06/23/2014 10:53 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Mom's Helpful Hints Fall on Deaf Armpits

Parri Sontag

As I headed out to CVS, my 17-year-old daughter asked me if I could pick up some deodorant, because she was almost out. I came home with a brand she'd never used before ― my personal fave, which I think is worth the extra buck-fifty: a clear, unscented anti-perspirant/deodorant gel.


She came into the kitchen and thanked me, then turned to go back to her room. That's when I pointed out that I wear perfume and sometimes moisturize with fruity lotions, so unscented deodorant is best, because you don't have a third smell wafting from your underarms. She silently agreed, again turning for the door.

Clear gel is supreme, I added, because it doesn't leave tiny white deodorant balls in your armpits or powdery residue on your clothing. She nodded at my second valid point and, once again, headed for her room. I smiled with pride that I had solved so many of life's annoying problems with my clever purchase.

That's when I thought I would offer one last tidbit of knowledge.

"I have this same deodorant, and the gel tends to ooze out, even when it's capped," I said. "So what I like to do is turn the dial backwards a couple of times, so this doesn't happen."

"Mom," she stopped me. "I really don't need any more of your deodorant wisdom."

There I was, just trying to be helpful, passing on tidbits of my 51 years of sundry intelligence, and this is what I get?

I'm really not sure what I expected... that my daughter would run over, give me a great big hug and say:

"Thank you, mom. I am so lucky to reap the benefit of your half century of personal hygiene insight. You are a deodorant goddess. Can I also have your thoughts on sanitary napkin wings and the perfect dandruff shampoo?"

On my own behalf, I was raised to believe that mothers and daughters shared these private moments. Anyone who watched TV between 1970 and 1990 knows that a special day is supposed to arrive ― while horseback riding, frolicking through in the woods or pensively strolling by the sea ― when your daughter is supposed to turn to you with that embarrassed smile and ask, "Mom? Do you ever feel ... 'not-so-fresh?'"

We're women. We're supposed to bond over cleaning products and deodorizers. And after these talks, she's supposed to dance on the beach, free of the rags that oppressed our suffragette sisters ... and the Amish.

And regardless of whether or not ballet classes were part of her childhood, I'm pretty sure she's supposed to leap.


My daughter, however, has been a huge disappointment in this department. She never seems moved or impressed by my well-intentioned advice. In fact, most of my counsel falls on deaf, uncaring armpits. And I am frequently told that I have "serious issues."

Apparently, I can turn anything into a lecture, from the way she brushes her bangs:

"Honey, they're supposed to be more spiky, not feathered. They're flipping up. You look like you're wearing a toupee. You're a beautiful girl. Why are you wearing your hair like Donald Trump? You need a trim."

... to the proper way to paper a truck stop commode.

"Now you want to make sure there is no human flesh contact with that ebola-laden seat. Do lots of long strips all the way around. And don't forget the front part, where you can make direct contact with the bowl."

"MOM. I am not three!" she cries. "I know how to paper a toilet seat!"

I don't mean to go on and on. I really don't. But I can't stop myself. My mind is always racing. And I keep thinking up new ways to accentuate my point... or add just one more Heloise-esque tip.

"Okay, you're right. You're right," I say. "... Flush the toilet with your foot."


"I'm just trying to be helpful," I shrug.

"You are so annoying."

"Okay, okay, I'm sorry."

And I just can't help myself.

"Don't forget when you wash your hands to dry them on a paper towel. And use that towel to open the door. There are a germs on the knob too."