mad in pursuit memoir notebook

DISPATCHED FROM THE intersection of yesterday and forever

Underarm shields

My sister Ellen has just sent her first-born off to college. Here is the moment parents have been anticipating for 18 or so years and it is full of anxiety about whether they've prepared their child with everything he could possible need to get off on the right foot.

I too was a first-born child delivered to the gates of college by anxious parents.

My mother was less worried about my study habits than she was about my hygiene. Her concern started months before when we visited the college and a young woman took us on a tour. She had BO. This is what happens to studious girls who don't have their mothers nearby for quality control, she must have thought.

And so I was sent to college with underarm shields. It was some contraption -- maybe it attached my my bra -- that held these nice little pads against my arm pits and preserved my sweaters from BO.

This was 1967 and, while God had already invented deodorant spray, my mother apparently didn't think it was foolproof.

Oh, jeez, did my roommates ever give me hell for the underarm shields! Not right away. Everyone was too polite and too modest.  And what did I know? My mother told me that BO was a really bad thing and that this contraption would save me. Since those were the days of girdles and garter belts, what was one more piece of undergear?

When my roommates finally revealed that they thought I was hysterically retro, I quietly retired the shields.

But I do believe I survived freshman year in a very sweet-smelling fashion.