In the 40 years I've spent roaming this earth, I have never smelled as good as I do now.
Sure, there was time in high school when I regularly bathed in the sweet, pungent nectar of Drakkar Noir at the behest of my then-rocker-girlfriend Tonya "with an o." But pubescent aftershave does not a fragrant man make. Although it came in a cool matte-black bottle, evoking the charred hull of a Lamborghini Countach, Guy Laroche's "eau de stud" merely masked the murky musk of adolescence-hormones, sweat, damp runners, Zesty Cheese Doritos, pepperoni sticks and Yop "drinkable yogurt."
Drakkar Noir and Tonya were eventually replaced by a less dangerous Perry Ellis and a girlfriend who preferred Sarah McLachlan to Def Leppard. At the end of those two relationships, I got hot and heavy with Hugo Boss. In fact, I can map out my entire romantic history by tracing what cologne I wore at the time.
These days, I'm enjoying a long-term relationship with "Style in Play" by Lacoste, which I've grown so accustomed to I can't even detect I'm wearing it at times.
But cologne isn't the only fragrant firearm in my arsenal of scented bliss. A few years ago, I started exploring the lathery underworld of shaving products. It began, like most tales of sudsy decadence, with the purchase of a badger hair shaving brush, which in all honesty puts typical boar hair shaving brushes to shame and gives further credence to the oft repeated saying "once you go badger, you never go back."
Soon after the badger brush, I started hitting the shaving creams and aftershave balms pretty hard. It wasn't long before I became intimately acquainted with "pre-shave" oil and the subtle nuances of lemon grass, verbena and "marine," until one day, I'm not proud to admit, I shelled out $70 for a German-made, stainless steal safety razor that I imagine Don Draper wielding as he stares guiltily at himself in the mirror. I may have even picked up a ridiculously large bar of Portuguese soap.
Normally if I had a spare $70 lying around, I would have spent it on decidedly scent-free items such as Slurpees, plaid shirts and Superchunk albums. But something in me changed. I'm not even sure exactly when or why this transformation occurred, but I do know that it roughly coincided with swearing off futons for good and accepting the fact that I was too old to be considered a prodigy in anything. Apparently the smell of resignation is woodsy and floral with notes of green apple, vetiver and cedar.
Smelling good is also one of the more accomplishable self-improvement projects you can embark on-far easier than learning a new language, shedding 20 pounds or performing charity work.
Just the other day, I found myself in a store called Beauty Bar with my equally lovely smelling girlfriend. Previously if faced with such an emasculating situation, I would have sighed gravely, sat down in a chair specifically designated for shopweary dudes and waited impatiently for my girlfriend and testicles to return. This time, however, I wished her luck in her never-ending search for mascara and stood contentedly in the men's grooming section, smelling my way through products like a sandalwood-obsessed version of Rain Man.
However, there is one line I won't cross when it comes to smelling good. I leave the cologne and razor on the shelf and ignore all temptations to "freshen up" before I play ball hockey every Sunday afternoon. Maybe it has something to do with pheromones or the weekend's toxins oozing out of us or the Petri dish of bacteria that is our equipment bags and hockey gear, but we are a rancid bunch of aging men. I liken it to how the Celts would wash their hair in urine and soot before going into battle. Except we're stinkier and with a hint of pot. But for those two-and-a-half hours I spend running around in the open air with my brain only thinking about ball hockey and how good the post-game beer will taste, I don't care what my increasingly creaky body smells like.
Besides, as Hockey Night in Canada colour commentator Harry Neale once said, "Perspiration is the cologne of accomplishment."
Michael Kissinger has been writing about his impending midlife crisis since turning 40 in February.