The Machismo of Showering
“Did you have a good time?” Larry inquires.
“Yeah, it was fun,” I reply, my smile quickly turning into a tiny grimace. “I must admit I was tempted to pull Captain Geek aside and introduce him to deodorant.”
“Captain Geek? We’re all geeks and gamers here.”
“Yeah,” I chuckle and nod, “but none of us exemplify the stereotype quite like the unwashed mass over there.”
Whatever happened to the days where bathing was the last thing we wanted to do?
I remember fighting with my parents after hours of jumping in puddles and wallowing in mud simply because I didn’t want to birthday suit up and slide into a tub. I would splash water on my toothbrush and barely scrape my teeth because I didn’t want to brush (and I hated the mint flavor of toothpaste).
Somewhere along the way, clean became the thing to be.
In seventh grade, I remember sitting at the back of my French class, bored out of my mind, and finding little white flakes drifting toward my desk every time I ran my hand through my hair. I started sneaking into my parents shower to steal a dab or two of Head & Shoulders or Selsun Blue or whatever dry scalp shampoo happened to be well stocked at the time.
I still didn’t start showering regularly until I was socially shamed into doing so at boarding school. Even there, I only used shampoo, opting for Pert Plus (since no conditioner needed), and letting the suds act as soap (a trick that works surprisingly well when trying to get in and out of the shower quickly because you don’t want the other naked boys to stare or make fun of you). Because of sports, antiperspirant was a necessity I didn’t dare shirk. But soap caked and dried and I hated the way it felt.
In high school, despite that I had little to no acne (thanks primarily to really bad sunburns that wiped several layers of skin off my face), I began buying Clearasil daily face wash. I liked how clean my face felt, and the face wash was fantastic before shaving because of the way it softened the bristles.
My Junior year of college, the Gay Eskimo stayed with me for a week before shipping off to boot camp. He packed more hygiene bottles than I could count. He had shampoo and conditioner (despite the buzz cut), a facial cleanser, soap, body wash. My bathroom actually felt cluttered. When he finally shipped out, he left behind a bottle of Nivea for Men Energizing Face Scrub. I mentioned it to him on the phone and he said that it was even better for shaving than my Clearasil face wash. Being poor, I tried it when I ran out of my normal fare and was instantly sold. The small, gritty bits actually scrubbed away dead skin, giving me a closer shave, and the smell was much more in line with my shaving cream and after shave.
The Jewfro presented other issues. As I grew my hair out, Pert Plus was no longer enough to keep my hair comfortable. My former roommate Art one said that Pert Plus is the best shampoo to use if you want strait hair. My hair barely curls, so straitening it was the last thing I wanted to do. A separate conditioner was invaluable for the fro.
Reaching the Philippines, I suddenly found myself packing more bottles than I ever had before. I had shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, after shave, and face wash. And while that may not seem much to some of you, it was a lot to me. Gone were the days of fighting against a shower. Hygiene was king.
I interrupt this post to remind you
that everything guys do eventually
comes down to impressing girls,but
this guy says it better than I can.
The defro died in the heat of the Philippines and I switched back to the shampoo/conditioner combo for ease and luggage space. By the time I got to Guam, I was back into a more normal routine. While there, I noticed Denise keeps an apricot body wash with a similar gritty consistency. I was sorely tempted to use it when I was staying with her, but it didn’t smell like me. Still, the idea of scrubbing off dead skin Gattaca style has a certain appeal to it.
With how active I was on my trip, cleaning up and showering became not just a way to relax, but a necessity. Matt and I often shared rooms or even beds over the course of the journey and I would’ve been embarrassed and shamed to cause hygienic problems. Though I was clean, it was much harder to get laundry done, often finding my shirts reeking of sweat regardless of my status. Matt was pretty good about pointing this out, though there wasn’t much I could do about it besides tack on a little more deodorant.
By the time I returned to the states, I felt my deodorant smelled terrible. I switched scents as soon as possible, leaving the new flavor strange and foreign, but clean. I traded in shampoos, picked up a bottle of body wash, and tried my damnedest to become gain a new odor. The first few weeks, it was as if I didn’t smell like myself.
A couple months ago, I noticed while staying with him that Devin had a body wash called Snake Skin by Axe. In it were the same small granules that peppered Denise’s body wash and my facial scrub. I once again felt the temptation to squeeze out a dime and get my fix.
SIDE NOTE: There’s something about using someone else’s soap that’s creepy. At boarding school, kids would say things like, “I don’t want your germs all over me,” when they were offered a bar. But soap is a cleaning substance that disinfects. How can it get germy? Yes, there’s an occasional stray hair, but who the fuck cares for the most part. It’s even sillier that I still feel this stigma when looking at a squeeze bottle of liquid soap or shampoo. It’s simply a cultural faux pas and kind of creepy to use someone else’s soap, no matter the form.
Instead, I went out and bought my own bottle when I finished my other body wash. the stuff is as wonderful as I expected. Soon, I found myself with an Axe Shower Detailer (which is essentially a glorified with a rubber handle and a scrubby side that makes it extra awesome!!!). When I stumbled on a rebate, I switched from Pert Plus to Pert Plus for MEN, going from the generic scent to a musky and macho one.
I breath deeply as soon as Captain Geek is gone. All I smell is the house, my own collection of scents and odors long ago having been integrated into my identity. As I walk past one of the girls in our gaming group, I notice her close her eyes and inhale gently.
“You smell good,” she says.
“Thanks.” I smirk with awkward pride.
My bathroom has been rebranded and it’s a little weird. What’s the difference between any of these products and their non-male counterparts? It’s certainly not utility. I could get just as clean with androgynous or femme designed products. In a pinch, I’ve been known to roll on something strong enough for a man but designed for a woman. There really isn’t any conceivable difference except for scent.
Well, scent and price. Thought Pert Plus for Men is the same price as Pert Plus, it’s .5 ounces less. The Axe Shower Detailer, while cool looking, costs twice as much as a normal loofah. But why bother with a loofah at all when they’re unhygenic after a week if not washed? Hell, the Axe Detailer says to replace it every 4-6 weeks. I’d rather just sent it through the dishwasher.
Whatever the case, I’ve begun to collect manly shower accouterments and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Perhaps what I’m paying for is the image.
I’m buying my manhood, one product at a time. And I think I like it.