Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Community News Network

October 23, 2013

Smells like teen spirit: An olfactory experiment

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Probably if I had watched the commercials first, I would never have undertaken this whole stupid experiment. Axe commercials? Awful. They are the media equivalent of the fragrance itself. I mean, naked ladies covered in tiny congruent triangles assault bemused middle managers. These are commercials that could have been made by Russian porn stars from the mid-1960s, or backstage at a Victoria's Secret fashion show, if angels really liked feathers in their strawberry milkshakes. Nor did I come to Axe men's fragrance by sniffing the air at the U.S. Supreme Court, which I cover.

Me, I discovered Axe the usual way, through my 13-year-old nephew, for whom the whole prospect of a lifetime of boom-chicka-wah-wah is perhaps still too much to contemplate.

My own boys, at 8 and 10, are too young for Axe, or for fragrance, or for wah-wahs of any variety — or so I shall insist to myself until they are about 40. But after a single day at the beach this past August, when they shared a bathroom with their big hockey-playing Axe-scented cousin-slash-hero, even the 8-year-old was smearing his small hairless self with the body wash, the deodorant, and, in case he still couldn't be smelled from the next pier over, the spray cologne. I decided to handle this olfactory terrorism like a mature adult: several days of merciless teasing. Dinners quickly became unbearable, with three Axe-drenched young people fogging up all tastes and smells until your pasta simply tasted like the painful ache at the back of your tongue that occurs when every boy in the house sees a daily Axe dip as part of his grooming. On it went, until the final weekend at the beach, when I found myself trapped in the shower with only a bottle of three-in-one Axe product (shampoo, body-wash, and conditioner). So I broke down and used it.

Sunshine. Harps. It was the most sublimely powerful fragrance experience of my adult life. Truly. After decades of smelling like a flower or a fruit, for the first time ever, I smelled like teen boy spirit. I smelled the way an adolescent male smells when he feels that everything good in the universe is about to be delivered to him, possibly by girls in angel wings. I had never smelled this entitled in my life. I loved it. I wanted more.

When I first told my husband that I was planning to wear only Axe men's products for an entire week, his answer was a foreshadowing of things to come: "You're planning on wearing that stuff to bed every night for a week? Man. Axe really does work. It's only been a few minutes and look, you're already single again . . ."

I confess that it was hard to choose a fragrance. My 13-year-old nephew advised me to steer clear of the "nasty grossness"-scented products. All of the Axe scents, to the extent that they differ, seem to be mostly named after manly activities like mining or soldering. Ultimately I opted for Cool Metal (see: mining and soldering) in the body wash, shampoo and spray formulations.

What happens when a fortysomething women walks around smelling like a 13-year-old boy for a week? Mostly nothing. As it turns out, ours is a culture in which, as a general principle, people don't really feel comfortable commenting on your scent, even when it is so powerful as to be causing climate change. So even if you apply Axe before a funeral — as I did — nobody is going to grab you by the arm and ask you to please leave. I wore a heavy coating of it to a dinner party one night. Eliciting no response, even when I started helpfully jamming my neck into the other guests' noses, I did learn from several mothers that the Wall of Axe (a naturally occurring phenomenon in which eight or more teen boys reapply Axe after phys ed, then stand in the stairwell together) has become so bad at some local schools that it's been banned altogether. Another guest described a perennial teen rite of passage — the agony of spraying Axe down your own pants for the first time.

The truth is, my experiment in smelling like an adolescent male for a week had only two really profound consequences. One, I really did grow to love the fragrance. But two, and distinctly more important, both my kids were so embarrassed that they stopped using it within days of my initiating the experiment. Smell you later, Axe. It turns out that there is some Freudian window in which smelling like your mom is so beyond contemplation that they wordlessly gave it up altogether. Indeed, they have both moved quite deliberately backward to the Suave Baby Shampoo, which is precisely where I would like them to stay, at least for a while. And thus, drenched in the smell of rusting metal, we all take two steps away from the Axe years, the entitled years, the boom-chicka-wah-wah years, that are bearing down upon us too quickly.

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 21, 2014

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 21, 2014

  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 21, 2014

  • Malaysians wonder 'Why us?' after second loss of airline jet

    It was all too familiar. Grieving families rushing to airport. The flashing television graphics of a plane's last radar appearance. The uncomfortable officials before a heavy thicket of microphones.
    For many Malaysians, the disappearance of Flight 370 in March has been a long trauma from which the nation has not yet recovered.

    July 18, 2014

  • A quarter of the world's most educated people live in the 100 largest cities

    College graduates are increasingly sorting themselves into high-cost, high-amenity cities such as Washington, New York, Boston and San Francisco, a phenomenon that threatens to segregate us across the country by education.

    July 18, 2014

  • Your chocolate addiction is only going to get more expensive

    For nearly two years, cocoa prices have been on the rise. Finally, that's affecting the price you pay for a bar of chocolate - and there's reason to believe it's only the beginning.

    July 18, 2014

  • Facebook tests button to let people shop from its website

    Members on desktop computers or mobile devices can click a "buy" button to make purchases through advertisements or other posts on the world's largest social network, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Thursday in a blog post.

    July 17, 2014

  • The terrible history of passenger planes getting shot out of the sky

    What is more clear is that, if initial reports are true, this would be the deadliest incident of a civilian passenger plane being shot down in modern memory. In some instances, the causes of the disaster are still shrouded in mystery. Here are some of the worst events.

    July 17, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • web_starbucks-cof_big_ce.jpg Starbucks sees more Apple-like stores after Colombia debut

    This week Starbucks opened its first location in Colombia — a 2,700-square-foot store with a heated patio, concrete columns, mirrors on the ceiling and walls of colorful plants.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo