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Things About Me: I Stink

June 12, 2010

I don’t smell like Old Spice and Axe, and in that sense I’m the smelliest man in the world.

About two years ago I stopped using antiperspirant/deodorant.  A few months later I decided to stop using shampoo.  Health-related issues weren’t on my mind when I decided to give them up, even though I had heard (for a while) that the aluminum in most antiperspirant brands might be a contributing factor in breast cancer and I do rather like the phrase “If you wouldn’t put it in your body, don’t put it on your body.”  Instead, my motivation was vaguely hippieish, but I’d just call it being a “real” naturalist.  I feel like going without is the way people are supposed to be.  I started to grow a beard before I ever had any thoughts like that just because I liked the idea of having a beard, but the first time I grew my hair out it was a kind of this is the way people are supposed to be thing.  (Someone mentioned recently that her dad was “old-fashioned” and that he still thinks long hair on men is a no-no.  I didn’t vocalize the thought, but in my head I went Well, I guess I’m about 1000 years more old-fashioned.)  I’m thin, but fit (thought not as fit as maybe I should be), the way people have always been.

I’ve heard and read that smell is the sense most closely related to memory.  I believe that humans used to use their sense of smell a lot more, and for most people it was a lot more powerful.  (I watched Platoon the other day, and after it the documentary in the DVD extras.  In the doc they explain that one of the scenes was influenced by a real event.  On a patrol one of Oliver Stone’s sergeants stopped him because he knew that there were three NVA soldiers in front of him.  How did he know?  He smelled them.)  Even though people had a more powerful sense of smell, and even though there was no Old Spice and Axe around, I don’t think they sat around thinking themselves (and their families) utterly disgusting.  We’re conditioned to find certain smells pleasant or unpleasant.  Of course there are evolutionary reasons that certain smells are almost universally unpleasant—but what possible evolutionary reason could there be for finding our own human scent deplorable?

It makes sense that smell really is closely related to memory.  I’ve known quite a few people who have kept a significant other’s clothing around (usually a hoodie), and one told me that the smell of that person was a comfort.  This makes sense, but what doesn’t make sense is that now people usually cherish the smell of a cologne or perfume, smells that anyone can buy and that are unique to no one.

I smell fine.  With a lot of activity I can work up quite a funk, but less so than many people; I don’t sweat a ton, and I eat better than some.  I know other people who don’t use deodorant and they smell fine.  We all smell fine.

I’d rather smell like a person—I’d rather smell like me—than a stick of Right Guard.  Axe makes me nauseous; I can’t believe anyone would actually buy that stuff.  I’m a goofy kind of man’s man, and I don’t ever want to smell like some girly product (I don’t want women to smell like “girly” products, either, just to clarify), I don’t ever want to be “smooth,” and I don’t ever want to have a body like some freak in a magazine.  I’m happy being human and not a trash bin for marketing agencies.

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