My oldest child started Jr. High this fall. I hadn’t anticipated it, but ended up a bit edgy for both her and us old folks (a.k.a the parents). For Jana, a few tears were shed under the pressure of everything new, unknown, and uncertain. Recalling those uneasy feelings from our own school days, Karen and I found ourselves at a loss for those perfect words to ease our daughter’s worry.
That was a few days ago. Everything went just fine. Insert collective sigh of relief here. Most fears quickly deflated, and everyone seems excited by the new year.
As our daughter has entered the adolescent years, I’m reminded of how teenagers can sweat, and how those developing sweat glans can… er… what’s the word? Stink. A couple of days ago we visited Jana’s school for a parental orientation. The school board seems to have adopted a sparing usage of the air conditioning. Despite it being September, at the end of the day, the place was stifling and reminded me of the Sahara Dessert.
One of the teachers joked about the place being hot, and the importance of making sure our kids took a daily shower (more for her benefit than the kids). Later, as we walked down the hallways to our next class meeting I caught a whiff of something. The school, nearly 30 years old, had a unique odor… maybe even a funk… and then a Kurt Cobain song title popped into mind… Smells Like Teen Spirit. Maybe that’s what he meant?
Nope. After I Googling it, I determined that Cobain meant something completely different, but in the end the song title ironically did make reference to an odor. More specifically, fighting odors of the armpit kind….
Teen Spirit was first released by Mennen early in 1991, and with heavy advertising campaigns, it had soon “established a market niche” with teen girls. However, one of its biggest boosts came from the grunge band Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” a song that was inspired by a friend of lead singer Kurt Cobain, Kathleen Hanna (lead singer of the punk band Bikini Kill at the time), spray painting “Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit” on his wall (because Tobi Vail, Hanna’s band mate and Kurt’s then-girlfriend, wore Teen Spirit). At the time the song was released, Cobain had no idea that the brand even existed; when he did find out, he was rather upset that the song had apparently been named after a line of deodorant.
Thinking back to the stink… When I was in Jr. High, grade eight I think, white leather Reebok shoes were all the rage. Pretty much every kid had them, or wanted them. And when I got mine, I was just happy to be in style. A month later, sitting on the floor in a Phys. Ed class, I remember thinking, “What stinks?” I sniffed closer to my shoes… I took my shoe off. Blah! Sure enough, my feet were sweating up a storm in my leather shoes. Together, my feet and the shoes were creating this horrid aroma. Those shoes might have been trendy, but in a second, I vowed I’d never wear them again (at least at school). I figured it was far better to be known for lack of fashion than to be known to have smelly feet.
Growing up in the eighties, most guys I knew went through the ever-popular BMX years. And along with BMX-ing came Vans shoes from California. Nearly every kid riding a BMX bike had a pair of those checkered Vans. The black & white pattern was most common and early imports were of the slip-on variety. Eventually different colored checkers and tie-up versions also made it to Canada. Despite being popular and therefore deemed cool, these shoes were pretty much useless. Skateboarders (or should I say skaters) might argue differently, but the rubber bottoms were crappy for running and the canvas tops didn’t breath (ah, yes, more stinky feet for me). Since the shoes were slip-ons, it meant they also easily slipped off, often at unexpected and inopportune times. It wasn’t uncommon to end up bare foot (or in stocking feet) while running a fast football play on the field.
Most the time, I proudly wore my Vans while riding my bike, but on two occations my prized shoes got shredded by the Bear-Claw BMX pedals on my Factory Kuwahara (for the lay person, that was the brand name of my BMX bike). Never the less, my friends and I persisted and wore them anyways–all in the name of popular fashion. Well, actually, we just wanted to be cool.
Below are some pictures of my bike that took me way… way back. I had a KZ-02 model that was nearly identical bicycle pictured below (except my seat post was metallic blue, and I only had a one piece crank). The last paragraph sparked my curiosity. Here’s what I found online…
Below is a picture of an IRC BMX tire that came with my Kuwahara. It only took about 2 months and I had to replace the back tire (as a kid, skids and power slides were extremely fun).