Monday, January 2, 2012

No B.O. in Mexico

I promised to talk about interesting stuff - not just what's happening with my book.  So here you have an article I wrote last year which contains an amazing secret recipe!
No BO in Mexico
 In the nearly six months I have been here, the only person I have encountered obviously scenting the air with their personal pheromones was a tourist whose deodorant had failed. Actually, I knew the tourist in question, and she doesn’t use deodorant for various semi-, hemi-, demi-medical reasons. Alzheimers and aluminum and all that. So it was actually her soap that had failed. It was a hot day in winter.

I have a dear friend stateside who is sometimes in the same condition, for the same reasons. “Whooo! Honey,” I want to tell her, “you stink! Go fix it, PLEASE.” And not too long ago I worked with a man who made me want to hold my breath the entire time I was forced to ride in a closed car with him.

“Good news!” I want to tell all these superbly healthy folk. These legions of the musky. You can not-stink and live!

I can see the squinty-eyed skepticism rolling off them now, veritable waves of visible doubt sort of like the nearly tactile waves of b.o. with which they otherwise greet me.

I discovered this grand secret because I made an overnight touristy excursion and left the d.o. for my b.o. on the counter in the baño. Because it was retrievable – all I had to do was ask my hostess and in 24 hours I would have it back – I did not want to buy a new one. I chose to “tough it out.” To clearly illustrate this choice to her, as a visual aid to my poor Spanish I held my arms away from my sides.

“No, no, no, Yacqi!” Then a flood of Spanish, from which I managed to glean that “limon” mixed with a little “carbonada” and patted into the pits would take care of the issue. Now it is important to note that a “limon”is not a lemon, but the little green fruit called a “key lime” in the US. In Mexico people use it for everything from flavoring food to washing the counters because it “has antiseptic properties.”

And, she told me, I could buy some carbonada for 2 pesos (about 8 cents) right across the street. Not wishing to be the stinky gringa in a society where only foreigners ever seem to smell, I thought it worth a try. So, in the spirit of a cross-cultural experiment, I popped across the street and bought some carbonada.

It comes, like nearly everything else you buy here, in its own tidy little plastic bag, stapled shut. For my two pesos I received maybe two tablespoons of white powder. I had been to the “Mercado” (i.e., open air market) for food not long before, so I had a nice supply of juicy little green key limes. I cut one in half, turfed out the three seeds and headed for the baño with my prizes.

The carbonada was grainier than the baking soda back home, but when I squeezed some lime into a dime-sized pile in my palm it foamed up the same way baking soda introduced to vinegar foams up. And then I patted the stuff into my pits and waited – maybe two seconds – for it to dry.

You know what? I had not the least trace of b.o. that day. I used it again the next morning because my own deoderant had not yet returned at the hour of dressing, and that evening I found myself once again b.o.-free. (Yes, I sniffed my clothing. I also asked the dog to check it, and she agreed with me.)

These folks are on to something. I’m still traveling, so I can’t personally run the experiment, but I wonder if grocery store baking soda and lime juice would work the same way? The usual limes we buy in the states aren’t quite the same as key limes, and they are also fairly expensive. So are key limes. Hmm. Would a bottle of concentrated lime juice work as well, I wonder? I must ask my deodorant-opposed friends to perform this pseudo-scientific test and let me know. Tom’s of Maine, look out!