LIKE the Sorting Hat from the Harry Potter books, the bottles and cans telegraph how a boy can sort and identify himself. Old Spice advertisements for its Swagger line featured the rap star LL Cool J as a nerd in school, then being transformed into his fabulousness by you-know-what. Anthony’s Body Essentials are available in Energy, Strength, Spirit and Courage. Abercrombie & Fitch’s popular cologne: Fierce.
— From Masculinity in a Spray Can at the New York Times, with thanks to March for the link!
In case anyone is interested, there’s a sweet and gently hilarious take on this article on Jezebel as well. [ http://jezebel.com/5460417/axe-stridex-and-malibu-musk-entering-adulthood-through-the-drugstore-aisles#comments ] And quite apart from the post, the comments are full of some glorious adolescent reminiscences. I absolutely LOVE hearing scent memories from people who aren’t dedicated perfumistas. Do you know what I mean? There’s a sort of freshness to them.
Thanks, I’ll check it out!
Re: the jezebel comment. It’s true. I teach at a Title I school. Every 5th grade boy either wears or wants Axe. Several of my students carry it in their bookbags — they’ve shown me, proudly. Unfortunately, a few of them feel compelled to reapply in the bathroom. Not a bad thing, considering the state of the bathrooms by the end of the school day.
Gracious. My son is in 5th grade and utterly unaware of such things.
Oh, Robin. My son is in 7th grade, twelve and a half, and squarely in the “tween” years, and I don’t know who it is harder on. He is my only child and our youngest (I have two kids from my husband’s first marriage) and I vividly remember those awkward years of my own. Watching my baby experience them is killing me and I wish I could do it for him. He has asked me for some of the things mentioned in the articles – I really enjoyed both of them, thanks for the link Chanterais – and I’ve tried to oblige, but it is hard for me. I don’t know if having a perfumista Mommy, er, I mean Mom, will be a help or a hindrance to him socially. I want to think I have more influence on his taste than a 13 year old girl, but I probably don’t. If he asked for a bottle of Mouchoir de Monsieur I would be at Sak’s yesterday, but I just can’t get behind the purple dragon scent of whatever it was he wanted. Our little lesson on men’s fragrance that included samples of Eau Sauvage, PdN New York, and New Haarlem was going pretty well, but l I lost him around the coffee-lavender fougere part. I talked him into original Old Spice and I guess I will keep trying.
No, you probably won’t (have more influence)! I try to teach my son not to worry so much what others think, but that’s a losing battle and I think in the end depends more on the child’s personality than the parent’s efforts. So I say explain why you think the Axe is stupid, then buy it for him.
I’ve been down sick for a couple of days, but thought I should reply in case anybody took what I said too seriously. I’m just joking around. I have been through this stage with both of my older children, the girl with B&BW and the boy with AXE, and I know that there isn’t much I can do except ask them to turn down the volume or stand outside for a while. The purple dragon vs. Old Spice debate was actually about deodorant and the OS original contains no aluminium. I don’t know how conclusive the data is on the perils of aluminium slathered on the armpits every day, but I thought maybe I could delay it for a while. I did let him test the fragrances I listed and he liked Eau Sauvage the best, followed by New Haarlem. My husband has started wearing Miller Harris Feuilles de Tabac, which was originally mine, but I don’t know if tobacco scents are appropriate on a young man. He really isn’t that interested in fragrance or desperately trying to fit in like the kids in the article, but the deodorant is becoming important if you know what I mean. Maybe when he gets older and wants to try cologne he will start with my sample vials and decide he really does like an old Dior or Guerlain better than a mass market fragrance. Plus, if he starts out with 1ml. vials he will (hopefully) learn that a little dab is all it takes.
So sorry you were sick, and no worries, I didn’t take it *that* seriously!
Chocolate Axe. It’s like Angel from hell, and Angel is ALREADY from hell. It even disgusts my teen girls (imagine that smell combined with boy-sweat.)
now that’s what is called a “Dietary Aid” ack!
Ack. And double ack.
I read it this morning. And I thought the Brut aftershave the boys slathered on when I was in high school was more than enough …. Chocolate Axe? **shivers**
I remember Old Spice more than Brut…and still love Old Spice.
Well, there’s always the hope that some of these boys will take a deeper interest in frags. That’s my game plan when mine hit that age. “If you love chocolate Axe, there’s a couple Muglars you should try…”
I wish the boys in my school were more into cologne, particularly after they came back from gym class. Not many of them showered and that could be pretty hard to take in late August or May/June. *shudders*
Great article. I thought it started out really cute and funny — and there were cute bits throughout. Love the line abou Axe being “the bane of parental olfactory nerves” and the principals with drawers full of product. In many ways it brings to mind David Byrne’s line, “Same as it ever was.”
But then I got disgusted. I really think marketing and social pressure are becoming ever more evil, especially when those studies are shown to be making kids “increasingly self-conscious about their appearance and identity” at far younger ages than ever. And don’t get me started on all the crap about pressures to be a REAL man (or “real” girl for that matter). It’s kind of sad, really, especially in cases when parents buy into it or are the ones exerting the pressure and contributing to the psychological abuse that causes things like eating disorders in teen girls.
Whew. How do those of you with kids manage to protect their self-esteem amid so many external pressures?!
A once-oversensitive child
And I should add that the high school days of Drakkar Noir and designer-imposter green Polo and Speed Stick all seem really innocent and uncluttered by comparison…
Co-signed, a still-sensitive adult.
By and large, I think that the teenage years (even before they acquired that moniker) have always been hellish. I mean, there are hieroglyphics etched inside ancient Egyptian tombs talking about how awkward, irritating and tiresome people on the cusp of adulthood are – it’s sort of comforting to know that some things are eternal. But it really does seem to be especially tough for kids today. I’m 28, and grateful to my very marrow that I didn’t have to go to high school in the Myspace/Facebook era. All I had to contend with was a Queen Bee informing me that my treasured Eau de Givenchy smelled like a granny. I didn’t have to suffer the mortifying shame of her posting a stinging joke about how I smelled on the web for the whole world to see.
Teenage empathy. I haz it, man.
Dear over-sensitive child and still sensitive adult,
I was being glib earlier by focusing on perfume. I actually sobbed through both of the articles. Adolescence is a painful time for everybody involved. Like Absolute Scentualist, we have tried to do everything we can to raise the smartest, most interesting, talented children anywhere and to protect them from anything that could hurt them, but ultimately we can’t. The outside world creeps in with everything you have ever feared and all you can do is hope and pray that you’ve given them a solid foundation and a clear vision of the right path to follow. It IS harder today with the technology we have that keeps us connected to people all over the world and allows a single bully to spread their torment to millions with a click of a key and constantly bombard our children with messages about what they should be, but fundamentally humans are what they are and nothing really changes. We struggled with the same things our children do, only in a different form, and their children will do the same. Now, I’m off to console myself with way too much vintage Shalimar.
How did I get here?
Our kids never watch any TV but movies we approve (usually classics and some Disney fare–we love the Disney Faries), we read to them since they were infants, I don’t subscribe to any mags, and both my hubby and I were high school geeks/nerds respectively and remember how hard it was to be ourselves with so much pressure to be otherwise. I even did the whole “chopin played against the pregnant belly” bit and don’t know if it helped, but it sure was enjoyable.
It’s been really wonderful parenting with lots of exposure to arts and different cultures. My daughter had no idea who Hannah Montana or The Cheetah Girls were until she started school, and even now she doesn’t care about them nearly as much as she loves her books and art supplies. My older son has always loved information of all sorts and how things work, so there’s endless ways to keep him occupied with books and toys that let him build.
We as a couple really only watch movies or the odd series on DVD, so we’re all pretty pop culture illiterate around here unless it has to do with viral videos and memes. We play board games or some of the WII activities (tennis, bowling, etc.) as a family now and then, and in the summer the kids help in the garden or play in the sprinkler. We’re definitely the odd family on the block, but we’re happy and raising kids who love themselves inside and out, not because they’re gorgeous which they are, but for their personalities, talents and special place in our family. I hope that’s enough to counteract the impending angst at least a little.
Your odd family could hang out with mine…we’re much the same. I’ve tried to brainwash (kidding) / innoculate my kids against some of the things I don’t like. It worked well w/the older child (who agrees that Barbies are stupid, makeup is gross, and most pop music is crap). The younger is stubborn though, and has a mind of her own. She firmly told me that while it’s ok for ME to think Barbies are stupid, SHE likes them, and that’s ok too. Yeah, not worried about that kid. Both my girls, actually, are pretty good at thinking for themselves and standing up to other people.