Monday, January 17, 2011

Dear Lady Who Tried On the Black Dress Before I Bought It

Dear Lady Who Tried On the Black Dress Before I Bought It,

You don’t know me, but I am the fortunate soul who purchased the black dress that you tried on, found wanting and replaced on the thrift store rack to await my arrival. Now, before I go any further, I would just like to state for the record that I, too, sweat. And I too use products to prevent my sweat from creating olfactory incidents that might be deemed offensive by anyone within a ten foot radius of my armpits. So I understand deodorant.

That is, prior to the fateful day when this dress came into my possession, I thought I understood deodorant. Bringing this dress home and attempting to render it wearable has violently shaken what I previously imagined was a sound understanding of personal hygiene products and their appropriate usage. So now, for my sake and perhaps yours as well, now I must ask...

What in God’s name are you putting under your arms?

I have done battle with the notorious White Smudge on Black Fabric many times in the past. Frequently, it is a simple matter of a damp washcloth and a few well-aimed swipes. Occasionally, the washcloth wants a mild detergent mixture. And sometimes, nothing but a good soak will do. This is the way of the world, the world populated by women who don’t want to stink. Life in such a world is a trade-off. So the sight of white smudges in the armpit regions of this black dress was no real cause for concern to me, it was just something to be dealt with and moved past.

I began with a damp washcloth. I can’t swear that I heard the distant rumble of demonic laughter as I did, but I can’t swear that I didn’t, either. I tried the washcloth three times before accepting that heavier artillery was called for.

Out came the Woolite. A mild mixture of detergent and water was used in conjunction with the washcloth, to no avail. The mixture was strengthened twice before it appeared I was obtaining the desired result. Ha! I said (the neighbors can attest to that), thwarted once again, dastardly white smudge!

As it turned out, the dastardly white smudge was enjoying its first of many laughs at my expense. It was not only not gone, it seemed stronger than ever. I tried the Woolite-water-washcloth routine again. And a third time. Nothing. I soaked the top of the dress for five minutes, then ten, then thirty. It seemed the white smudges were still firmly in place, but I decided to let the dress hang dry overnight just in case my slowly eroding sanity was causing my eyesight to play tricks on me.

Sadly, that was not the case. When I returned to the dress the next day, the white smudges remained.

I tried regular laundry detergent in place of the Woolite. I soaked. I swiped. I massaged the fabric to a point that would constitute a binding marital contract in some cultures. Nothing. The dress was hung up to dry once again. Tomorrow, I said to myself, tomorrow I attack from a different angle, tomorrow victory shall be mine.

The next day brought out cotton swabs and a bottle of rubbing alcohol. This worked slightly better than the combined efforts of the previous three days, which is to say a fraction above the level most commonly referred to as “not at all”.

In the end, I did something I am almost proud of, something I never thought I would be able to say I have done, something I hope to never have to do again. The dress is a heavyweight cotton twill, similar to the fabric used to make sneakers. So I stopped treating it like a dress, and started treating it like a shoe.

Out came the bottle of black scuff remover, and more cotton swabs. The deodorant smudges that refused to be removed were painted over.

Yes, go ahead and read that again. I painted the armpits of a dress. Given the circumstances, I defy any one of you to say you would not have done the same.

So I ask again, Lady Who Tried On the Black Dress Before I Bought It, what are you putting under your arms? And is the military aware of its existence? Do you realize that you have within your bathroom a substance with the potential to save countless lives? That properly targeted application could likely shield us from the spread of even the most virulent of staph infections? That, in the event of a water landing, seat cushions could not only serve as far more effective floatation devices but also offer a choice between Powder Fresh and Cucumber Green Tea?

Or would you prefer to horde your little secret, hug it to your sweat-free self until the world is reduced to nothing more than cockroaches, Twinkies, mutant pitcher plants and your armpits?

I hope you will do the right thing, for your sake and the sake of your fellow man, for all the children of all the world, for a better tomorrow.

The Woman Who Bought the Black Dress After You Tried It On


  1. Ah yes...but did you try OxiClean® Spray-A-Way™ Instant Stain Remover? ;)

  2. I did not, and you're right, I should have known that not even death would prevent Billy Mays from being there for me. I will know better next time...