Google+ Authentic Parenting: Smelly White Men

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Smelly White Men

Image: Warburg
Africans often say that white people smell. I found that a very strange statement when I first arrived in Africa. I mean, how can we smell bad, when we use detergents, wash our laundry with scented soaps and softeners, burn fragrant candles to make our houses smell like wet plains or rose gardens, wear perfumes and wash ourselves with soaps and shampoos and conditioners. Slather our faces and bodies with gently perfumed lotions and creams...

Then I had a baby and changed all my washing detergents to soap nuts and vinegar, and have since switched to eco ash balls. I started cleaning with home made natural cleaning agents. I changed all cosmetics to natural organic ones. I rid the house of toxins...

My baby, my house and I, we all smell great. Natural products have an odor too, so we're not 'perfume' free. But we're happy with the smells around us. Before the switch, I did have to burn incense and candles etc, because I was unhappy with the way our house smelled.

Now, every so often, I dig up a pre-'all natural' conditioner (living in tropical Africa means we have to bring all of our cosmetics from Europe, which means we have quite the stash). Just by opening a pot of cream or a bottle of shampoo (which were great quality salon-type products), I get nauseated. If I dare to use those products, the nausea remains for several days because my skin or hair will smell artificial, pungent.
When I do my laundry done at my in-laws house, with the mainstream detergents and the like, I get sick. My clothes really stink of chemical smells.

So are Africans right? Do white men smell? I believe they do. While they might not reek of dust and sweat and jungle moisture, they smell of artificial, unnatural fragrances... A whole batch of them. Once you've weaned of chemical smells, the cocktail of smells that linger in an average Western house feels like someone poured half the perfume section over the floor.

How numbed are our senses if we don't even smell that anymore? More so, even think that it really smells fresh and delicious.



  1. I completely agree! Since switching laundry detergents (after the baby)to Charlie's soap I get a headache just wearing clothes washed in anything else. And forget any sort of air freshener. Blech.

  2. I've found this too. I particularly can't stand sleeping in bedlinen washed in 'normal' detergent. It affects me for the rest of the next day.

  3. I'd rather smell like cologne than smell like wild animal crap from the jungle.

  4. I guess it really depends on what side of the fence you want to stand on. Do you want to smell the BO or smell the deodorant. I personally would rather smell deodorant. As for the rest of the stuff. Perfume...should be outlawed as people don't know how much of it to wear (all perfumes are not the same and shouldn't be smelled outside your personal space (i.e. a foot or two away) ), scented laundry detergent..I like my stuff smelling clean (or what I perceive as clean). I think all in all it is an opinion thing, but when you look at the big picture the society you live in has its own particular likes/dislikes with respect to ways of living/interaction/etc. If you are outside those societal norms you can/should expect to be treated/looked at differently. Just my opinion.

  5. @Anonymous (the second one) you can smell fresh and clean without using artificial perfumes and odors. Your house and laundry can smell clean too, without mainstream, over-scented detergent

  6. Great post! I hate that I can rarely go out into public without at least getting the sniffles from all this garbage, if not a full blown asthma attack! Our household is another one that doesn't smell bad as the second Anonymous seems to suppose, but it doesn't smell as much, since we use all natural products, a lot of which I make myself.


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