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Dude…You Stink

And other stories from the adventure travel road

My mother had a very sensitive schnozz. Growing up, her ability to smell cigarette, and later, pot smoke on my big brother’s clothing was legendary. He couldn’t get away with anything around her. Nobody could. She could snort out the last vestiges of a roach fourteen days after Peter had finished it off, and he would be grounded yet again.

My father didn’t suffer the same problem. He was guilty of farts that could peel the paint off a foot locker, and proud of them. We had a bulldog, which are notoriously foul farters. When the bulldog hurtles out of the room after you fart, dude, you stink.

I inherited those uber-sensitive nostrils, which, when you travel abroad, can be a problem.

For those of you who have, as I have, climbed onto local busses in Third World countries, the odors that can assault the senses are astounding in their variety and intensity.

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Photo by Laura Anderson on Unsplash

I’m not addressing spicy food here. Since many folk travel with their farm animals on board, you are as likely to encounter eau de pig shit as you are eau de onions, or eau de overflowing baby diaper.

Recently in Mongolia I suffered through hours of driving in a Russian-made van over extremely bumpy roads while snorting eau de gas. After which I walked around stinking like eau de gas for hours and avoiding all open flames, which was probably wise, as it is equally wise for those who have a serious bean habit.

To be fair the gas smell was probably a lot more pleasant than my body odor after no bath for three weeks, but thankfully, there was nobody downwind.

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Outside Online recently published a story about some thru-hikers who were so rank they were marched off a Frontier Airlines flight. That’s a joke to begin with since Frontier Airlines has itself gotten so rank it’s remarkable they’re still in business, but I digress.

The hikers, who claim they had showered, apparently had offended the delicate sensibilities of a few folks on board.

Those other folks clearly don’t get out much.

Those of you, and I am among them, who have endeavored to take on very lengthy hikes sans showers know full well what happens when you combine very serious athletic effort with minimal clothing changes with no showers, no deodorant and no place to air yourself out.

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Photo by Edson Maciel on Unsplash

Dude. You would send a vulture gasping for air.

When I climbed Kilimanjaro, I made the error of taking PolyPro pieces. While they are high-performance, they are also high stink. After a few wearings, that stink is permanent. It’s superb way to ditch a determined date who will not leave you alone; simply layer over the offending garment and when he gets too close, whip it off. It’s remarkable how quickly foul body odor will render someone flaccid (although not always; see below).

It doesn’t make the clothing flaccid. Just the opposite. The damned things are so full of bacteria that if you ever manage to get out of them, the offending items take off across the house to commence breeding with your toddlers’ dirty diapers. You really want to head that off at the pass. And you think the Charmin’ Bears won’t touch that shit. Dude.

Certain garments, when worn long enough, get woven into your body (your hair grows into the fabric, I’m not making this up). Ask any woman who had to wear long johns for weeks or months on end after shaving her legs before the epic trip. Men, too. This past summer, I wore a pair of very thin long johns under my riding pants for four weeks in the Canadian Rockies.

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Suffice it to say, I was never attacked by a grizzly. In fact I believe I heard the bear version of “holy SHIT man” a few times when I wandered off to relieve myself, followed immediately by the sound of several large animals galloping off at speed.

Cheaper than bear spray.

When I ripped off those bad boys it was an instant Brazilian wax. You could hear the shriek of agony in Pocatello. They thought it was an air raid siren.

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The author the night my teeth froze (see white cup) Julia Hubbel

The weeks I was in Mongolia I learned a critical lesson about priorities. When it’s well below zero (and it was, which I learned when I put my teeth into a cup of water in my Nemo tent out on the open Mongolian steppes only to find my chompers suspended in a solid block of ice the next morning) being warm trumps being clean every single time. You frankly do not give a flying shit what you smell like when it’s so cold your farts freeze into solid ice in your underpants.

However. As with all things, it depends.

Ask any determined male Inuit how much stink matters when he’s horny, and he’s try to skim a pair of wet sealskin pants off a wriggling playmate in sub-zero weather. Honeymoons have a completely different meaning at fifty below. You get one shot and one shot only, before wind chill renders your penis a permanent popsicle.

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Photo by Taylor on Unsplash

The body’s sweat glands are placed strategically, including in the groin, which, forgive me, is patently unfair. It’s bad enough that all of us secrete. It’s worse that those secretions can be foul, it’s right poor goddamned design that this happens in the primary playground. Really?

Who the hell thought up? We want a do-over.

There’s a reason why some of us eschew oral sex on occasion or with certain partners.

Ask those of us who have been approached by a hopeful BF who didn’t bother to shower recently. Dude. I mean, DUDE.

As to that do-over? Like, a vagina in the palm of the hand, which would make blow jobs wholly unnecessary, and we don’t have to put our faces (including our noses) next to the offending area, and men would have to stop saying that anything short of actually penetration down there technically isn’t sex.

Of course such a fundamental rework would make handshakes a wholly new experience, and we would have to rewrite the rules on harassment…but I digress.

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Photo by v2osk on Unsplash

The very same thing goes for those of us females whose playgrounds have the deeply unfortunate habit of smelling like a sunny July day at the Pike Place Fish Market.

LADIES. PLEASE.

Some many years ago when enormous palazzo pants were all the rage, my mother kindly made me a pair. The pants were famous for using umpteen yards of material, acting much like a ball gown with legs. I wore them while visiting the Cincinnati Zoo with the then-boyfriend, who was doing a band tour. I used the toilet, which reeked, righteously.

When I later boarded the plane home, I was flummoxed to see the reactions of those around me. The acidic smell of ancient piss and shit which had been soaked into the voluminous material of my pants from the toilet floor when I’d sat down, filled the controlled environment of the plane.

I was the offender.

By they way, they are back in style. Wearers be warned.

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Dude, you STINK.

Many, many places in the world are unfamiliar with the notion of deodorant. Not only that, but such products are expensive, and who has the money? Bathing can be rare, where you have no running water. In Mongolia most nomadic folks wash once a week in the river (a brief bout to be sure, given that the river that time of year is fucking COLD), but nobody smelled of BO.

They did reek of boiled mutton, however, their homes full of cooking meat all day every day. That smell permeates everything. Everyone I hugged had hair suffused with eau de boiled mutton. Mongolian Match.com, I am convinced, is probably full of ads that require “must smell like mutton.”

I’m not a fan, but then, I’m not Mongolian.

I would liken this to the air freshener that I saw hanging from my Mongolian taxi driver’s rear view window, which stated New Car Smell.Given my lousy record on Match.com I am seriously considering this as a perfume, albeit the freshener in my driver’s car did not in any way mask the overwhelming odor of boiled mutton. However I’m tempted to try it. After thoroughly dousing myself with this product (“New Car Smell makes any old beater smell like a brand new car just driven right off the showroom floor. With just one spray, you’ll swear you bought your car yesterday!”) sold by folks who feature what looks like a a skull and crossbones in their logo, I have hopes of trailing a gaggle of drooling mid-lifers down the street.

I wonder whether this might be just the thing to rev up a mid-life crisis, given the sales pitch, above. As an old beater I’d love to smell like like I’ve just been driven off the lot. I guess I’d better make sure my date doesn’t happen right at the end of one my epic outdoor trips.

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Photo by Ian Keefe on Unsplash

Many years ago in the Dakotas and farther north (and in my own family, according to my father) farm workers were sewn into their long johns at the beginning of winter and not cut of them until spring. By January the smell was awful. By February it was right suffocating. My dad reported that come March, the entire family had to tackle his grandfather (armed with clothespins on their noses, my bet) and scissor the old gent out of his Union suit, body hair and all. Nobody wanted that job, least of all the old man.

Dude, we stink.

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Photo by Henry Desouza Nelson on Unsplash

Imagine how much money the airlines the world over would lose, and the busses, and the trains, and the donkey carts, if everyone who suffered from body odor was summarily bounced because someone’s nose got out of joint?

A few helpful comments that were offered to the drop-kicked Frontier Airlines offending thru-hikers including trying to mask the scent with perfume. Ask any of us how well that works, Sparky. Not only are we suffocating from your stink we are now suffocating from too much cologne, which is a whole other offender on its own.

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Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash

At the gym, especially in the hard-core weights area, the unfortunate tendency to splash half a bottle of manly-man scent on one’s person is a fine way to clear the area. It’s also a good way to get people off the machine you want. Your body stink is as strong as your biceps, dude, and while you may think your emanations are attractive, all the hot chicks just left for the yoga class if for no other reason than to breathe normally.

That said, I’m not sure that any of us who are gym rats can do much about the involuntary emanations that happen on that last, epic, killer rep. I am convinced that most guys grunt loudly to cover up the magnificent ripper that scorches their shorts, and most certainly singes the nose hairs of those of us within offendable distance.

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Photo by Danielle Cerullo on Unsplash

Dude, you stink.

Lest I be less than honest, I am guilty of same every time I climb on that leg press, being a huge fan of Trader Joe’s lentil soup. If nothing else, at least it gets rid of all those folks who are lurking around the machine waiting for me to get the hell off.

Like guys who smoke foul cigars, it is the woman’s best territorial imperative stink bomb.

However there is an upside. You can, if you can fart on command (my big brother was monumentally talented in that regard) clear an elevator. A well-timed fart does the same thing. If you’re tired of the confined space, fake a fart and watch how many folks crowd off on the fifth floor. That way your ride to the Penthouse level is blissfully empty.

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Photo by Anita Austvika on Unsplash

Napoleon Bonaparte famously wrote a letter to his equally-famously-randy wife Josephine, widely known as a seductress, to not wash before he got home. Given the times, that would have meant — especially since she apparently also had a mouthful of black teeth -- that she was rank from top to toe. Hey, whatever floats your bone, Boney. The Church in the Middle Ages argued strenuously against bathing, since much of it was public, and the sight of uncovered bodies was said to lead to moral depravity.

Well, let’s be fair here. The Church knows a great deal about moral depravity, given its long history, and stink had nothing to do with it. Napoleon knew damned good and well that his wife was a cavorter, and hell, if she stank badly enough, it might be proof that in fact she might have abstained for at least the time that it took for her to read his letter and his arrival. Whereupon one hopes that they both retired to the baths, but highly unlikely. He was known to wax poetic about her “little black forest.”

We are, in our Western society, smell snobs. We are willing to spend $70.70b on products that mask or improve our scent. We can have our wallets emptied to the tune of $4200 for an ounce of Chanel Grand Extrait. While it’s arguable that yes, some of these are quite lovely, a little goes a long way, and in this case more is not necessarily better. For my part, I stopped wearing perfume a long time ago. Not only was it too expensive, but my favorite scent is inextricably entwined with a certain Cretin Who Cannot Be Named. All those bottles got thrown out, a king’s ransom.

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Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

But scent, more than any other sense, brings up memories, and frankly, in this situation, those need a deep and permanent burial. I am willing to be perfume free until I find another signature that doesn’t signal poor decision making on my part, but I digress. Sometimes breathing fresh, unscented air is far more healing, as anyone who has been repeatedly attacked by perfume sprayers at your local Lord and Taylor can attest.

After six of those, Dude, we stink.

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Too much of anything, including a pleasant scent, is too damned much.

Our natural body odors were designed to attract those who are ideally meant for us, as plenty of research has shown (please see Bonaparte story, above). When you and I are aroused, we send out very specific signals which appeal to very specific people, which is one hell of a lot more accurate predictor of both sexual and relational success than a lie-riddled Match.com profile. To wit, I was friends with and dated a guy for a while, a great guy, whose natural body odor simply put me off. Seriously put me off. Didn’t matter how clean or nice he was, I couldn’t handle how he smelled.

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However for someone, that was the smell of love, cuz he’s got a passel of kids.

Each to his own.

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I have to wonder what would happen to the divorce rate if we would all stop using fancy perfumes and sort each other out by smell. Science would argue that it sure worked out pretty well in the past.

Of course this has its disadvantages. My big brother was famous for being able to end a marriage by farting, a skill that I am quite sure that he could have made a great deal of money marketing had he decided to stick around.

Boney and Josephine seemed to have that odor thing down, although things didn’t end very well for either of them because were rank in other areas of their lives. Napolean really did stink in the end but because of arsenic poisoning. Josephine, whom he had dumped to marry the 18-year-old daughter of the Austrian emperor died of pneumonia at 51. Boney died in isolation after his very public defeats. He was said to eat off plates that had her image.

I wonder if the plates smelled like her “little black forest,” which he preferred unbathed and unkempt, right up to the end of his life.

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Photo by Bryan Padron on Unsplash

If skunks can reproduce, anything can. As we humans keep proving over and over and over.

A word of warning, though. If you’re feeling amorous after your thru-hike, Dude, burn the clothing.

At least if you want to fly home on Frontier, that is.

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Photo by Miguel Ángel Sanz on Unsplash

Written by

Horizon Huntress, prize-winning author, adventure traveler, boundary-pusher, wilder, veteran, aging vibrantly. I own my sh*t. Let’s play!

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