Breathe Deeply

I go to the gym a couple of times a week as I am hoping to develop arms like Popeye’s, since as I get older I seem to be acquiring his face. I run on this, swing from that, row on this, lie gasping for air on that. When I have done all of this I sit for a few minutes in the steam room, where my pores are opened, my skin is purified, and my lungs are cleansed into empty buckets, waiting to be filled by the next aroma they meet.

I then walk into the men’s changing room, and my lungs get hit by the Lynx effect.

Lynx deodorant (known as Axe in some countries) is extraordinarily popular among young men (a big hello to Tinson2 here, by the way) who firmly believe its advertising, with its tag-line “spray more, get more”. It comes in a bewildering variety of varieties, I think they bring out a new one every week.

In actual fact all of the flavours are identical, because there are only three ingredients in Lynx – chopped onions, tear-gas, and mace.

The name possibly has something to do with the animal, perhaps with the way it marks out its territory.

Anyway, inhaling a lungful (two lungfuls, to be accurate) after two hours one hour thirty minutes of vigorous exercise takes you back forty years. You are fifteen, and about to inhale your first cigarette.

You’ve been smoking for a couple of months at this stage, making a kissing shape and noise with your lips and then blowing the smoke out in an impressive plume. You believe that you’ve been inhaling but in reality you’ve been drawing the smoke in about as far as your back teeth.

Then one day just as you suck in the smoke someone says something, and you start to reply, and drawing your breath to do so drags the smoke right down to the pit of your lungs.

The result is the aerobic equivalent of being hit in the face with a frying pan. The top of your head almost lifts off, your head spins, indeed the world spins, indeed the universe spins. Your lungs feel like two footballs of fire, so much so that you believe that if you were to take your shirt off they would actually be visible, smouldering just beneath the skin of your chest.

And then you cough. You have coughed before, of course, but never like this. Never before have you felt as if you were about to cough yourself inside out.

The symptoms eventually subside, and about twenty minutes later you decide to repeat the experience. Over and over, for twenty-seven years.

Um, this post has taken a direction all of its own. It began as a smart-alecky jibe at young men who spray themselves with an aroma like steamed cabbage after they’re finished in the gym.

But they have been in the gym. Somehow the post has decided to gently remind me of what I was up to at their age, and I suddenly don’t feel so smart-alecky anymore.


9 thoughts on “Breathe Deeply

  1. Aindreas Muldowney

    Excellent, excellent, excellent. You caught exercise, aroma and smoking in a very short passage, painted instantly recognisable scenes. Congratulations.

  2. vivinfrance

    The puzzle is that after that first horrible experience, so many of us end up hooked. I finally kicked it after 20 years or so. Bravo to you for the gym.

    In my son’s teenage years the fashionable stink was Brut, advertised by the chairman of a client company of mine, Henry Cooper. I tackled him about it and accused him of stinking our house out! He laughed and said he couldn’t stand the stuff either.

  3. laughykate

    ‘because there are only three ingredients in Lynx – chopped onions, tear-gas, and mace.’

    I laughed out loud, then read the line out to the cat.

  4. mairedubhtx

    Then there are the ladies who doused themselves in perfume or cologne and who get on elevators (or as you call them lifts) and then all the people therein have trouble breathing. Don’t forget the ladies, Tinman.

  5. Pseu

    Back in the day there were three choices for chaps, as far as I can remember: there was Brut and Old Spice, and if you were a bit fancy, Au Savage. Oh, and Denim…. when did that come in? (thinks, but they were aftershaves, not deodorants….)

    I’m lucky my boys don’t like spray cans for anything, so we have controlled application to underarms!
    They do, however, occasionally have friend’s to stay. (I even confiscated a can once…..)

    As for female perfumes, I’m completely lost if I go into the perfume section nowadays. We had Charlie and Kiki and Air du Temps. And for underarms, good old Mum.


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