Monday, July 21, 2008

What To Wear To The Gym

I’m getting dressed (slowly, it’s Monday) to go work out, and the usual question has come up. Do I dare?

How did this happen? Since age thirteen, I have worn fragrance, following the rules my mother taught me: cologne during the day, eau de parfum if not too strong, the real perfumes only at night. These rules seemed to work. I don’t remember complaints, at school, in college, at work, anywhere…and then this anti-fragrance movement seemed to coalesce out of thin air – or, IMHO, thin skin.

I have read in “The Guide” and elsewhere that the culprit(s) are the knock-you-down, in-your-face-synthetic perfumes of The Eighties. Okay, well, that’s fair enough. But does anybody remember “Jungle Gardenia?” The hallways of my middle school stank of it. But nobody got detention for wearing it, or was told to go to the girls’ room to wash it off. No, the teachers just smiled gamely and opened a window.

Can it be that we’ve simply lost the ability to put up with each other?

Back to the gym. In mine, there is a sign near the entrance. It says, “in consideration of our pregnant members, please refrain from wearing colognes or perfumes.”


In ten years, I’ve seen two (2) visibly pregnant women at my gym. Here’s what I’ve smelled, however:

Farts, by the hundreds. Death-by-garlic. Chlorine. T-shirts that need washing, badly. Polyurethane floor varnish. New-carpet glue. Rubber. Plastic. Paint. Eucalyptus steam. Heavily scented sunscreen. And, of course, B.O. Every kind there is: the chicken-soup kind, the clam-chowder kind, the metallic kind, the cumin kind, the are-you-sure-you’re-not-dead kind. (Lots of that kind.)

My tiny little bit of citrus cologne is my best attempt at self-defense.

Have you ever wanted to shout at the guy on the treadmill next to yours, as he is doing his arm-raises: “For God’s sake, could you please take a shower once in a while?” But no, I smile gamely, try not to choke, and thank God I’m not pregnant.

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