I travel a lot for work. Spend inordinate amounts of time on planes, trains and automobiles. Have more than my share of quasi-intimate encounters (ie, side-by-side eating, drinking, sleeping) with what I shall politely call “Men of a Certain Odor.”
I don’t know what it is, but a good portion of the men I have the misfortune to sit near while travelling, quite simply stink. And they all seem to have that same odor that my good friends Carol, Julie and I have named pithily: “Smells Like Boy.”
Ask any woman and she will know what you mean when you say that a room or a car “smells like boy.” Women whose husbands have a basement or attic “Man Town” where he and his buddies drink beer and watch games and play video games will understand Smells Like Boy. Women who attended colleges with all-male dorms or floors will understand Smells Like Boy. Women dating men who live alone and don’t get the chance to clean up before we come over will understand Smells Like Boy. Women who have parented even one male child through adolescence will understand Smells Like Boy.
Be it pheromones, hormones, or the sweating out of last night’s buffalo wings hot sauce, men in general have a “boy smell” that is as distinctive as any odor on earth. I can neither describe nor deconstruct it, but to paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of p**nography: “I know it when I smell it.” It is not the well-earned and completely understandable smell of a post-workout guy, or a just-walked-home-from-the-train-station-in-90-degree-heat guy, or (Dad, don’t read the next sentence) the kinda yummy just-spent-20-minutes-making-out-with-me-like- high-school-kids-at-the-movies guy. Nope. It is a smell all together sui generis.
Short Story Long: The travelling men in question tend to be between the ages of 16 and 36. They are usually dressed in what look like clean clothes, but upon further olfactory reflection, were probably worn a few times and picked up off the floor for today’s outing. Their breath is usually fine, but their hair/scalp odor is usually not. Maybe they shower but don’t shampoo? Their armpits usually don’t reek, but their feet usually do. But not in the way that you can pinpoint that it is indeed footstink more than perhaps shoestink. It is essentially a generalized miasma surrounding their entire person that is neither BO nor halitosis nor athlete’s foot. It is just, honestly, no offense intended, “Smells Like Boy.”