WHY WE ALL HAVE B.O.
PSYCHOLOGY + THE STENCH
I happen to know a thing or two about body odor. Just ask any of my former roommates, boyfriends or travel buddies. I’m human and human beings get B.O. We also all fart too, for any of you flatulence deniers out there. If you don't think you have ever had B.O., ask your partner, roommate, or a good friend you’ve been camping with. If they all say no, get some new people.
When I was in my late teens and early 20’s I befriended a feel good group of creative people who made me laugh. And what we loved most, was to laugh and have fun together. Sometimes this looked like watching a Twilight Zone marathon, getting a WaWa grilled cheese at 2 am. Playing pinball for 3 hours straight, or just sitting around an apartment listening to records we stole from the college radio station and just being close to each other. Mostly though we loved to go see live music. Phish, was the band of choice and for most of my college years, I was driving around state to state with this group of friends going to phish shows. It was fun. Really fun. And the best part was that this group of friends was big. We could all rotate in and out of these adventures freely. Tacking on to one trip, with one group, then another. Looking back now, I can see what a special thing that was. To have a large group of friends who were always ready for an adventure, and always welcoming another adventurer along for the ride. Leaving for a few days at a time as a group meant there needed to be a car, a little bit of cash, some food, and a general plan of where to go and where to stay. Tickets to the show were never necessary. In those days you could buy them there, or even just ask someone for an extra for free. Crazy, right?! But that’s how the system worked and it was a pretty good system. Oh also, there was usually a lot of cannabis. Other things too, but mostly always cannabis. Days and nights were spent sleeping on friend’s couches, floors, 5 or more of us crammed into a motel bed, sharing everything and just being happy to be together.
Trips to shows would often revolve around an upcoming college school break. This meant that as the trip progressed, the group would slowly be dropped off at homes, train stations, left with other friends going to similar places, and sooner or later, you would end up at your parent’s house. Usually very early in the morning, or very late at night. Always hungry, always with a bag full of dirty laundry and always needing a shower. On one trip in particular, a small group of us drove through the night in shifts to arrive in New Jersey early in the morning. My boyfriend’s mom greeted us with enormous smiles and went on to make enough pancakes to feed a small army. I ate, took a short nap, hugged the remaining group goodbye, dropped off my bestie near the city, and drove home to Long Island to see my parents for the long weekend. I came in the house the usual way with an enormous empty coffee cup and a destroyed bag of snacks from 7-11. Also, a really big laundry bag. I can remember my parents greeting me and saying, “holy shit, did you bring the pot farm with you?” Um no. No I did not. I would have but tbh we didn't have any left. I had no idea what they were talking about. How could I smell? I mean none of us had showered in a few days, we all ate burritos non stop and smoked a ton of dope. What’s smelly about that? What were they talking about? MY mom asked me if my boyfriend’s parents passed out when we fumigated their home with our collective pot B.O. Jeez, I don’t think so. Um, no they said, you totally did. You reek of a good time. I am sure there is something alive in your laundry bag. In retrospect, I’m sure there was.
What my parents so clearly experienced upon my return was what had stuck from my adventure. This wasn't the memories or the things I had chosen to take with me. The things I chose to remember and weave into the fabric of my history, but what was put upon me, simply by being there. Being a part of the adventure group. Seeing live music, eating late night fried food, and being a little lax about the whole concept of hygiene. Looking back now, I’m not sure how any of our families didn't tear up like they were cutting a raw onion when any of us came through the door. I mean Jesus. We all stunk. But because we were a part of the collective experience, we were none the wiser. We didn't know we had B.O. because we all had the same B.O. The stench for a lack of better word of our shared adventure, smelled the same. It took someone from the outside to say, holy shit. Y’all STINK!
If you listened to episode 27 of this podcast with guest J’Amy Tarr, then you’ll remember the two of us laughing about the idea of parental B.O. To catch you up, it’s the idea that we all pick up some of the habits and psychological stench of our families and those we keep close. It’s the little things really. From what makes us anxious, to levels of privacy, whether or not we talk about money, things like that. It takes someone reflecting that response from the outside for us to have that omg I have B.O moment to realize that we don’t really feel that way, we actually want to respond differently. In other words, I do not want to weave this behavior into the fabric of my character. It’s not who I am, It’s just BO that I picked up on the way. It’s time to wash it off.
Sometimes the washing off is easy. Like J’Amy and I discussed. Realizing that she didn't really care about getting to the airport 2 hours early, or like for me, it’s okay to go to Home Depot when it’s crowded. Anytime is a good time to go to Home Depot. For both of us, it took our partners being like, hey that’s weird, to give the perspective and breathing room necessary for us to be like, yeah, that is weird to me. It worked for my family, but not for me. J’Amy now goes to the airport with enough time to check in and pee and I go to Home Depot whenever the hell I want.
And this isn’t to say that all the B.O we pick up along the way is bad. B.O. is normal after all, and some of the times what rubs off from one person to another is really good stuff. Stuff that we want to keep. Things we want to weave into our character. So we keep that stuff. But isn’t it good to know we can work to wash away the B.O we don’t want?
So how do we do that? Well, the same way we make any change really. Do the work. First, be open. Don't be the person who outright denies having B.O. That’s bullshit. We all stink sometimes. If you are lucky enough to have a past, know that you’ve got psychological B.O every once in a while. If a partner, friend, someone in your larger circle says, hey, you can actually take a deep breath over this. Listen. Maybe they are wrong, but maybe they are right. Was your response really you? The deep inner you? How you want to respond? Or was it what was placed upon you along the way?
Second, get to know yourself. And I am sure you can guess what I think the best way to do this is? Yep, go to therapy. Make it a thing that you do. It is the gift that keeps on giving. Integration of experiences is important. Understanding your B.O isn't about denying what you feel had been placed upon you, versus how you actually respond to and feel about something.
It all starts with acknowledgement. There is no denial here. Start to discover what your actual original scent is and what you picked up from a shared experience. What you want to keep and what you want to do the work to wash off. And please. Let’s have learned a lesson from the 90’s don’t cover that shit up with lots of patchouli. I did it too. It’s okay. But let’s be better. Get to know what is YOU.
Third, do something you love. Find flow - for tips on this listen to episode 26 with Marja Germans Gard. We talk a lot about tuning into experiences we love. It doesn't have to be big. A practice of interest can be a small thing, like trying a new recipe every Saturday, or learning how to brew coffee a million different ways. Maybe it is just listening to a song you have never heard before every single day. Find a way to tap into that inner magical part of yourself that feels something big and good when you experience a thing. The long con of this is, getting to know you. Distinguishing between yourself and the way you respond versus the responses you learned as they were placed upon you.
And lastly honor your intention. Psychological B.O. is not a failure. It’s normal. Feeling things is healthy. For real. Most people mean well, those that point out the B.O and those that place it upon us. Remember it’s not personal , it’s psychology and psychology is like gravity. None of us are immune. Wow, right? For more on that, give a listen to episode 2 about Why astronauts wear socks. Because we all have B.O. and our work becomes the act of washing.
Thank you for being here.
Listen to this episode of JOY IS NOW here.