The totally tall tail of a traitorous tee

Not the shirt in question, but totally apropos
Not the traitorous tee in question, but still apropos

One afternoon last week I was in a rush to get to a meeting. I’d been wearing workout clothes all day, trying to summon the motivation to exercise. By the time I realized that sort of thing wasn’t going to spontaneously happen, I had just enough time to shower and dress.

The two meetings I had that afternoon would be casual-ish, one in a stuffy conference room, and the next in a basement I knew to be chilly. I needed layers.

I pawed through a drawer and pulled out a top I must have forgotten from last summer. It would be perfect with the scarf I’d gotten for Christmas, and a cardigan I could pull on for the chilly basement room.

How had I forgotten this shirt? It was a nice fit, the kind of finishing at the neckline to look a little less t-shirty, fitted enough to look tidy without clinging to my muffin top.

Score. Why had this cute thing been shoved all the way to the back of the drawer?

I dressed and rushed to my meeting, running up the stairs to the stuffy conference room. I was the first one there. I pulled out my computer and my notebook, hung my cardigan over the back of the chair, and leaned back for a leisurely stretch, a rare opportunity to bask in my earliness.

That’s when it hit me like a city bus: the stench of a hundred unwashed, long haul truck drivers, or some nightmare of a post-apocalyptic, landfill dairy farm. The smell was most decidedly un-girlish, and gave no hint I’d remembered to apply deodorant in my rush to get ready.

I clamped my arms at my sides and sat up straight. Now I remembered why I hadn’t worn this shirt in a while.

It was a stink-shirt.

I perspire quite a bit more than I think is normal for a healthy adult female. The upside to this is decent-looking skin. Another plus is the ability to look rather bad-ass at the gym, only the smallest effort required to get the sweat pouring off me like I’m in a Nike commercial.

On the con side, it’s sweat. And a lot of it. The bane of my existence since puberty. I don’t wear clothes that can’t handle my overactive glands. Blouses or dresses that show obvious armpit dampness are anathema. “Dry clean only” has been banned from my closet since the 90s. If it’s not wash and wear, it’s prohibited.

Sometimes, I end up destroying clothing altogether by overuse. I normally make an effort to dispose of stink shirts when they’re discovered. I don’t like to be surprised by my ability to smell up small spaces like a pack of adolescent gym students.

But sometimes, the garment in question is so freaking cute, I vacillate: Oh, I’ll find some sort of online DIY solution sometime.

So much more likely if I were the one doing laundry around here.

Which is how I wound up in a stuffy conference room, thankful for the propped open door and the infusion of fresh air from the hallway. The room started filling up. I kept my arms clamped to my sides.

I can do this, I was thinking, seconds before some jerk closed the conference room door. I stifled the urge to raise my hand in protest, and instead bobbed stupidly up and down in my seat.

“Um, um, um,” I said, too slow to think of a polite way to say if you close that door, we may well perish … wondering if it was better to avoid implicating myself, or to save actual lives.

I chose the former.

The meeting started. Taking notes was impossible. The slightest movement would send a wave of stench from my torso.

Maybe the stink wasn’t traveling. I thought. Maybe they didn’t realize it was me. Maybe no one else in the room had the same sense of smell as I, or else the putridity had some way of dissipating before it registered on the olfactory senses of my colleagues.

Oh the lies we tell ourselves in moments of crisis.

At one point someone entered the room and stood at the door for a second, probably gathering his wits as the wall of BO hit him full in the face. Then the guy actually took the door handle and pulled it wide open and partway closed again, swinging it back and forth, like a fan.

“Whew, is it stuffy in here,” he said, as the breeze made the stink rise and spread from my traitorous stink-shirt.

By this time, I was sweating copiously, not only under my arms, but also at my temples and on my lip. I didn’t dare wipe the sweat away for fear the pungency of my exposed armpits would knock people out.

Eventually the meeting ended and I was able to pack up my things without lifting my upper arms, like a sad, stinky T-Rex.

And stink-shirt? I came home and changed immediately, resolving to throw the thing in the donation pile. Then I thought again (dooming someone else to wearing my stinky shirt seemed rather bad karma), and wondered if we had any need for a shirt rag. But what use would a rag be since we neither refinish furniture, nor wash our own vehicles?

Just pitching it seemed ignominious for a shirt that had once brought so much fashion satisfaction. I resolved to sit down and finally research just how to remove shirt stink, give it a go and report the results to you, dear reader.

Because we all know that I care. About you, about stinky shirts everywhere, about not wanting to smell like zombie road kill rolled in fresh manure.

But here’s the thing, while I was overthinking the whole situation and documenting my humiliation, stinky shirt went AWOL. As in missing. It has probably wriggled its way to the back of my shirt drawer again, waiting for me to forget this whole episode (we know I will), and one day pull out what I think is a darling little rediscovery, only to find out I’m just really bad at throwing away stuff that should not only be discarded, but triple-bagged and sealed and launched toward the heart of the sun.

We can only just wait for the next stinky-shirt appearance. For now though, I offer this up as a warning and a recommendation to avoid any meetings with me in tight quarters.


Your votes most decidedly does not stink. Thank you.



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  1. I rarely wear sleeveless tops/dresses for this very reason. And breathable cotton is my friend. So… I hear ya (but hopefully won\’t smell ya). 🙂

  2. This is why I need new workout clothes. It is a great misfortune of life, that the clothes that are supposed to repel our sweat, also repels the water that will cleanse said sweat from the clothes.

    You have my utmost sympathy, Beth. Really.

    And it\’s always the really flattering stuff that gets ruined.

  3. Noooooooo! Oh man I am so there with you. Stink shirts stink. Why can\’t we remember this and just pitch \’em? I had a gym shirt with the same problem. Cleared the elliptical pretty quick which was a positive. But still not worthy of keeping.