EVENTUALLY, and I suppose you can take this as a threat, I'm going to get around to the subject of deodorant, but I'll begin with Esquire magazine. Esquire confuses me. I don't think knows who's supposed to read it, or to put it another way, I don't know when I'm reading it whether I'm supposed to be reading it in the first place. It's a question of image.

My problem with Esquire is not the writing, which is usually first class, but the ads, which are all over the lot - everything from Chivas legal Scotch to a purported bladness cure. Unlike Playboy, which tells you in house ads what kind of man reads it, Esquire leaves you confused and you do not know whether or not you belong. The writing tells you that you do, but some of the ads tell you that you don't.

What all this is leading up to is the importance of image; especially self-image and how you tend to buy products according to your own image of yourself. Along the way, I, too formed an image of myself, and while this is a very complicated package, suffice it to say that I am against creeping effetism - male colognes, hair sprays, blow-tying, jewelry, hair pieces and, it goes without buying earrings. I am a basic shower and soap [WORD ILLEGIBLE] and so you could say that my image is anti-image. I used none of that stuff and neither, until recently, did I use deodorant which somehow became the topic of conversation one night - don't ask me how, I do remember, though, that when the subject came up I volunteered the news, rather smugly I recall, that I didn't use the stuff. There was one of these awkward silent moments women writers frequently mention in their memoirs, and then a friend of mine who is renowned for her honesty said, "Yest, we know."

I laughed, there being nothing else to do, and I said something about how I felt I was in a commercial. There were four people present and the consensus among them was that while I didn't have what you would call a problem, there were times when a little dab would do me just fine. In the following days, I did a little survey, cleverly bringing up the subject of deodorant, trying to see who used it and who didn't. I honestly thought that few men did, that most of them were basic, non-nonsense types such as myself, believers in showers, soap and air conditioning. I found out otherwise.

So one day, finding myself in Safeway, I nosied over to the deodorant section, prepared to make a purchase and quickly depart. I came armed with a piece of information my sister had brought home from modeling school years before - all deodorants are more or less identical. Once you know that, you also know that what you are buying is not a deodorant, but an image, and the thing to do, of course, is buy the cheapest one and leave. I did nothing of the sort.

Instead, I worked my way down the aisle, trying to remember what I knew about each deodorant from the television commercials - what was its image? The other way of putting it is, who am I? - a question most people have to face when they buy a car or a house or something substantial. With me, it was deodorant. The first one I encountered was something called Body All, a bargain, I'm sure, at $1.89 a can. But I could recall no commercial for Body All and therefore did not know if it was meant for men or women. If there's one thing I've learned from television it's that men and women sweat differently. Probably has something to do with iron. I finally rejected Body All on ecological grounds. It's an aerosol.

That made it easier. Right off, I rejected all aerosols and all antiperspirants on the theory that if God had not wanted us to sweat, He would not have provided us with sweat glands. I also rejected all deodorants designed for use by the entire family on the grounds that I wanted my own image and I also rejected anything that boasted of its protective powers and had the word super on the label. I didn't want those people who look in your medicine cabinet to think I had a real problem.

Finally, it came down to a choice between Brut 33, which has the endorsement of Joe Namath, and Old Spice Roll On, which has the endorsement of no one, but which projects a definite nautical air. Anyway, I sort of laughed at myself because here I was in the extreme Right Wing of deodorants, down with the real macho products. In the end I rejected Brut not only because I don't like Joe Namath, but also because the package said it has the "lingering sensual scent of musk" - a sentence that conjured up a picture of one of those hairy cows.

That left Old Spice. It sold for $1.19 a stick, which sounds reasonable enough, but the unit price was $25,42 a quart, which was something else again - about double the price of a really good scotch. I almost put it back on the shelf, but then thought better of it. I had to buy it.

It's me.