The Nose Knows: Part II - Odors

The Sweaty Truth

This is a tough topic for everyone. The Tango Jungle has a marvelous, and vividly descriptive post called "Something Stinky This Way Comes" that addresses the pitfalls of poor personal hygiene. Here's just a sample:

"It was a heady, complex bouquet of rotting meat, sweaty feet, rotten eggs, musty clothes, kitchen grease, and Roquefort dating back to the French Revolution. Dude. Was. Ripe. "

I'm no angel in this department - I've had my share of embarrassing experiences. First of all, I don't "glow". I wouldn't even use the word "perspire" because it sounds too classy for the state I frequently find myself in. I sweat. At one milonga last spring, the AC went out at the venue and all of the dancers, myself included, were just pouring sweat. These things happen. If you want to keep dancing, you learn how to deal. Which means I have learned that nothing, but nothing, takes the place of being scrupulously clean before I head out to the milonga.

If I'm coming directly from work I have a kit of products at my desk that help get me presentable pronto. In a pinch, you can use bath or baby wipes, then reapply deodorant, powder etc. Here's my kit, which may be a bit heavy duty for some people, but it works for me.

The biggest investment is actually DermaDoctor's MEDeTATE which are anti-perspirant towelettes that treat hyperhidrosis (over productive sweat glands). If you want to feel dry for hours and hours of dancing - this is the stuff. But at $48 a box for 30 sheets, it may not be worth that much to you. I adore it.

To freshen my hair there are two products that have very mild scent that do a great job: Jonathan's Redo Spray (especially good for dry hair, very lightly floral/almondy scent) and Oscar Blandi's Pronto Dry Shampoo Powder (better for normal to oily hair, lemon verbena scent.) This powder can also work nicely as a makeshift body powder.

I also use L'Occitane's Mint Verbena Icy Powdered Foot Gel (before and after dancing) and Verbena Ice Hand Cream Gel - both feel cool to the touch and leave a soft powder feel. I do have a thing for lemon verbena, so I'm sure I'm guilty of smelling like lemons, but when I've asked, I've been told it's barely noticeable after application. (Local blog readers, please tell me if you notice otherwise!) :-)

Wardrobe Malfunctions

Unlike the gentlemen, in general we ladies can't just run to the loo and change outfits. Our clothes have to make it the duration - though there are a few things we can change if we need to (and since I usually wear skirts, I do occasionally bring a spare tank top). However, bringing a spare dress is not really practical. Gentlemen, you do have the option of changing shirts and for your comfort if nothing else, I can certainly recommend it. Frankly, sweat doesn't bother me and I can't help being a teensy bit suspicious of tango dancers that never seem to perspire. Have they been dancing in the same room I've been dancing in?

Over at Ask Arlene, there are some great resources and suggestions about clothes (and fabric considerations) for tango and she also has an excellent post on hygiene that I highly recommend.

Food Borne Stink-ogens

I love garlic. I love curry. I love to cook Indian and Italian and my kitchen will smell like rogan josh for days when I prepare it. Unfortunately, so will I. Pungent spices, particularly when cooked in oil, stay in your skin, your hair, your clothes - everywhere. Did I give up my favorite foods for tango? Nope. I just relegate those to early in the week so that I can get it out of my system before the milonga.

In other words, right before the milonga is not a good time for shrimp scampi, people. I force myself to pass on the chorizo empanadas for sale at the milonga even though they smell so good. Likewise I pass on the garlic-herb crackers at the snack table. (Seriously - who brings stuff like that to the milonga??? Why don't we top off those crackers with some bleu cheese and pepperoni. yeeesh...)

Dragon Breath

Speaking of food . . . our skin might not be the only thing that's freshness-challenged. I've become nearly obsessive about oral hygiene. Part of this is because I generally have a dry mouth and so I am prone to less-then-stellar breath if I'm not careful. One particularly honest tanguero asked me, as delicately as he could, which is to say not very delicately at all, if maybe my oral hygiene routine could use some upgrading.

Yikes. Excuse me while I try very, very hard not to exhale and find some mints in my purse. I was beyond embarrassed. But at least he told me - and he did it in a mostly polite sort of way that thankfully no one else overheard. Still, the point was made. This stuff matters and people notice.

Which reminds me of the very best advice I've received on the subject - when someone offers you a mint or gum - never turn it down. Maybe they're being nice - or maybe they're trying to tell you something. Take it and say thank you.

Before the milonga I brush my teeth (and my tongue), floss and use mouthwash. Because I drink wine and occasionally eat something while I'm at the milonga I have little GoSmile Brush Ampoules that whiten teeth and freshen breath. (And keep the wine from staining my teeth.) Also, those little Listerine strips are fabulous. My dentist would be so proud. If you want a less costly alternative, check out Oral-B's Brush Ups.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the links. One evening I made a curry for the kids before I went out dancing and even though I didn't eat any, my hair smelled of it even though I had washed it earlier. I didn't realise until I was halfway to the milonga. It really bothered me, but for some reason the men didn't seem to notice or mind. Go figure!

happyseaurchin said...

i think i wrote the last comment to this post

you see
i haven't been checking my weblogs
and came across your 14 unread posts
i just started reading this last one
and then thought
i'd rather see what i've missed
and so i went back to the first

what a journey

perhaps half an hour to an hour
reading some lovely insights
both in the posts and comments

i don't have the money to tango just now
and i was comfortable with that

be well!

Mari said...

londontango - if the gentlemen at your milongas are anything like my DH, they probably think of the smell of curry as an aphrodisiac. It's a little disturbing actually lol

happyseaurchin - so glad to hear from you again! I hope you get to resume your tango adventures soon - I always look forward to your insights (and videos!!)