Teen Wolf & Me: The Scent and the Furry
I expected a lot from Michael J. Fox, based on Back to the Future and the few Family Ties episodes I saw on Armed Forces Network Europe, but he let me down. I expected another Back to the Future, but instead got a load of slapstick and hair jokes. Michael J. was a disappointment, but I didn’t hold it against him. At age 24, it was time to ease out of the teen movies.
It wasn’t a very good fit: high expectations and a movie trying to play the adorable werewolf angle. Werewolves aren’t funny when they’re dunking or shaving, only mildly amusing. They’re at their funniest when they’re off screen, as in the opening pub scene in American Werewolf in London. As far as I’m concerned, the only good thing about Teen Wolf was the fact that it spawned Teen Wolf Too, which gave Jason Bateman just enough success that he eventually found Arrested Development, but not enough for him to become famous in the meantime and get a show like Everybody Loves Jason.
But there’s more to this story. Michael J. Fox was a disappointment, sure, but there was more than one on the night I saw Teen Wolf at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. I was the biggest disappointment; me and my bottle of Brut.
Searching for Cool
I was in Ramstein for an oration competition—a fact which may produce a chuckle if you’ve ever heard me speak. The Augsburg American High School Speech Team was split up and housed with kids from Ramstein High School. My friend Paul and I ended up with Daniel, an übernerd with the whole package: overbearing mom, big glasses, braces, highwaters, electronic chess and a marble Beethoven bust. Compared to him, I felt like David Lee Roth, although calling him a nerd definitely is a case of the pot calling the kettle black, or at least a medium charcoal. Rather than Diamond Dave, I was Rick Moranis in Parenthood to his Rick Moranis in Ghostbusters—for me the big glasses would come two years later; I had a Joe Montana poster instead of a Beethoven bust (slightly cooler, but not Bo Derek); and I already had the braces and highwaters.
Actually, I see my fifteen-year-old self for what I was—a dork—but at times, I was practically Cool, and I even had a couple of acquaintances who made hash pipes out of Coke cans, although I wasn’t quite Cool enough to know how they worked.
Paul shared my middling stature as an Occasionally Not Uncool fellow and we saw this weekend away as a good chance to try on a new Cool persona that we’d been working on. Consequently, we were both disappointed that we’d been stuck with such a nerd—one who would get his Saturday night curfew extended so we could see Teen Wolf that evening.
Sexy for $2.99
To salvage the situation, we bought some Brut at the commissary during lunch break. The theory was that though prospects for the evening looked mediocre, we figured that a manly scent might tip the odds in our favor. Maybe some cute girls would sit nearby and giggle, we’d meet out in front of the theater afterwards and then…well, we didn’t have a “then.”
As soon as we were out of the commissary, we began basting ourselves with the sweet, pungent Brut. It ran down my neck and dampened the collar of my polo shirt, which had been red in the 7th grade, but now in the 9th, was fading towards pink. It was a sorry piece of cloth. It had been washed, folded and stuffed into a drawer too many times, so instead of looking preppy, it looked second-hand. The pink hue was bad, but the collar was the main offender. It was permanently pressed to stand up straight, but could no longer resist gravity. It flopped back on my shoulders, so that only the inside of the collar was visible. This also exposed my shirt tag, which was not a Cool look, particularly in combination with the razor sharp part down the left side of my head. Exposed tags and crisp hair parts are not a good complement to an ounce of aftershave, particularly if you don’t have any facial hair to shave.
The worst thing that can happen to an overly perfumed male is positive reinforcement from a woman. One passing comment can lead to years of excess. Unfortunately, during a break in the competition later that afternoon, I received such a complement from a friend’s girlfriend who sniffed my neck and said, “You smell manly.”
From my current vantage point, I suspect there was sarcasm in that statement, or at least a little irony, but she may have just been nice because years later, I heard that she’d become a Catholic hippy and built a house out of hay bales. Without a doubt, there is a logical progression from charitable compliment giving to Catholic hay bale houses.
Regardless of the intent, the result was overconfidence. After dinner, Paul and I convinced ourselves that there’d be plenty of babes at Teen Wolf—we didn’t need a party. We proceeded to teach Daniel how to apply Brut to his face and torso, like we’d been doing this for years, rather than for six and a half hours.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention the gilded lily: I also soaked
a knotted bandana in Brut, which I hung around my neck. Paul tied his around
his thigh like a Cool guy we knew named Roman, who had bleached, molded hair
and a denim jacket with “The Exploited” sewn on the back.
While we instructed Daniel in how to dress and smell Cooler, Daniel initially seemed a little dubious. Perhaps it was my faded Polo shirt or maybe because Paul’s haircut was a bit bowlish. The bandanas won Daniel over, though, and he was able to convert a hanky into a leg wrap which we didn’t have the heart to veto.
I’d like to apologize belatedly to Daniel’s mother for the overwhelming fog of aftershave that preceded us into the foyer, where she was waiting to see us off. Surely, she’d have preferred to have us inject Daniel with heroin, than teach him to douse his body in Brut. I’d also like to apologize to everyone in the theater, as well as any women during the ensuing twenty years who were disturbed by my wheezing, a symptom of perfume-induced asthma that I date to that evening’s Teen Wolf Brutfest.
The evening was a flop—like my collar—on all fronts. We sat near a bunch of servicemen, who thankfully were too immersed in their own cologne to be bothered by ours. No ladies approached us before, during or afterwards, leaving us to wonder whether we’d applied enough Brut. As I mentioned before, the movie also was a cinematic disappointment, so we were a bit dejected, us three poseurs, on our way home to beat Daniel’s extended curfew. It never occurred to us to do something Cool like break the curfew, or skip the movie and find a party.
When getting ready for school back at home the following Monday, I decided to wear my new scent. Unfortunately, in addition to my neck and collar, I decided to rub Brut all over my pants. I know it was overpowering because with our family jammed in the car, my dad had to have a man-to-man talk about cologne and excess before we left the driveway.
He talked about moderation, but what really sank in was this: he told me I was wearing Mr. Green’s cologne. Mr. Green was the P.E. teacher who looked like Kojak, wore silky track suits and gold chains, smacked on gum, and gave off a creepy vibe. Scared straight, I never touched Brut again.
A week later, I wanted to die when the subject of The Cosby Show was, “Theo wears too much cologne.” When Dr. Huxtable had to sit Theo down and teach him not to bathe in aftershave, I was crushed that I could make the same mistake as Theo, that jackass. I couldn’t look my family in the eye, and just had to sit there and pretend to laugh.
So, Michael J. Fox, I feel solidarity with you because I, too, have been a big disappointment.
Copyright Jeff Lewis, 2005.