To tell you the truth, I don’t really mind the oniony smell of human sweat. I mean, I wouldn’t buy a Yankee Candle in that flavor or anything. But B.O. doesn’t spark the level of disgust in me that it seems to set off in others.  

I take this as proof of my high regard for the species. To paraphrase the Roman playwright Terence, Nothing human is alien to me, not even the funk of yesterday’s toga.

On the other hand, I can see how a tolerance for gym smells could be seen as an indication that I have swinish tendencies rather than virtuous ones. But it’s not like I have an urge to dive nose first into every armpit I see. I’m just saying I’m not going to make a figurative stink when a literal one is emanating from the next elliptical machine over. 

Is it noble or is it base? As usual when it comes to human matters, the answer is yes.  

Since my fellow Americans do not share my tolerance for humanity, I rub a Degree deodorant stick under my arms after showering so as not to offend. The flavor is “Cool Rush.” For a long time, I relied on a Ban roll-on, but that brand has become difficult to find at my Duane Reade. 

I started wearing deodorant in seventh grade, not long after the day when my school separated the girls and the boys to tell us about the changes our bodies would undergo during puberty (or were already undergoing, thanks to hormone-filled fast-food chicken nuggets). 

A doctor of some sort came in to address the cis male group. He told us about hair sprouting in new places and the importance of personal hygiene, which meant bathing regularly and applying deodorant. 

He also spoke of certain reproductive matters while managing to supply almost no specifics. His description of nocturnal emissions was so vague I thought he was talking about bed wetting. 

All this bodily transformation, he explained, had to do with glands and testes and gonads and other words you were supposed to sit there and absolutely not under any circumstances giggle at no matter how objectively hilarious they were. 

To improve my own adolescent experience, it would have been nice to get some real-talk answers to any of the questions I had about puberty, such as: Will I go to hell for jacking off? And: Will I go to hell for getting a boner in church? And, perhaps most pressing of all: Will I go to hell for watching Quantum Leap just to see Scott Bakula shirtless?

Then again, I attended a Christian school run by evangelicals so I probably wouldn’t have found the answers reassuring. When it came to carnal matters, adults either withheld information, as at the Bland Gland Symposium, or spoke of bodies as smelly, sex-crazed sin factories forever at odds with the Holy Spirit. 

Girls of course had it worse than boys because the stakes for a supposed loss of purity were always higher for a girl. The school’s penalty for getting pregnant, for instance, was expulsion, while absolutely no punishment was given to the impregnator. 

I can’t imagine how anybody could think such a cruel policy would be in line with the example set by Jesus, especially since his own mom was pretty famously unmarried when she became pregnant. It’s literally on page one of the New Testament.

If you ask me, Christian compassion and justice should be like Secret-brand antiperspirant: strong enough for a man, pH-balanced for a woman. 

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