What’s That Smell? Just Tween Boys Tying to Get Noticed

Love at first sight gets plenty of hype, leaving love at first smell all but forgotten. But not by middle-schoolers. First, a primer on love at first smell for the unitiated: Maybe you see somebody — he’s decent, probably a 5 or 6 — and then he moves closer and you catch some of his smell. Bang, pheromones, game change. The animal brain has taken over and he has become a 9 or a 10, an Adonis of smells that only your nose can appreciate. Or maybe you start thinking your low-ball snap judgment was generous because he smells like he spent all day sweating through his shirt in a law office or, worse, in gym class.

The way you smell is more than just a nice punctuation mark for a middle-schooler, it’s very serious business. Not only are you, a 10- to 14-year-old boy, lost in the ever-changing chaos of your own body, but you have no idea how to get noticed and hardly any idea what it means to be a man. If somebody told you that $7-worth of spray deodorant would buy you the solutions to those riddles and leave you with confidence in reserve, of course you would want a can of Axe or Tag or any of the other scents marketed to teens.

But tween boys, those even younger than the target audience for such products, are an increasingly large part of the multibillion-dollar male grooming products market, according to a feature in the New York Times. Marketers and tween girls (always ready to text the entire school when you smell bad) have cornered young boys into thinking they need to douse themselves in all kinds of of washes, sprays, deodorants, hydrators and exfoliators if they’re to have any chance at going out in the world and at least passing for their gender.

The problem with this whole transaction, which is otherwise good for business and good for confidence, is that all the scents that are marketed to teen boys smell wretched. How could they not with (admittedly cool-sounding) names like Swagger, Vice, Gameday and Dark Temptation?

Our apologies to tween boys out there. Things are going to get a lot better for you soon! In the meantime, if we can’t convince you that regular showers are going to do the trick, please stop choking your pores with nauseous gases. Maybe just sext for now, and we can worry about love at first smell when you’re older.

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