Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Man in the Supermarket

Did you know there is aluminium in underarm deodorant? Well there is, and apparently I'm allergic. It makes me break out in big red spots all over my body (not just under the arms) and I really don't understand it. I've been in aluminium boats before and I've never broken out in spots. As an interesting experiment I once made a death mask by covering my face in layers of aluminium foil. (I was at a very under-resourced beach house and it was wet.) Sure enough, I produced a frighteningly accurate silver mask of my face - and suffered not a single blemish. But for some reason, the aluminium in deodorants turns me into a spotty, itching mess. I don't make a big deal about it, though I do feel I have to explain myself if I am out in public and break out in nasty blotches because I have carelessly used a deodorant that contains aluminium. People get annoyed. Why don't I buy non-allergenic deodorant? Am I some sort of imbecile? And this is the problem. You see, I'm actually allergic to some of those non-allergenic deodorants too. A few of them contain aluminium, but they hide the fact. I think they call it a different name, like 'fragrance'. Or they tuck it away in the list of ingredients between Steareth-2 and trygliceride. So I have to read those ingredients very carefully and not just accept the product's guarantee that it won't make me blotchy. But despite my best efforts, mistakes happen. And when they do, I stay away from people, afraid of their scorn. What kind of aluminium-intolerant moron uses the wrong deodorant? Does a person who's allergic to peanuts eat trail mix? Don't I even bother to look at the label? Can't I be more careful?

Anyway, at the Fitzroy Street supermarket this week, I was taking great care to select the brand of deodorant that would be least likely to make me look like a plague victim. I realised that the man alongside me was also taking considerable time to select his toiletries, so I presumed he must be a fellow sufferer. He was dressed like me, in baggy St Kilda black. Having finally made his choice, he took an aerosol deodorant from the shelf, uncapped it and proceeded to spray the contents over himself, starting at the head. He was at it for almost a minute, and looked perfectly at ease, having his deodorant bath while fully clothed. The air was so thick with the stuff that I had to retreat to the deli counter. Backpackers nearby were coughing in a variety of languages. When he'd finished his grooming ritual, the man replaced the aerosol then continued to shop, as if nothing untoward had happened. Maybe it hadn't? After all, it was St Kilda.

And guess what? By the time I got home, I was covered in spots. It was a deodorant allergy, I later explained to our lunch guests. They weren't entirely sympathetic. They told me to be more careful about which brand I select. I wanted to explain about the man in the supermarket, and that I was allergic to his deodorant, not the product I had so painstakingly chosen - but our visitors weren't from St Kilda, so I decided not to bother. They wouldn't have understood.

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