You take my breath away

True gripes: SERENA MACKESY; Why do British males subject us to their body odours?
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Old joke. A Swede goes into the chemist. "I want to buy a deodorant," he says. "Ball?" says the chemist, "or aerosol?" "No," says the Swede, "I want to put it on my armpits."

There are two reasons why this joke wouldn't work if you put a heterosexual Englishman in the place of the Swede. First, it's an accent joke. Second, everyone would fall about laughing before you got to the punchline, so absurd is the juxtaposition of Englishmen and cleaning products.

Face it - in the summer, Englishmen smell. Of sweat, natch, and other unnameable pongy things. Great for breath control but not much else. In fact, the only thing that makes summer in the city bearable is the fact that it's hay-fever season and my nose doesn't work. Occasionally, I'm forgetful and take my antihistamines before I get on public transport rather than once I've got to the office, and have to sit through the rush- hour with my hand over my face, or take huge gulps through my mouth when the Tube doors open (my biology teacher told me that breathing through your mouth lets germs in, so I spend the rest of the day feeling my glands).

It's not that I'm not fond of Englishmen: I think it's just ducky the way they talk about football and alcohol like you're interested or something. But my favourite man's foreign, and I know why. He washes. When his big hairy armpits get near my face, I don't find out about the curry he ate two days ago.

Not so your Englishman. He seems to think that sentences like "Why should I use a deodorant, I had a bath three days ago?" are the product of rational thought. Everyone knows that your average bus or train or Underground tunnel wasn't designed with ventilation in mind. Yet it's amazing how many people fail to make allowances for the possibility that they might - well, you know - perspire.

There must be a reason for this. A hangover from soap rationing, perhaps? Jerry didn't bomb me out so I'm damned if I'm going to take up his poofy continental habits. Is it because we come from a cool climate, and people only break out in sweats for four months of the year? Or is it some Tory plot to drive women into the sanctuary of air-conditioned cars and strengthen the hand of the road lobby? Is this the final kick of the sex war? Do they just want to stink us to death?