Smell Me a River

So, today Crazy Lady at the Gym – who works there every morning but Thursdays (ah! how I’ve come to love Thursdays…) – stops us just as we finish running on the treadmill.

“Now that it’s winter,” she says, “I’m asking everyone to wear deodorant to the gym. And to wear fresh exercise clothes everyday.”

We stare at her in disbelief.

“Because we’re all closed in here,” she explains. “I’m asking everyone.”

She added this last, in case we thought she was making a personal remark about us.

Yeah, this one annoyed even my mild-mannered David.

“It’s a freaking gym!” he exclaims as soon as we walk out the door. “People sweat in gyms. If you don’t want to smell sweat, don’t go in a gym!”

He also started in on a rant about adequate ventilation systems. I just smiled. Usually it’s me complaining about Crazy Lady, while he pats me on the head and makes sideways remarks about how I’m not always the most tolerant person.

I know this is just her little deal, since she seems to view the gym as a cross between her personal exercise area and her living room. This “rule” is, of course, not in the contract. Never mind that a good proportion of people around Santa Fe don’t use deodorant at all because of health concerns or sensitivity to perfumes.

Have I mentioned Crazy Lady is from Louisiana? She probably thinks women glow.

The subject of smell is a sensitive one. Or not, depending on the person. In our refined, technological society, we’ve been taught that the smells of the human body are bad. We scrub our teeth and mouthwash our breath. We use body-washes, lotions, powders, anti-perspirants, perfumes, deodorants, and shoe inserts. All to keep us from smelling like human bodies and more like a pretty object in a parlor decorated in chintz.

I’ve noticed it’s rarely men who complain about how someone smells.

On the other side, it’s becoming far more common to ask people to refrain from wearing heavy perfumes and deodorants. I’ve noticed it on several conference flyers now, reminding people that many around them have allergies. Physiological reaction to aerosols is somewhat more grim than not liking a natural smell. Allergies and sensitivities are different than dislikes.

This is like the shades up vs. shades down battle. People who like shades down think it’s only considerate for the shades-up people to lower the shades if a shades-down person complains. Similarly, people who don’t like certain smells feel free to tell other people to correct it. Rarely do they seem to realize that they don’t have to have things the way they like them all the time. I don’t like small children being disruptive in restaurants, but I would never ask someone to leave. I simply put up with it.

With perhaps a bit of grumbling, but still.

If I go out to a restaurant, I run that risk. If I walk into a perfume shop, I expect to smell perfume. If I walk into a gym, I expect to smell, well, sweaty people. In fact, I’d wonder about a gym that doesn’t smell like that.

I’m trying to decide now if I want to complain to management, or simply wear the same clothes over and over for weeks on end…

12 Replies to “Smell Me a River”

  1. I was enjoying the Crazy Lady stories until I learned she was from Louisiana. I can only hope she's from NORTH Louisiana and not my neck of the woods, cause hello? It's hot as hell down here and people don't smell pleasant no matter how many layers of deodorant and perfume they use (I know because I've made a study of being a deodorant aficionado).

    And yes, people seem to think just because they don't like something, no one else should do it, use it, etc. It's so annoying and I wish they'd stop 😉

  2. Or…find a new gym where Crazy Lady doesn't work? Funny-ish story: I had a guy in my class at the acting conservatory. He insisted on bathing in cologne. I'm allergic. Violently. We were assigned to do a scene together. I asked him to forego the stench. He refused. It was his right to wear what he wanted. I nodded calmly and said, "And it's my right to yarf on your shoes when the migraine induced by your Chanel No5 splits my skull." We didn't do the scene. The acting teacher reassigned us partners. We never worked together again and he spent the next three years of school on the side of the room farthest from me.

  3. I would rather smell sweaty bodies at the gym (a smell I'm not at all fond of, but expect to find there) over strong cologne any day. Our former gym had a plethora of men who felt it necessary to bath in the stuff before they came in. We're a mostly organic household, using cleaning and bath products that are not chemical. I've become very sensitive to smells and cologne and cleaning products give me wicked headaches. I grumble and make snarky remarks (but to myself or gym partner) but I wouldn't ask them not to do those things. As you said, it is something you put up with. 🙂

  4. This post stinks….

    Okay, it doesn't. I like it a lot. I just had to throw out a scent joke, y'know? *cough*

    Well said, good lady. And I say you don't wash your gym clothes for a while, then go sit on Crazy Lady's lap and get nice and chatty. Do that every day. She'll quit in no time. 😉

  5. Ok, I gotta go against the grain here. Sorry guys but while I don't enjoy smelling strong cologne I do NOT enjoy smelling pit-stink, or ass for that matter. While strong perfume is annoying to most strong BO is too. If you want others to respect the right to smell natural then respect the right for others to smell fruity. While I harly ever wear perfume I do wear deodarant and double layer it when I'm going to the gym. It's hot as hell in the south and I don't want to get in my truck and smell myself all the way home.

    But it all comes down to respect. Be respectful and others will respect you.

  6. I'm gonna second sayde grace here, because really you could make this argument about everything we do to our bodies – i.e. shaving/waxing/plucking/manicures (nothing particularly natural about that…but we do it…or at least most of us do in some fashion.)

    To each, his or her own.

  7. Danica – I'm sure she's from the icky part of Louisiana. And you're right – let's make everyone else do things the way WE like!

    New gym, Marcella is a 15-min drive instead of 3. It's a possibility, but I'm reluctant. Amusingly, I once had a kissing scene with a guy who wore Lagerfeld. WAY too much Lagerfeld. I'm not migraine-girl, so I didn't mind, but it was at best overwhelming.

    Kristin – I'm with you (clearly). We don't use heavy cleaners, etc. But cologne at the gym?? No no no

    Simon, I love your solution AND the joke. I just might have to do that.

    Sayde and Allison – that makes sense to me for polite company. But for the gym? I don't wear make-up or cute clothes to workout, why should I worry about whether my healthy sweat smells like that very thing?

  8. Hmmm. I might argue that as sensitive as some people are to perfumes, others may be just as sensitive to sweat smells. (Or any smell, really.) Clearly if you're in a gym, you *would* expect it to smell a bit. I'm not saying a gym should smell like flowers – and there *is* a difference over a clean sweat smell and one that's really stagnant, but it's personal perception. if I walked into a gym and I thought it smelled like death, I'd walk right back out and work out somewhere else.

    (But that's in agreement with your point – I wouldn't ask someone else to change their habits simply to conform to mine. )

    I had a room-mate in college – track runner (I ran too), and I ended up almost moving out because she smelled so bad I actually threw up once when I came in the room. (Sneakers + no socks == massive amounts of reekage.) I know she showered, but apparently it wasn't enough. The coach actually had to pull her aside and ask if she had a hygiene problem and at one point someone actually nailed a bar of soap to her locker. (No, NOT me)

  9. Ah crazy lady strikes again! All I can say is I hope that no one decides to wear cologne after they work out, in an effort to comply with crazy lady, because stink and sweet just don't mix.

  10. See, Allison, that's a whole 'nother level. No one smells *that* bad without serious issues, most likely health-related. I have a sensitive nose and this gym smells fine to me. Far less "gymmy" than some!

    Hmm, Chudney – that's a great idea! 😉

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