A stinkin’ odd question

The scene: junior high gym.

The crowd: a group of newly minted 7th graders sitting on the bleachers.

The time: first day of gym class in the big pond known as junior high.

The main actor: the gym teacher.

Gym teacher:  (paraphrase) Listen, you aren’t in grade school anymore.  You’re getting older.  You have to start taking care of yourself.   You have to shower after each gym class.  (verbatim)  Because the only one who can’t smell your body odor is…you.

Powerful lesson, Mr. Gym Teacher.  Apparently.  Nearly thirty years later and I still remember the lesson.  I don’t even remember your name or what you look like but I remember your words.  They stuck with me.  I live by them.

I worry about your words daily.  “What if I stink?” “Am I the smelly one?”  Whenever someone mentions something stinks I always wonder, “Uh oh, is it me?”   And I do a discreet self-check.

One time I was in the store and smelled the most pungent odor.  I panicked because I was the only one in the aisle.  First I looked one way, then the other.  Not another person in sight.  I tried to determine if I was the source of stinkiness.  Finally, a mother with an odoriferous child walked around the corner.  A wave of relief swept over me.

Here’s my question, is it true that we can’t smell our own body odor?  Or is that something teachers teach us to scare us straight?  I have worried about being the unknown stinky one since 7th grade.  Have I worried in vain?


And why do I remember the weird facts/myths from grade school?  Sneezing stops your heart.  Cold water kills more germs than hot water.  Did I ever learn anything true and useful?

Other childhood lessons:

The day I sneezed and lived to tell about it by ck

Acceptable lies we tell our children by ck

3 thoughts on “A stinkin’ odd question

  1. Gym teachers always had a way of making everyone feel somehow inadequate – obviously a universal ability. They’re the same no matter where you are in the world. I’m sure they come from some kind of clone bank! 😉 I think it is largely true that you can’t smell your own body odour, but probably not always true. Perhaps it depends on the individual on their sense of smell or how much attention they are paying to themselves. If they have a lack of both – they might smell pretty bad!

    It’s not something we have to overly worry about in the UK during the cold months of the year (although I’m sure there are some that do!) Bodies smell a lot less in lower temperatures, even with the central heating on full blast, it’s not the same as when the temperature soars due to the sun beating down on us! That’s when everyone starts getting worried if they are the stinky one on the bus or the train! 😳

    I’m not sure any of us learnt much useful at school. I see quotes go up a lot on Pinterest or Tumblr about what useless things they learnt at school. I saw one the other day, it had a picture of a white recorder and the quote was, WHAT DID THIS EVER TEACH ME IN SCHOOL? I immediately burst out laughing because – well – what did it teach us? My brother said it taught him how to read music – useful! But when I asked if he used that knowledge today – “Not really” he said! Mm – makes me wonder what I did learn there! 🙂

  2. I know there have been times when I’ve been sitting there (usually after a work out or some sweaty job or I’ve been sick) and I think – “Oh, I need to shower.” So I know it’s possible. Probably more information than anyone needs to know! The weird topics that come into my brain.
    I actually did pretty good in gym class. Except for that stupid volleyball unit. Dumb game. But my niece loves it and is pretty good so I need to hush up (but it is a dumb sport).
    I think the recorder taught us how far we could push our parents before they snapped. What an annoying little thing to send home for the folks to “enjoy!” Come to think of it, it was probably the teachers’ way of getting back for the lack parental support! Hmmm… it’s all making sense now 😉

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