In Defence of Stinkies
I light a cigarette to mask the smell of bodies still struggling through the aftermath of the fiery warzone we’ve just escaped. Constant explosions of heat blast our chemical-free skin. A stink-induced apocalypse is upon us.
This is the story of what I endured while travelling through the American summer in a van with two boys who don’t wear deodorant.
I first met up with them in San Francisco, California, where the air is dry, the people are weird and the wind is fucking windy. “Dutchie! Ralph!” I yelled as one of the boys manoeuvred Glenda – the old, rusty RV – down the narrow road. She stuck out like a sore thumb, her blanket of eccentric graffiti painting her as floating street art. Dubious eyes looked upon us as I entered my new home of profanities, sweat and a broken shower.
“Glenda’s not smelling so fresh,” I said, choking back a cough.
As I leaned in to hug the boys, my mind was blown by the sudden realisation that the lingering stench of darkness and doom wasn’t actually coming from the van. It was coming from Dutchie and Ralph.
“We don’t wear deodorant,” they answered in unison as I later interrogated them over eggs and juice.
“Do you just not sweat?” I persisted with force, alarm bells screaming in my head. We’re about to embark on a scorching trip through the desert! We were Burning Man bound, and I knew the mixture of sun, alcohol, sex and drugs would be a classic recipe for some serious perspiration.
“Yeah we do, but it doesn’t really bother us,” they replied monotonously.
It bothers me, I thought, picking up their hint to get over it.
Our road trip progressed and we ventured further and further into the searing heat towards Black Rock City. My reservations faded as I woke each day more surprised than the last that their radiating stench hadn’t suffocated and killed me in my sleep.
As I grew seemingly more exhausted after each nightly half-hour baby wipe shower, I began to consider the idea of loosening the reigns on my OCD hygiene regime.
To me, deodorant has always been an absolute life necessity – like brushing your teeth, or eating salt and vinegar chips – but as I continued to survive in the desert with friends who didn’t think the same, I realised that maybe, for once in my whole life, I was wrong.
While I’m sure there are many who support my views on the regular application of deodorant, I know there are some who tend to disagree with its importance. For the sake of the story, I’ll call them stinkies.
Speaking with a notorious stinky (who prefers to remain anonymous), I was able to get an insider’s view on the concept, all the while copping a few wafts of that au natural human stench. He was a guy I’d met at Burning Man, and he was a modern-day activist for all things chemical free.
“Wearing deodorant made my skin react badly, so I stopped, and I feel great,” the stinky stated. “I’m a smelly boy: I know it, all my friends know it, and we just all get on with life,” he said with a pretty badass I-don’t-give-a-fuck shoulder shrug.
After a good chat and a quick hug, I realised that although this person had a rather potent personal fragrance, he was nice, funny and an all-round solid bloke with some pretty valid opinions. Stink or no stink, he was a good person and seemed to be doing life well.
So why do so many people praise themselves on their chemically-induced odours and reject the stinkies of the world?
As someone who, until recently, had minor panic attacks if I forgot to apply antiperspirant an 18th time before leaving the house, I’m pleased to say I’m finally able to drop my judgy attitude and view the no-deo concept with open eyes.
Considering those who rebel against the norm to be gross and weird is just a social construct. And based on the number of incredible people I know who put their stinky pits in the air as they reach for the stars, I now think that socially-constructed norms are gross and weird.
Whether a stinky showers daily and smells earthy and human, or whether they shower monthly and exude a rotten and unkempt pong, who cares. You may need to hold your nose occasionally, but it’s far better than forcing your odorous expectations onto those who aren’t willing.
What’s more, if you’re the type who wants to skip deodorant but continues to lather it on in surrender to social pressures, I say chuck out your Speed Stick and join the stinkies in their fight for equality.
And if you ever find yourself in a van in the desert with two guys who don’t perfume their armpits, don’t do what I did and snarl at the thought of sharing your space with them. Accept that your time isn’t always going to be Will Smith fresh, and just continue to love them for the good people that they are. If they’re not good people then… well I can’t really help you there.
Cover by Xavier Roeseler