It takes a brave man to admit he’s a smelly kid. In that sense, I guess you could say I’m one courageous—even if completely noxious—lionheart.
Actually, that felt pretty good to get off the chest—like attending a rehabilitation meeting of some sort: “Hi, I’m Ry… and I’m a smelly kid.” After all, admitting you have a problem is the first step toward fixing it, right?
Maybe. Though I’m not convinced that’s how things work for smelly kids. For smelly kids, you need something a little stronger than self-awareness. Something a little more rooted in chemistry and deodorizer science, you know?
But I digress. This article isn’t about chemistry. It’s about my life as the smelly kid—a coming of age tale about coming to terms with the fact that my clothing stinks. And more specifically—through the pursuit of an active lifestyle without the necessary means to combat the stench—coming to terms with the fact that my stink has condemned an upsetting amount of athletic gear to a landfill death sentence. [Which isn’t good for anybody! As this article points out.]
So, sit back, relax, and allow me to tell you a stinky story.
The Evolution of a Smelly Kid
I wasn’t always the smelly kid. My path to smelliness wasn’t all that traditional either. Typical body odor, for instance, never really was my problem. During adolescence, while all the other kids were embarking on the great, gangly transformation from boyhood to manhood, experiencing all of the hormonal odor influxes that went along with it, I remained firmly rooted in boyhood. A “late bloomer”, if you will. “The Hairless Wonder”, they called me.
So, while sports team locker rooms with dozens of judgemental adolescent boys weren’t the most comfortable environments, at least I didn’t have to worry about plowing down an entire classroom of students each time I’d raise my hand to answer a question [incorrectly] in class.
My status as the smelly kid came about through other means. Namely, I adopted the type of active lifestyle that would put my athletic apparel and footwear through an arduous and odorous bootcamp that they were never destined to survive.
Types of Funk
You see, a lot of people unafflicted by funk think that body odor is the only way to become a smelly kid. As someone who hasn’t struggled with the traditional oniony armpit odors, I’m here to say that’s most assuredly not the case. There are plenty of ways to be smelly.
Where I’ve personally excelled has been in three areas: my feet (no socks or shoes have ever lasted longer than a week before the stench sets in), my hyperactive sweat glands paired with the pursuit of sports and athletics, and my long, complicated love affair with flatulence.
Feet: Taking off my shoes at other peoples’ houses has never been an enjoyable experience. The look of disapproval and disgust when the waft from these shoes—any of my shoes—swirls through the air and hits their nostrils, like some sort of cartoonish green cloud, is one that I always dread.
Romantic encounters can be especially awkward. You know that moment when you’re cuddling on the couch, the oxytocin is pumping through your brain, and it’s time to take off your footwear to fully maximize the game of footsie about to be played? This is supposed to be a joyous moment for people; the warm loving embrace of a potential partner. Not the case for a smelly kid.
For a smelly kid, it’s always a moment of crippling insecurity and anxiety. It doesn’t matter how much scrubbing was done between the toes, there will be funk in the footwear.
And speaking of footwear, the number of shoes I’ve had to purchase over the years to combat the funk would make even the Kardashians turn their heads. My sock collection is equally disgusting—in terms of its size and its smell. Basically, with each new pair of shoes or socks I buy, there’s about a three-day window before they’re funk-ified. So, I’m forced to keep buying and buying in a never-ending cycle of smelly consumerism.
I’m convinced that if I found a solution—a way to actually eliminate the funk from my footwear—I’d have a much healthier bank account, love life, and probably a few more friends, too.
Sweat & Athletics: I sweat a lot. Like a lot, a lot. I was actually forced to give up yoga years ago because of it. By the end of each class, my yoga mat would more resemble a Slip N’ Slide rather than an actual mat. To combat this, I bought one of those microfiber, non-slip towels to drape over the mat. But after just a few sessions of downward dogging it up in a 95 degree room, the towel was ruined. It absorbed my sweat like a thirsty, salt-loving sponge, and no matter how many times I washed it, it would come out smelling like some sort of stale, metallic mold—if that’s even possible.
Then, there was the time when I ran the same trail every day for a month and lost 66 pounds of sweat in 30 days. That was a particularly tenuous time for me and my relationships with family and friends. On more than a few occasions, they would avoid hanging out with me due to damp seats in my always-sweaty car and smelly workout clothes basting in the trunk.
In fact, my car trunk is one of the biggest sources of my smelly kid stench. These days, I play a lot of soccer. If you ever attended a soccer summer camp as a kid, you’re familiar with the late afternoon smell of moist leather cleats that were worn earlier that morning on a dew-covered grass field. That smell—that sour combination of mildew meets ammonia meets expired milk—that’s what my car smells like daily due to soccer. Sure, I could clean out my car, but where would I store these cleats and sweat-stained shin guards? It’s either the car trunk or the apartment that gets it. And life as smelly kid is all about optimizing for the least offensive outcome. So, the trunk it has to be.
Unfortunately, that means anytime the prospect of a passenger riding in my car comes up, I clam up. What will they think when they open the door and they’re met with weeks’ worth of sweaty soccer gear funk? Again, my social life has suffered some severe blows over the years every time I’ve been cornered into a position where I’m expected to drive. If only there were a way to properly eliminate the funk from my soccer apparel.
All to say, I don’t do myself any favors in terms of lifestyle. I like to exercise and live an active life. But my overactive sweat glands seem to have a subversive mind of their own. And when you pair their sweaty sabotage with a fleet of athletic apparel whose technical synthetic fibers seem to thoroughly enjoy holding onto funk, it’s a recipe for smelly kid disaster.
Flatulence: Actually, this is the one area where I fully embrace being the smelly kid. Remember how I struggled to reach full physical maturity back in the day? Well, turns out, I never did reach psychological maturity. I find flatulence to be hilarious. It’s one of my favorite pastimes. And I’m afraid I’m not in the market for a solution here. Date me, I dare you.
The Quest for a Solution
At this point, I’ve largely resigned myself to a life of smelliness. With the flatulence, I feel okay about it. But with the foot odor and the forever-smelly athletic apparel, I can’t help but feel a longing sense that there’s a solution out there… Some sort of way to remove odors from the technical synthetic fibers in my soccer and trail running gear….some way that’s safe and nice to the planet….something right under my nose, perhaps….maybe it’s just a click away….
Or maybe not. Maybe I’m just dreaming. After all, it does seem a little too good to be true that there would be an environmentally-friendly way to transform me from smelly kid into sweet-smelling angel boy.
Or does it...?
Written by Ry Glover for Matcha in partnership with Defunkify.