Still, he is just shy of the giant poster taped to the bathroom mirror alerting him that he must wear deodorant every day, and I'm not yet at the place where I insist he change his pitted-out t-shirt twice a day.
But when I came home with a big basket of products Dove kindly left for all Mom 2.0 attendees (not a sponsored post, just letting you know why a bucket-full of man-stuffs emerged from my sandy suitcase), I thought it was a good opportunity to introduce him to the lovely, clear-skinned, bright-eyed world of moisturizing, cleansing and feeling fresh (even after an hour of high kicks at Tae Kwon Do). I set aside all the men's products for him to look over, adding in a little commentary here are there. It went something like this.
ME: "Oh, have you noticed there's a facial wash AND a body wash in that basket?"
E: "Why would you need both? The baby stuff is soap AND ALSO shampoo. It's weird they divide it up."
"Ooooh, this stuff smells so good, all fresh and clean. You will smell like a fancy man. A fancy clean man. Standing on the beach."
"Or a fancy clean man-kid standing in the bathtub."
"Don't stand up in the bathtub."
"I'M NOT STANDING IN THE BATHTUB."
"How about this -- it's shampoo PLUS conditioner!"
"So I don't have to use that other gunky stuff?"
"Awesome. Weird but awesome."
"Want to try out the deodorant just for fun?"
"YOU HAVE TO REALLY SLIDE IT AROUND IN YOUR PITS -- OHAHAHAHAHA! That feels crazzzzy! I'm, like, tickling myself!"
He seemed apprehensive, but interested, and with each little snippet of conversation, I felt like the possibility was seeded that he'd fall in love with product enough to want to mask the impending stink with some kind of mint-Carribbean morning air smell and not so much that he's threading his eyebrows every week.
In the bath, he lathered his hair up in the shampoo + conditioner seafoamy stuff, then washed up with the body gel until the whole bathroom smelled like a mid-level men's salon where facials and buffed nails are not taboo but where eye cream totally crosses the line. Once in his mismatched skull-and-gorilla pajamas, I offered him the fancy-man finale: moisturizer. The label says "face cream," but I am quite sure they contain the same smoothy-outy-stuffs. I called it "moisturizer" anyway, thinking that real men need not be afraid of $3 terms for drugstore cosmetics (cosmanics?), even though I had to explain that it was just "face cream."
He went in without abandon, slapping a full dollop on his hand and then face-palming it like a he was attempting pointalism painting whilst wearing oven mitts. He looked a little confused, but he kept at it, smearing the cream across his forehead with his fingers outstretched and tense. His eyes seemed heavy, like he couldn't manage the moisturizer on his skin and vision simultaneously.
"Here," I offered in that way mothers say compassionately and firmly when there's no hope left for the flailing child. I worked the globs of moisturizer into his skin with my fingertips, circling his cheeks and chin and earlobes. "You massage it in. It should feel comforting, nice."
He waved my hands away, his heavy eyebrows still coated in the stuff.
"It feels FUNNY! And tingly."
And then he was done. He smeared a bunch off on his forearm, then skirted around me, hopped into his room and took a leap into his bed, stuffed animal in hand.
Maybe he's not there yet. I might have guessed by the whimpers when I say he HAS to comb out his skater=boy hair or that, no, he cannot wear the same exact outfit he did yesterday, even if he likes that shirt SO MUCH. But soon enough he will be, and the many minutes he now spends goofing in the mirror and trying out silly faces and seeing if he can moon himself, may be replaced by peering at each detail of his own face, pondering the quirks and flaws and scrapes and sweat streaks. Maybe then, he will be unwittingly overcome with the need to smell like the sea breeze, to slap moisturizer all over his brow and dive back into the mystery of haircare combination products.
We shall see. And smell.