Travelin' Hygiene - B.O. and Various Shades of Nasty

In Italy, I glistened with the sweat of hard working trolls and stick of a thousand honey bees. It was by far the hottest place I'd ever been - slightly hotter than New Orleans in mid-July. I'm not one for cold but I don't go well with heat. I've had a series of involuntary hormonal changes that just doesn't sit well with it. Let's just say I know what a hot flash is and Italy in Summer is a constant, radiating hot flash. The most annoying part is this never goes away. There is no such thing as a cool morning where the sun moves in creating the days heat. No! The heat is constant, through the night, rain and everything in-between. One day I showered a total of four times. There was just no other alternative. If there were conservation rules I would have easily broken them just to escape that heat and ultimately the stink. I would have even paid to shower.

We both smelled. I'm not going to mince words about it. When you are walking around all day and all night in 100 degree weather with zero breeze you stink. All your deodorant and perfumed lotion dissolves, your fragrance of choice just evaporates and your cutesy H & M towelettes shrivel away in your purse. The only method of staying cool and agreeable is to constantly bathe. I witnessed people taking birdbaths of sort in fountains and within a couple of days we were both open to it. Rome has the greatest water known to man. This is 3,000 year old plumbing. The Romans are architects of the ancient water cooler, the steeping bath and the porcelain god. The water is clean, cold and plentiful. So it is nothing for you to fill a water bottle and then bathe yourself from the same spicket. Some days I took refuge in a fountain. I cowered and hand washed my forehead, pits and chest. Even with on-lookers I just refused to be that surface dirty. I then followed with my ginger wipes, a streak or two of Degree deodorant and a dab of Angel.

Suffice to say I was constantly aware of how bad I smelled. I was embarrassed. Not only am I larger in the boob department but I'm just big all over. I didn't want anyone sensing that I was the musty American chubby Black girl. I also didn't want to be in the company of someone clearly opposite of me being the stinky one. I tried everything. I invested in baby wipes. I used my personal soap in combination with hotel soap. Somedays I brought underwear changes with me. Normally, I went commando but here I had to be modest and not stink. This ultimately lead to a shortage of underpants forcing me to wear shorts while in the room. However, even our room was hot. The a/c was on all day, but sitting in bed was all you could do in the tiny space. Add a laptop to the equation and my crotch and legs were emblazon. If I blogged for an hour I would get up to the backs of my knees sweating. Then I'd exude the odor of moth balls and that days melted sunscreen. So then I'd be trapped in the bathroom trying to explain myself. At this point, I was actually washing out my underthings and drying them on the towel rack. One night in particular I wore a bikini as under garments not only to save on limited panties and bras but to stay cool. I came back with a soaked bikini - top and bottom. I even threw away the dress I wore because it was drenched in sweat.

I want to believe in the land of romance we were both exuding some sort of pheromone. Trust me to this day I believe she is telling horrid stories about me. She always barked these very old school, hand me down, Heloise tidbits on beauty and appearance. Until recently I believed her theories about why certain women looked or smelled a certain way. The reality is she smelled too - somedays worst because she believed in denying herself drinking water so she sweat profusely. I have never been the sweating type. I am normally the dry one under pressure. I think Europe in general turned all my glands on end. All my own personal hygiene rules and regulations had to be abandoned. I wore no makeup. Lotion was minimal. I stopped styling my hair and just left with a short, wet fro. Since the trip I've learned that b.o. is a human dilemma and peoples demands for perfection come from deep, dark places. Surely we all aim to look and smell nice but underlying insecurities and old wives tales can also undo intent. The fear and worry about being stinky just made you sweat and stink more.

After a few days, I stopped trying and any method to stay cool was fine by me. So yes deodorant went everywhere including under boob, bikini line and between my thighs. I also took a rugged approach to carrying a bandana to soak in Rome's cold water. I would alternate said wet bandana from my soiled neck to my braided hair according to which direction the sun was. It wasn't long before she was pouring entire bottles over her head and low-key pulling out her sweaty wedgies. I sometimes walked barefoot. One day I literally bathed in the Four Fountains as onlookers grimaced. This was much like my first time passing them and observing some asshole climbing in to wash his face and arms. In the States, I wouldn't be caught dead splashing around in a public place let alone smelling like anchovies and fried hair conditioner. It wasn't like everyone else eventually looked and felt like us too. Hey, even women dressed to the nines on a Vespa in rush hour traffic had pit stains. At least we had $25 rollerballs from Sephora and Dove soap smuggled in from Malaga. It's the little things while traveling. A decent trickling shower, lathering soap of any kind, the refuge of a clean, public restroom and the gargoyle in the ground spewing cold water to wash ones feet. 

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