I was The Stinky Kid in class the other day. Maybe I've been blessed with extraordinarily kind people in my life, but as far as I know, that was a first.
And except for the bit where everyone in school leans away from you and calls you mean names -- first behind your back, then via notes passed in class, and finally straight to your face -- the horror that sets in seconds after understanding She Who Smelt it Dealt It surpassed my every expectation.
Now that it's over, I'm glad it happened. I remember The Stinky Kid in grade school.
After seeing how he was treated, I made damn sure I didn't usurp that throne.
Many years later, I taught a creative writing class in Denver over the summers, a workshop for kids who mostly were privileged and liked putting words together and whose parents encouraged that kind of thing. But one summer, Maria rolled into class. Maria was a 10-year-old whose second language was English and who'd been accepted to the program on a scholarship.
And because my class that week was comprised of fifth graders crammed into a tiny room at the top of an historical, un-air-conditioned building, I knew right away I had a problem. Maria was The Stinky Kid in class. I did everything I could to protect her, slamming my hand on the large walnut table, shouting, "Oi!" to rally attention back to metaphors or haikus or whatever we were covering on a particular day, but I could only do so much. Thankfully, Maria was one of the brightest students, and I hope to see her accepting a Pulitzer one day.
Because my own family was broke when I was young, I already understood first-hand the notion of being The Poor Kid, as well as The Wickedly Out-of-Fashion, The Uninvited to Parties, and The Quiet and Weird Reading Books in a Corner versions.
Growing up sucked at times, but now I can say I worked harder than some to not be an asshole and I read a lot of classics.
Luckily, the Stinky Kid gauntlet was thrown down in a place where being stinky is, at the very least, understandable, and at the very best, forgivable. Smelling funky during hot yoga class is less jarring than say, during a job interview.
I shouldn't have been as bothered as I was, but I ending up in the far corner, in front of the teacher. "You can't see what anyone in the room is doing, but let's keep calm and carry on," I told myself as I unrolled my mat.
As it turns out, taking audibles from the instructor can be a bitch if you: a) don't speak Sanskrit, b) haven't been to yoga in five years and c) just discovered your yoga pants mysteriously smell like someone dumped brown water from the trash can on your pants, followed that with mosquito repellent and topped it off with a whisper of baby poop after baby's first chicken tikka masala.
The more I worried about the smell, the more mixed up I got on the mat. Is this definitely me? (Another forward bend confirmed it.) Could anyone else smell it? How far did the smell extend? Can I sneak out of class? No, I'm in the front. I washed these pants by hand, why the hell did they smell?!
"LET IT LIE, WOMAN!" My mind screamed. "FIND THE POSE, SOLDIER!"
I breathed deeply, inhaling the stench, and quit wondering how it'd happened and refocused on praying the session was almost over. It wasn't.