Treatment: What’s That Smell?

Considering the fact that I am not engaging in much if any social intercourse these days, I’ve decided not to use underarm deodorant for the time being. I figure I’d give the old pits a rest and let them breathe god’s air without the mediation of a bunch of perfumy chemicals. After all, who am I gonna offend? Steve the Dog? Sheesh, he should worry about his own reek.

The Loved One doesn’t seem too put off by this. Then again, maybe she’s just trying to be a nice guy about it all. We’ll see.

Anyway, every once in a while, I catch a whiff of me and it’s jarring. It’s not that I smell dirty or bad — just unadulterated human. Verging on primate.

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I remember going to the Great Ape House at Lincoln Park Zoo years ago. The whole place stank to high heaven of gorilla. In fact, they even had a sign posted explaining the air had been suffused with the natural underarm odor of the male beasts because, well, their pits were so filled with Hey-I’m-a-guy-and-I’m-here glands that the aroma could travel for kilometers.

Now I don’t expect my bouquet to waft for kilometers, but it sure has reached my delicate nostrils on occasion. There was a time when every male human smelled somewhat like I do now — allowing for the fact that in the old days guys didn’t scrub daily with Irish Spring with Aloe and so, without a doubt, emanated what we’d consider today a far more pungent kayo. Catching a hint of the u-arm essence is unpleasant now, natch, but was it considered desirable way back when? Was a fellow whose pits issued strong airs considered more sexy than his less powerful contemporaries?

Many of our modern day efforts to conceal our odors are based on trying to suppress the animal messages our bodies send to the opposite sex. In trying to control our bestial rampant sexuality, society has decided it’s best to shut off the body’s outreach functions. Concealing our skin and shutting down our odors necessarily stifles the message Hey, come fuck me.

It’s gotten to the point where now people are offended by the sight of skin (witness the folks who are so put off by public breastfeeding) or the hint of distinctive male or female fragrance. (Of course, there’s the overreaction to this suppression and that’s the fetishization of cleavage and jiggly fannies that drives much of our economy — but that’s a topic for another day.)

If I went into work sans deodorant now, at some point one of my co-workers would crinkle his or her nose and then immediately engage in a whispery conversation with another co-worker. One of my own co-workers at Whole Foods Market used to go u-arm au naturel. I tried my damnedest to converse with him from a distance, although that wasn’t always possible. In tight quarters, I made certain our interchanges were brief.

And he wasn’t un-hygenic. He was clean and well-kempt. Yet he smelled. Of human. Had he smelled of Irish Spring with Aloe, I might even have complimented him. As if he were to be lauded for sudsing himself up with the following:

  • Sodium tallowate
  • Sodium palmate
  • Sodium cocoate
  • Sodium palm kernelate
  • Petrolatum
  • Polyquarternium-6
  • Pentasodium pentetate
  • Pentaerythrityl tetra-di-T-butyl hydroxyhydrocinamate
  • Titanium dioxide
  • Chromium oxide greens


Usually I use Tom’s of Maine u-arm deodorant. Its ingredient list includes the following:

  • Propylene glycol
  • Water
  • Sodium stearate
  • Organic Aloe barbadensis leaf juice
  • Glycerol laurate
  • Natural fragrance
  • Humulus lupus (hops) extract
  • Organic Helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Organic Cymbopogon flexuosus oil

Not things I’d like to sprinkle on my breakfast cereal but certainly not as alarming as Pentaerythrityl tetra-di-t-butyl hydroxyhydrocinamate, which turns out to be an antioxidant or stabilizer found in some 769 cosmetic products as reported by the federal Food and Drug Administration. Acc’d’g to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel in Washington DC, it “… is safe in the present practices of use and concentration in cosmetics.” OTOH, the CIR is funded by the cosmetic industry’s trade association, the Personal Care Products Council, so you can take its findings or leave them.

Tom’s of Maine’s website main page features a carousel of images of grinning mothers cuddling grinning babies, grinning pretty little girls hugging bunnies, and a tube of toothpaste set in a field of some kind of grass or another. None of these hint that Sodium stearate, acc’d’g to Wikipedia, “is found in many types of solid deodorants, rubbers, latex paints, and inks. It is also a component of some food additives and food flavorings.”

Keep in mind many ingredients in cosmetics and foods are used in a surprising variety of non-edible and even toxic products. This does not necessarily mean they’re poisons.

Anyway, see what’s going on here? Being under cancer house arrest has compelled me to think about a lot, a lot, a lot of things — way, way, way too much. Ergo, this pointless post.

Oh, wait, there is a point. I swear to you I’ll be wearing underarm deodorant just as soon as I free myself back into the wild.

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