Must Be That Teen Spirit

Photo by Gretchen Engel

I am a total sucker for time travel stories. And I love historical novels, especially well-researched books. I just devoured the River of Time series by Lisa T. Bergren. They are tight action-packed stories with a romantic theme. The heroine Gabi is a twentieth century girl in love with Marcello, a fourteenth century boy, man really, considering his responsibilities. An on-going theme is whether or not Gabi and her family will decide to stay in Medieval Italy with territorial battles and the Black Plague on the horizon or return to modern times with relative peace and modern medicine.

As it is every time I read a time-travel book or historical novel, I have to ask myself if I’d really want to live back then. The answer is usually no.  I’m kind of a personal hygiene freak with a sensitive nose.

That’s the case with “Mad Men”, my latest Netflix binge-watching pick. Except it’s not the lack of deodorant, indoor plumbing, or toothbrushes. In fact, attractive early 1960s bathrooms and Right Guard deodorant appear on screen within the first few episodes. And while it takes place before my time, I know toothpaste was in regular use. The ick factor with “Mad Men” is the smoking. I fortunately grew up in a family of non-smokers. Other than visits with a couple of my grandparents’ neighbors, I didn’t know many people who smoked. But I’ve smelled enough cigarettes in my day to be grossed out by all of the tobacco use in the show, especially watching Don and Betty Draper smoke in bed with that velour headboard. I swear I can smell stale smoke by just watching it.

Sometimes modern times are just as bad. I’m reading a young adult book where the heroine mentions catching a whiff of her crush’s sweat but says it smells good. Um no! While it’s not as gross as full-on body odor, it’s still icky. This isn’t the first YA book I’ve read that mentions boy sweat as a desirable scent. Not to mention the edgier books have alcohol breath, marijuana, and tobacco.

This only proves that whether the character smells of expensive cologne or an unwashed body, adding a description beyond appearance is essential to any good book. So even if the hero smells of Axe and stinky feet, the author has done a good job. He or she has evoked an emotional response.

My favorite scents are shampoo, manly deodorant, and minty fresh (or cinnamon-scented) breath. Back in my single days, Eternity for Men was a new cologne, and it contributed to more than one crush.

What are your favorite scents? What repulses you?



About Gretchen E K Engel

Chemical engineer by day, spec fiction writer by night

3 comments on “Must Be That Teen Spirit

  1. When my daughter was a teenager, her “boyfriend” wore Polo and she has always related that to “sexiness.” When she got into high school, we’d moved across the country and met a very nice, quite interesting priest who was married (long story about him being first an Anglican priest and then converting to Catholicism and petitioning the Bishop to allow him to become a Catholic priest). His wife taught health and phys. ed. at the Catholic high school. My daughter would come home all weirded out because the wife talked about the Catholic teaching about sex and was quite open about marital relations and what they mean, etc. One day, we ran into this priest at the grocery store and he was wearing Polo. Later, my daughter told me she might end up in years of therapy from all that!!

  2. FYI, for some women, smelling a man’s BO and finding the aroma pleasant is a legit sign of a strong attraction/romantic feelings for that person.

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