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FYI...

November 2, 2013

Smells like teen spirit: An olfactory experiment

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Probably if I had watched the commercials first, I would never have undertaken this whole stupid experiment. Axe commercials? Awful. They are the media equivalent of the fragrance itself. I mean, naked ladies covered in tiny congruent triangles assault bemused middle managers. These are commercials that could have been made by Russian porn stars from the mid-1960s, or backstage at a Victoria's Secret fashion show, if angels really liked feathers in their strawberry milkshakes. Nor did I come to Axe men's fragrance by sniffing the air at the U.S. Supreme Court, which I cover.

Me, I discovered Axe the usual way, through my 13-year-old nephew, for whom the whole prospect of a lifetime of boom-chicka-wah-wah is perhaps still too much to contemplate.

My own boys, at 8 and 10, are too young for Axe, or for fragrance, or for wah-wahs of any variety — or so I shall insist to myself until they are about 40. But after a single day at the beach this past August, when they shared a bathroom with their big hockey-playing Axe-scented cousin-slash-hero, even the 8-year-old was smearing his small hairless self with the body wash, the deodorant, and, in case he still couldn't be smelled from the next pier over, the spray cologne. I decided to handle this olfactory terrorism like a mature adult: several days of merciless teasing. Dinners quickly became unbearable, with three Axe-drenched young people fogging up all tastes and smells until your pasta simply tasted like the painful ache at the back of your tongue that occurs when every boy in the house sees a daily Axe dip as part of his grooming. On it went, until the final weekend at the beach, when I found myself trapped in the shower with only a bottle of three-in-one Axe product (shampoo, body-wash, and conditioner). So I broke down and used it.

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