What died in here?

The odor is distinctive, pungent, unpleasant. The smell of adolescent boys.


The odor is distinctive, pungent, unpleasant. The smell of adolescent boys. If you have raised boys, you know what I mean. They don’t have to move or sweat to emit the odor of maturing tissues and testosterone.

Why did I never notice my brothers’s body odor? When at that age, Older Bro and I were ignoring each other, denying the other’s existence. I was out of the house when Baby Bro’s ripeness peaked.

Older Bro recalls a time when he and friends spent a night in the family room, door closed. Mom greeted them in the morning with, “What died in here?”

After a boys’ sleepover hosted by C-boy, I discovered a can of air freshener in our kitchen. Not recalling that I had left it there, I wondered aloud how it found its way to the counter. Mike said that C-boy had gotten it out to quell the stench. You know you stink when you can detect it on yourself.

The essence of boy remained long after a group of boys exited the den having hovered over the computer together. The aroma infiltrated the air and fabric of cars and stuffy bedrooms, evidence of a earlier male presence.

ED’s car air freshener did not clear the smell but mingled floral and boyness into a distinct and unforgettable olfactory memory

Recently C-boy and his wife came to Arizona to attend a friend’s wedding. The family retreated to a house near Flagstaff to escape the heat and capture some family time. I enjoyed a quiet laugh when C-boy commented on the aroma coming from the boys’ bedroom.


Earlier I described the smell as unpleasant. If you have raised a boy, you know that isn’t true.

What died in here? Now I know: childhood. 

Author: Mary Cornelius

I am an aging woman who writes three blogs.

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