks. Check that off my parenting list. I thank my Mom and her generation of fellow feminists for championing women’s rights and a world where open, honest, frank discussion about our bodies is common place.
I wish Eunice was still here. She and my daughter would get along perfectly.
PS. I will look for a photo of my Great Aunt Eunice and share it soon.