Screenwriter Neil Kramer is Citizen of the Month.
Neil chose the word "citizen" deliberately. He sees the blogosphere as a democratising force, where a regular Joe can fight the tyranny of mediated opinion. Blogs turn personal narrative into instant social history. Original voices need not be silenced by the caprice of an editor, nor deadened by an academic. To Neil, a blog champions the common man, and his everyday life.
Perhaps that's why he bit on the Medicine Cabinet Meme. It’s perfect material for the social historian; something so commonplace that it’s practically transparent, but which speaks tellingly about the owner’s life and time.
As memes go, it seems no more invasive than usual. It doesn't demand that you reveal five secrets, six phobias, or three strangers on the bus you wish you'd asked for a blow job.
One simply lets the world peek behind one's bathroom mirror, and Preparation H does the talking.
Neil’s medicine chest is commonplace, indeed. The only remarkable thing about it, is that it contains quite a bit of actual medicine.
Now, you need to know that Neil lives in the United States. A primitive, Third-World country without universal health insurance. The presence of medicine doesn't mean that he's sick, just that he's well-to-do. An empty amoxycillin jar is as good as flashing a black Amex at Le Cirque.
Since he earns enough to be medicated, I gave him shit for being a cheapskate. What, no aftershave? Soon, an email appeared in my inbox.
I have never worn aftershave, ever. Should I start? Neil.
It took a few seconds to sink in. This was a milestone in my gay life. A straight man asked me for a tip on personal grooming.
Honourable Husband, you've been QueerEyed! It’s your fifteen minutes of fabulousness!
Some gay guys get this all the time. Their apartments are tasteful, their clothes stylish, and their comportment perfect. People flock to them for advice on paint colour, wine lists, or romantic poetry. Me? I drink beer and pick my nose. I'm a slob.
But when it comes to after-shave, yours truly is an idiot savant. I love the stuff. For proof, you only need to look in my medicine cabinet; it groans with smells.
By chance, the Honourable-Right medicine cabinet also houses laundry stuff, since one corner of the bathroom hosts the Waschtrockner*. As you can see, we are so fragrant, even our laundry wears after-shave.
Front and centre, we see selections from the Lenor Mystery Series Fabric Softener Range. The purple bottle holds Sumatra, where scents of cinnamon and hibiscus take us on a magic journey of Silk Road romance. To the left we find Sahara, which gives us the cool embrace of the twilight as the sun settles behind the dunes, and the perfunes of Araby waft from the sultan's tent. Or something.
For daywear, we use Frottee. It sounds like some sort of sexual practice. If you had to say what Frottee smells like, you'd have to say it smells like good value-for-money. That's a big step up from smelling like nothing at all, which is how our clothes used to smell before we moved to Europe and started to wear fancy-schmantzy couture, washed gingerly in appliances that cost a fortune and take three hours to complete a cycle.
(Off-topic: American readers will notice in the plastic container on the left. In Germany, Mr. Clean is Meister Proper. The label tells us that the bottle contains Bad-Spray. Good-Spray costs more, I guess.)
Master Right may love snuggling up in Frotteed sheets, but he eschews fragrance on the body. It's a Japanese thing. To the Japanese, prominent scent suggests that you're concealing another odour, and thus not clean.
Successful Japanese fashion designers can't quite crack fragrance. Experts describe Yohji Yamamoto's 2004 pour Femme as "Decent. Neutral. Too polite." Others stick to easy-to-understand smells like wood or coffee. I wonder how Issey Miyake does it?
Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, perhaps in frustration, reacted with an anti-perfume. According to reviews, her Odeur 53 shows hints of burnt rubber, ozone, photocopiers, static electricity, and cathode-ray TV sets.
L'humeur de l'amour
So Master Right turns up his nose at my after-shave habit, if you'll pardon the expression. But pour this homme, after-shave is grand.
Nothing affects your mood so powerfully, for good or ill, as a smell. It's aromatherapy you carry around all day.
Smells go straight to our lizard-brains; they cue masculine or feminine, clean or unclean, fancy or plain, rich or poor.
Believe me, Neil, you want to be on the right end of a smell.
But for that you'll have to wait for Chapitre Deux. That's when The Honourable Husband gives you a tour of his personal after-shave shelf.
'Til then, adieu. Or is it au revoir? I can never tell those apart.
* a Waschtrockener is a high tech device which both washes and dries your clothes. We bought it because the name of the manufacturer, Siemens, reminds us of man-sex. So does one of its cycles: Schnell.