Friday, August 21, 2009

Smelly Hippies

As I was leaning over the sink at work this afternoon, washing the hippie stench out of my armpits, it occurred to me that the low-impact organic lifestyle I attempt to maintain is seriously in need of a closer look. Not a closer whiff, though: you can probably smell me from there.

I usually love all that of-the-earth nonsense that makes organics a megaindustry, but has anyone noticed that, um, they don't seem to work as well? The low-impact toothpaste fails to freshen my breath for more than 45 seconds! The au-naturelle deodorant I try to use makes me smell worse than I do if I wear nothing at all! Guys, I'll just come out and say this: I am afraid of the Diva Cup.

I want to believe, though! But it's just not enough. I'm anti-toxic chemicals, but I'm also anti-reek at work. I know, I know: humans are supposed to get a teeny bit funky, especially when we move around. It's natural. For thousands of years, our thick-browed ancestors used "all-natural" methods of personal care, which clearly blow our hormonal/chemical bag of tricks right out of the water.

Except, like, ew: camel poop is not a contraceptive I want to use. I know that's a touch disingenuous, but come on. Today's smells were not good. I can't imagine anyone smelled all that fresh before the invention of antibacterial soap.

Buying that stuff is that whole consumer-activist song and dance. If I eschew being Zestfully clean in favour of Lush, then I can extrapolate all kinds of other conclusions about who I am. I care about the planet! I'm in the know! I'm into eco-concious fanciness! If I spring for a ZENN, then I'm putting a middle finger up to all those H3s that are basically smoking a pack of Marlboros right into the atmosphere's face. I knit my own feminine care products and dread my armpit hair.

Hm. No. (Not just the armpit hair, although, admittedly, I've wondered if it can be done.) It's the same problem I run into when people are really into, like, indie music. It's self-definition by way of consumer habits. I buy CDs instead of downloading them; ipso facto, I am what passes for "old-school" in today's attention-span-of-a-hummingbird society. I buy nine-dollar deodorant that makes me smell like a rotting beached whale, and I feel like I've "helped" "something" - vague good feelings about buying a product.

Now, I'm not crapping on all concientious purchasing. Some of it makes a difference, even though often that difference is diluted by oceans of the usual poisons (corporate greed, lies, semantically slippery definitions): I'm thinking here of Fair Trade, which does do good work. Other companies, like the feel-good and tasty Nantucket Nectars, are owned by Dr. Pepper: even if you think you're giving your juice money to a couple o' bucket-hat-wearing dudes, you're...not. Bummer.

Anyway, long story short: I will continue buying the hippie-dippy goofball versions of products, because I am sort of a goofy hippie person (albeit one who has no use at all for the icky aesthetics - sleek and black is the way I dress, even if I do sweat all over the sleek, black clothes). Why? I know buying organic-ish stuff is participation-lite, but I do actually walk the walk occasionally. Even though said walk makes me sweaty.

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