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…