Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Real Men Don't Stink

At the gym yesterday, I was toiling away on my elliptical trainer and a fellow started his work out on the one right next to me. And he stank of old sweat. As I was trying to decide what to do about this unpleasant intrusion, I glanced at him. He appeared not only well-groomed but quite fresh; clearly just starting his work-out and a man who took some care of his appearance. A man, in other words, who doesn't use deodorant and had had a hard day.

I know, it's a gym and you have to expect sweat. And I do expect it and I even exude it. No problem. But this wasn't the smell of gym sweat, it was way too old for that. It was sweat from some toil or trouble of 6 hours before which had been attacked by bacteria and stank. Just exactly the problem that deodorant was invented to solve.

I moved to another machine. Too unpleasant. I've belonged to this same gym for 15 years now,exercising twice a week in close quarters with men and women and this is the first time I've moved away from someone who stank. Never happened 10 years ago or 5 years ago. Still never happens around women. But actually, I've had the same problem out of the gym several times this year with well-groomed men who obviously care about how they look and take care of themselves, and I'm starting to wonder if someone has started whispering that real men don't use deodorant.

The one man with whom I could have a conversation about this told me that it had something to do with how artificial scents bother people, and as one person who is sometimes (in allergy season) very troubled by artificial scents, I can appreciate the concern but I have good news for us all...deodorants are available in unscented versions! Yea, Chemistry!

As I moved and set myself up on a new machine at the gym, I wondered if the real reason for not wearing deodorant is an unconscious need to make space around one in a crowded world. If so, it's gonna get worse. In reality, of course, the more crowded the world, the more important that we take care not to create a large olfactory footprint. If you are herding cattle in the wild west all day, you can get away with taking your shower before you go home. If you exercise, work, and move 10 inches from everyone around you, it's only polite not to stink. I'm glad I use deodorant, and I wish that everyone else did, too.

And please, no comments about women and perfume. I agree with everything you say and will catch that subject another time.


Lizard Eater said...

Oooh, provocative subject, isn't it? I mean, among UU's. There's this implicit idea that we should be accepting of anything like this.

Me, I agree with you. And I've wondered about the whole "real men don't use deodorant" thing. There have been times when it has seemed to me to be less an accident and more an aggressive act -- "Whoo-hoo, I stink!" was actually heard on a basketball court. Or a man pushing his son's head into his armpit and laughing. Another version of "noogies."

Not just men, though. I've been around women who have professed a "natural body odor is better than deodorant" attitude.

Was it always like this? I remember my grandfather, a farmer, who worked out in 100 degree heat, but never had b.o. He was scrupulous about showering as soon as he came in from the field -- even had a shower right inside the back door so the he would be clean before coming into the rest of the house. My father remembers that every once in a while, his father would decide that his underarm hair was too long and therefore holding in sweat, so he'd shave it off. That sounds weird, but apparently before good deodorants, at least in the country, it was common for men to do.

And these certainly weren't metrosexual men!

Jess said...

This isn't a comment on deodorant, though I do totally agree with you - but rather on your new color scheme! It's very hard to read the text of your hyperlinks on the lighter background colors - take a look at an individual post page and see if you can read the commenters' names. ( I know you're probably still tweaking, but thought you should be aware. ;-)

Christine Robinson said...

About the color scheme. I had to go to work in the middle of the change-over. It will be better tomorrow. Thanks, C.

Phil on the Prairie said...

Okay, at the risk of oversharing, I have to say I don't use deodorant. I do use plain old white vinegar, however. It does the same thing (kills bacteria), but with out all of the artificial stuff.

Anonymous said...

Though I sympathize, I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt... some folks have physical problems that cause them to stink more - and often are just as embarrassed as those around them. On the other hand, some folks are allergic to the metals (e.g. aluminum chlorhydrate) commonly found in deodorants.

As someone who falls into the latter category, I can tell you it was a wonderful day when I discovered that a brand-name deodorant had introduced an aluminum-free line! No more crunchy-granola health food store "deodorant" that would quit at the first sign of stress!

Sherril said...

I may be wrong, but I was under the impression that aluminum was only in anti-antiperspirants. Not all deodorants are anti-antiperspirants. Perspiring is nature's way of cooling us off. If we use deodorant, we don't have to stink in the process. Aluminum may contribute to the development of Alzheimer's.