Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

People Who Smell Like People

I’ve just finished a run and I’m lying flat on the floor under the ceiling fan to cool down. This little Alaska girl is not wired for running in heat and humidity; I run on a running trampoline between the air conditioning outlet and the ceiling fan.

As I lie on the ground, hot and sweaty, the cats can’t get enough of me. Uhtred in particular, loves body smells. When we go on vacation, AdventureMan leaves dirty underclothes to keep him from getting too lonesome. To Uhtred, my sweat seems to be like some rare purfume; he is rolling and bumping on me, purring, kneading, clearly out of his mind with delight.

I find myself thinking back to the days in the early 1960’s when we moved to Germany. The war had been over for years, but it was still a post-war country, where we couldn’t eat ice-cream because there were brucellosus outbreaks among cow herds. And people smelled differently.

Our first housing was in a hotel on a busy street with a street car, and we learned to take the street car everywhere. For a young teen, it was a world of freedom. But people . . . smelled. We could smell their perspiration. The women didn’t shave and neither men nor women washed or dry cleaned their clothes as often as we did.

As a girl, our culture taught us that we were never to have any smell other than shampoo, soap or a light perfume. As teen-agers, we had an utter horror of perspiration, or any other kind of personal odor.

We got used to it. At some point, we just accepted the difference. It was just a part of riding the streetcar, or shopping, the people smelled like people. We didn’t even think about it.

Years later, we found ourselves living in Tunisia, and once again, people smelled like people. We noticed, but we understood and accepted that it wasn’t right or wrong, it was just a difference.

Now, there are times when I miss Tunisia, I miss Zambia, I miss people who smell like people. It also occurs to me that we Americans may also not alway be so hygienic in the future, where world-class fires destroy huge portions of large states, where water is increasingly scarce, where hurricanes destroy electrical delivery systems and pumping systems. We may not wash our clothes as often, we may wear our clothes longer between washes, we may bathe less frequently – and we may smell like people.

September 9, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Climate Change, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Exercise, ExPat Life, Germany, Hygiene, Living Conditions, Random Musings, Travel, Tunisia, Values | 3 Comments