A while back, an ex-girlfriend of mine came to see me at my office. Upon arriving, she exclaimed that she had just ridden up in the elevator with the hottest guy; but, she was so nervous that she couldn't think of a way to start a conversation with him. She asked me for some advice on what to say as an ice-breaker in such a situation. It being the middle of the summer and a doggedly hot day, I thought about it for a minute and suggested she say something like, "I'm definitely glad I wore deodorant today."
Her initial reaction to this suggestion was one of disgust. "No, I want something SEXY to say," she attempted to correct my obviously gross misunderstanding of her simple request. I tried to explain to her that this was sexy; and, that, in fact, it was both sexy and humanizing - a sweet spot of human interaction.
I went on to clarify that the deodorant defines a mundane commonality - a thing that the two of them would have in common. And, although this fact is hopefully implicit, its statement frames the conversation in a critical way: it serves to remind us that we are all much more alike than we like to think.
As individuals, we tend to amplify our differences. We overestimate the intelligence and the skills of others while simultaneously underestimating our own abilities. Similarly, we often believe that others aren't capable of understanding the depths of our love or the intensity of our pain or the importance of our dreams and ambitions. We constantly fail to give people the benefit of the doubt - martyring ourselves time and time again because, while We can shoulder the burden of suffering, we are convinced that no one else can.
Individualism is necessary for happiness and a sense of fulfillment. But, left completely unchecked, it can create a chasm between us. By bringing up the concept of "deodorant," my friend would ever-so-slightly focus the conversation, bringing to the forefront the oft-forgotten fact that we are much more alike than we are dissimilar.
And, it's sexy. Very sexy. We wear deodorant because we sweat - because we are physical animals with bodies designed to be used. We have this magnificent machinery that provides us with a sensory-rich experience and a means to fulfill our own existence. This body, this skin, these hands, these lips - they are the pathway through which we interact with the world and with each other.
When we think of sweat, we can't help but be reminded of our physicality and our carnality. We can immediately draw upon decades of imagery and experience that links sweat to sensuality and to hard work; to achievement and to man's ability to shape his own existence and to conquer his environment through sheer will and determination.
Sweat is a byproduct of man's unquenchable desire to live.
So yeah, on a hot summer day, a light-hearted comment about deodorant might just be the sexiest thing that a woman can say in an elevator. It serves to both ground us and excite us. Of course, that said, none of this was able to convince my ex of anything - other than perhaps my obvious detachment from reality.