A Brand by Any Other Name Would Just Smell

I remember getting into an argument with a marketing professor years ago about what things can be branded.  A commodity, he asserted, cannot be branded.

Tell that to the deodorant companies.

I had the pleasure recently of shopping for a (what…flask?  cartridge? Plastic Thingy?) of  my favorite deodorant. 

Now I’m sure this little confession is a bit startling, but I admit to using this same brand and scent of deodorant for years. Tragically, and much to my chagrin, I’ve discovered that, these days, deodorants are pretty much like jobs.  They become obsolete.

So I stood in front of a display of 1763 deodorant choices, contemplating which should be the replacement for my Arrid Extra Dry 24 Hour Invisible Solid with the Powder Scent in the 2.6 oz. size that has always lasted me 1.6 years (I don’t sweat, er, perspire, or  rather, make that “glisten” much).

During the past 1.6 years, the deodorant industry must have experienced a revolution.  Or maybe the change has been there for a while, but I  haven’t noticed it before (having always been able to happily snatch my Arrid Extra Dry, in the Powder Scent off the shelf without contemplating the state of the underarm industry).

It came to me as somewhat of a surprise that the purveyors of deodorant feel obligated to sell sex appeal along with their deodorant.  Goodness, where have I been?

Now, instead of “Powder,” my underarms can smell like Cherry Mischief, Coconut Crush, or Va Va Va Voom Vanilla.  I rule those out.  We’re talking deodorant here, not milk shakes.

I also rule out Wild Freesia, Oars & Alps, Caribbean Cool and anything else that sounds like my underarms will have more fun than I do.

When my eyes hit the men’s row, I discover the names that apparently appeal to men all have phallic symbolism…Alpine Force, Cool Peak, Pacific Surge, or Urge, 

They’ve even come out with line extensions of deodorants targeted at Teens. What self-respecting teenage girl wouldn’t want to apply a deodorant with the name of Selfie Stick, Pool Party, or Pink Crush to her underarm. especially since that last is described as “cute and girlie?” What I’d really like to know is: Since when has cute become a descriptor for an underarm? Or a deodorant, for that matter?

The whole shopping adventure starts me wondering if deodorants that don’t have exotic names even work. Maybe some of them won’t  work for me, because I’m not their target audience! After all, the description for Pink Crush says, “The harder you play, the harder it works!” It’s been a while since I’ve played really hard…maybe the first grade playground…so, a few decades ago, give or take.

After pacing the length of the aisle at least fourteen times, I leave the store empty-handed with a dazed look on my face.

It’s a good thing deodorant companies don’t have a truth-in-selling policy, or those deodorants targeted at women “d’un certain âge” (like yours truly) would be sporting names like “Hot Mama in More Ways than One,” “Don’t Be Deceived, I’m 32 at Heart.” or “Granny to the Stars.”

Where’s Alice When You Need Her?

You know those TV shows of the ‘70s? They set us up.

I bet there’s not a woman of my generation out there who doesn’t covet the power of Bewitched’s Samantha, or I Dream of Jeannie’s, well, Jeannie. And although magic wasn’t involved, who wouldn’t be delighted to welcome Alice, the funny Brady Bunch live-in housekeeper/cook/ personal assistant/family negotiator/Jill-of-all-trades into their home?

Why, just the other weekend, my sister and I both declared almost simultaneously, “We need an Alice!”

What wouldn’t we all do to have a car-driving, vacuum wielding, spatula waving sidekick who actually seems to enjoy taking over our most onerous and time-consuming chores that are always present, but that we don’t get paid to do? It’s no accident that Alice is at the heart of the Brady Bunch lineup that, in 70’s clairvoyance, looks for all the world like a Zoom screen.

Well, I’m happy to share that about three weeks, I got a tool that’s as close to an Alice as I’ll probably ever get.

A friend on facebook mentioned she’d purchased a lipstick right before the pandemic that she’s never yet worn and asked what silly things we attribute to COVID, I admitted that my excitement for the week was getting a cordless vacuum. I consider this tool my new Alice. Now, my Alice doesn’t cook, and she hasn’t made me laugh…yet…but she will save me tons of time when my house starts to complain that it needs an overhaul, and there’s no alternative but to oblige.

My “Alice” is a slim, lightweight model, and not really into heavy-duty jobs, but hey, if she helps lighten the load, I’m thrilled.

I do have to say that I find it sad to admit that a vacuum cleaner is my excitement for the week. Sadder still is that COVID would inspire me to use the words vacuum cleaner and excitement in the same sentence. Oh, the depths to which we sink in a pandemic!

Hat’s Off to Fashion

What were Americans thinking when they let hats become obsolete?

Oh, we wear hats during dire winter snowstorms and baseball games, but for the rest of the year, most American women would rather wear stilettos than a hat.

Only the British, and particularly the Monarchy, seem to recognize the benefits. They wear hats for almost any occasion –  from garden parties to polo matches, and from weddings to Wimbledon.

British women have such a fascination with hats that they have a whole unique category never adopted in the U.S.  The fascinator is a hair adornment attached with a  clip or comb and it is decorated with ribbons, stones, flowers, and feathers. The more outlandish, the better for the social media fashion influencer. But apparently, even a princess can go too far, as Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie could attest.

Apparently, attiring your head like a gift or an ostrich for a royal wedding is frowned upon by even the most fashion-forward reviewers.

Diana Mather, a senior tutor for The English Manner etiquette consultancy, asserts,  “Up until the late 1950s ladies were very seldom seen without a hat as it was not considered ‘the thing’ for ladies to show their hair in public,”

I have another theory about why they still wear hats. Put simply… hats hide bad hair days.

Imagine popping on an adorable hat when you have a wedding to attend, your roots are showing, but you have no time to do tress triage! And for those days when it looks like your hair got caught in a monsoon or a cotton candy machine, camouflage those curls with a fascinator!

And by the way, when you don a titillating tiara or captivating crown for that exciting evening affair, then you’re pulling out the big guns. Seriously, who’s going to even be looking at your hair when you’ve got diamonds and gemstones dripping above it?

On the other hand, maybe we got rid of hats because most of us like to think of our hair as one of our crowing glories, even when it misbehaves.

Published in the March 5, 2020 issue of Beyond the Nest’s Free Weekly newsletter

A Woman’s guide to (feeling like you’re) losing weight

I’ve gained a fair amount of weight since I moved from NYC to Rochester. Well, not a fair amount. In my book, the fact that once women hit 40, they gain weight pretty much just by breathing is NOT fair at all. And once you hit 50, forget it. By that age, most women I know have tried on more diets than Elton Juhn has tried on eye glasses.

The pandemic has not helped. I have this theory that calories actually float in the air like pollen. Once you add stress and subtract the gym, it’s the perfect formula for them to gleefully attach themselves to unsuspecting female bodies like squirrels to a bird feeder. And it doesn’t help that women are often the ones making meals. I just know calories are absorbed through the hands.

So, I’ve come up with a Guide to (make you feel like you’re) losing weight:

  1. Never replace the battery in your digital bathroom scale. A little-known fact about digital scales is when the battery is wearing out, instead of giving you your actual weight, it simply reads “Lo.” Personally, I find this a much more satisfying way to start my morning than coffee.
  2. Do NOT EVER (yes, I’m shouting!) undertake the same diet at the same time as your male spouse/significant other. They lose weight on chocolates, Cheetos and chicken pot pies. You lose weight on…well, you just don’t.
  3. Do NOT buy your clothing from overseas manufacturers. Six figures are meant only for salaries, not sizing. And if they indicate the clothing runs true-to-size, they’re referring to dolls, not humans.
  4. Take a long-ish walk with a very slow dog on a very hot day. Your exercise app may not reflect the progress, but you’ll feel like you’ve hiked across the entire Sahara Desert.

One additional thing this pandemic has done is to bring a lot of clothing retailers to their knees. It’s tragic to see how many retailers are declaring bankruptcy, closing stores and going out of business. Pretty soon, we’ll all either be going naked or sewing our own clothes. On the bright side, either way, we won’t have those pesky
how-can-I-possibly-be-this-size clothing labels to cut out! I guess that’ll teach me not to purchase clothing from countries where adults are the same size I was when I was five.

Originally written for and published in the August 20 issue of Beyond the Nest’s Free weekly newsletter.

Sweet Memories of Winter

The winter holds sweet memories from when I was a child,
Of wobbly skates on frozen lakes, and winter storms so wild…

That school would close, so we could play all day out in the snow,
Making snow forts, angels and snowmen… it never seemed too cold.

Flying down hills on toboggans gave our family such a thrill,
The deeper the snow, the faster the run, then hot cocoa to warm the chill.

There was such delight in winter walks, with its crisp snow crunching sound,
And deer tracks by the frozen ponds always managed to astound.

We never worried about the cold, or icy sidewalks beneath our feet,
Jack frost’s crystalline painting on windows created magic oh so sweet.

There was no thought of heating bills, of shoveling walks, or driving in the snow.
No concern for “What if we get stuck?” or arriving on time when driving oh so slow.

With spring just around the corner, I think I must confess…
I truly prefer sweet memories to the reality of winter’s icy mess.

Originally published in the February 13 issue of Beyond the Nest’s free weekly newsletter.

Confounding Google

I must admit to taking singular pleasure in trying to confound Google. In actuality, it may be the other way around.

Out of curiosity, I looked up when Google was launched. Encyclopedia Britannica reminded me that the “American search engine company, founded in 1998 by Sergey Brin and Larry Page” is used by more than 70% of online users doing searches, and it goes on to claim that this places Google “at the heart of most Internet users’ experience.”

Hmmm…. I’m not sure it’s the heart they’re going for when those search-related products pop up as ads in my sidebar and end up choking my mailbox.

I do worry about the fact that, in my role as a content creator for a TV station as well as a website, I do a lot of research.

Last night, for example, I pondered to my husband, “I wonder if Google thinks me a right-wing radical when I search on the term Nazi?”

“I really don’t think you have to worry about that. Most ultra-right wing radicals aren’t searching on terms that would define them,” he assured me.

Good point.

One thing that concerns me – and my husband considered my suspicions as conspiracy theory until last night – is how cell phones allow “the god of ad delivery” to listen in on conversations and serve up correlating ads.

If they’re not listening in, how do you account for a conversation with a co-worker about Warby Parker glasses only to return to your desk to have the company’s ads populating your sidebar? Or that you  counter your doctor’s insistence on you getting a colonscopy with an inquiry about Cologuard, only to have that little gem of an ad appear as soon as you fire up your computer?

But now, I’ve even got my husband convinced it’s not just conspiracy theory.

We were eating pizza last night when he suddenly yelped.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“A piece of my back tooth just broke off and I swallowed it. Dang it! Now I’ll have to get a root canal and crown. Gees, if too much of it’s gone, I might even need a dental implant!”

Within less than one minute, an ad for dental implants popped up in the middle of the article he was reading on his computer.

You know…just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to target you.