Damned if ever since it's apparently genius marketing takeover of all pre-teen/tweenager/full-fledged teen hygiene products, Axe and all things Axe have been requested by the oldest non-adult member of our household on nearly a daily basis: my 12-year-old son.
(Oh! My aching head!)
"Mom, can I get that Axe deodorant?"
"Mom, I need some Axe spray so I don't smell."
"Mom, mom, hey mom - did you see that new Axe body wash? I need some, like, really bad!"
Because the world of advanced personal hygiene is relatively new to us, I had been avoiding the Axe conundrum like the plague. Instead, placating him first with the newest Suave for Kids product that promised he would smell like a ripe Florida orange with regular use.
Yeah, that didn't last very long.
Then, I moved onto the Old Spice Body Wash, hoping that he would relish in the thought of using a product from the same family as his grandpa's favorite after shave. Hence, getting that much closer to actual adulthood.
Yeah, not so much.
So there we were, in the personal hygiene section at the local supermarket, staring down bottle upon bottle of body wash available to young males. (Thank you summer, for providing some quality grocery shopping time for me and my children, it is always so much fun to take the boys down the tampon aisle)
"Let's look for what is on sale," I said in my best mom voice, hoping to peak my kids interest in bargain shopping and awareness of what everyday items really cost because darn it, if they are going to be at my side all summer long, they will learn something along the way, right?
So yes, there we were and the yellow "SALE" tags were meticulously placed under all the sale items...
Including the Axe body wash.
The gleam in his eye was probably visible from the moon.
"Alright, just this once, since it is on sale." I told him. Tossing the oddly shaped black bottle in the cart.
I felt defeated. Like I'd failed at my most basic job: mothering. For some time I knew that I had an issue with the Axe product line, but I could not articulate why. And so, because of my loss for words, I caved. Because it was "on sale," I caved. Because I had an adorably cute pair of brown eyes pleading with me, I caved. Because I had not yet had my triple grande caramel machiatto from Starbucks, I caved.
It was, most definitely, a full-blown mom fail.
Later on that night, after the groceries were all in their rightful place in the refrigerator and pantry, and the 5-year-old was distracted with her Lincoln Logs, we had a little talk. I explained that it wasn't that I didn't want him to have some cool body wash that smelled like I remember Drakkar Noir smelling when I was in the 7th grade (ick), but that I had a real problem with the way the company markets their products.
"Go grab the bottle from your bathroom and I'll show you what I mean."
When he came back I pointed out the image on the back of the guy with his arms around 2 girls - who were obviously digging his scent, as they had their faces buried in his armpits so that all that was visible of them were there insanely exaggerated breasts.
We talked about the commercials on TV, the ones where a young man will use the product and then have a trail of girls following him like a pack of dogs in heat. We talked about the message that sends to young kids, and how we live in a society that sexualizes EVERYTHING, from toothpaste to cars. We talked about marketing and what target audiences were (thank you college Marketing 101 - who knew that knowledge would be useful so many years later?). We talked about how he would feel if his little sister acted like that, or thought that she should because someone told her to.
And he listened.
He listened and he didn't roll his eyes at me. He didn't sigh, or look away or act like he had a million different and better things to do other than talk to his mom.
I didn't take the body wash away, or threaten to squeeze every last drop of it down the drain. I didn't have to because he understood. Our plan is to use it up and when it's gone, we'll replace it with a bottle of whatever is on sale, as long as it isn't Axe.
And suddenly, that mom fail from earlier, felt more like a 1st place finish in a very important race.
Until next time...