Friday, February 20, 2009

Boy Perfume

“If your grandfather hadn’t worn it, you probably wouldn’t exist…”

My tween Eldest loves to use this Old Spice tag line. Like many things in his world, he’s just beginning to grasp the underlying meaning. Now youngest - age 8 - is starting to follow right behind. He came downstairs this weekend doused with his brother’s cologne.

“Whoa, Buddy. Have you been in your brother’s Old Spice?”

“Well. Maybe. “ Kind of hard to cover up an overdose of aftershave.

“A little goes a long way, ya know?”

“I like to smell good.”

“Maybe we need to get you some of your own.”

“Can we?” Sure, I think. I’ve got one I can’t get into the shower but needs it. Regularly. And I’ve got one who’d bathe in dad smell if I let him.

Smells are part of my life – they’re hard to escape in medicine. The good ones: The buttery sweet smell of a newborn that makes me ovulate on cue as KC puts it, my butter cream candle that puts me in that Zen place. The mediocre: hand sanitizer foam, plastic odor from IV tubing, syringes, and emesis basins. The stomach churners: toddler poop, third hand smoke, formaldehyde based wavicide we use to clean instruments (sends me straight back to anatomy lab), and the perennial vomit tang. A well trained nose can turn off all but the strongest smells.

At home, I have to remember to turn my olfactory sense back on – make a conscientious effort to take in the yummy clean smell of my youngest’s hair and even the pubertal funk of Eldest – pre-Old Spice. Do I really want to mess with the chemistry that goes straight to my amygdala? Cover it up with some commercial pheromone?

I wonder what I smell like to my kids. Will they get a whiff in their old age and suddenly have memories of their mom? Perfume is one thing I can rarely forgo – can go without makeup, like Fizzy, but cannot go without some sort of scent. My current favorite is Philosophy’s Grace – it’s like grown-up baby powder to me – soft, a little floral, and subtle.

So at Target, I buy Youngest a bottle of Old Spice. It’s better than some of the alternatives. We keep peace in the bathroom with separate bottles for each of my fellows. A little goes a long way.


  1. Hmm...I'd add to stomach churners: melena. Ain't nothin like melena.

    I'm glad your boys are wearing Old Spice versus some of that other stuff out there. Much cheesiness lives on in men's cologne.

  2. syrupy pancakes and old people with liver failure. The VA cocktail.

  3. This is too funny! Just last week a grizzled new-baby grandpa on our L&D smelled of Old Spice (and alas, third-hand smoke). The scent of Old Spice really got my attention. Guess I am giving away my age too. Rural ObGyn

  4. My dad wore it for about a year when I was 8 or so. Love it! You are such a cool mom!

  5. Regarding your comment about how we smell to our kids: I was looking for a new cologne after the one I had worn for a long time was discontinued. Youngest watched as a collection of little bottles began to appear on my dresser while I tried out various replacements; one day he asked what I was doing. I explained I was trying to find a perfume to wear. His response? "You don't need to smell like perfume - you smell like Mom!" ....whatever that smell might be!


  6. I grew to LOVE the smell of polyvisol with iron. With my second child, after a hiatus without, I felt like I'd reconnected with a dear and cherished friend.


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