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Truth Squad: NYT Story On Unwashed Masses Stinks

You gotta love Jack Shafer, who trashes the latest New York Times Style section trend story about people who don’t wash as “bogus.”

Granted, the definition of “trend” is somewhat nebulous in journalism: we learned if you could get a mere three examples, that constituted a “trend.” But even under that generous definition, says Shafer writing in Slate, The Times story, “The Great Unwashed,” fails to deliver what it promises when it asserts: “Some people have all but abandoned the idea of soap, shampoo or deodorant and yet still manage to have friends, relationships and office jobs.”

Indeed, the story brims with accounts of its subjects’ washing and deodorizing strategies. The only thing remotely unusual about the story’s subjects is that they don’t wash as often as some other people.

Jenefer Palmer, the story’s first subject, showers three times a week or less. Todd Felix showers daily, but with an unscented body wash. Bethany Hoffmann Becker reports on her Facebook page that she uses wipes after running but showers before getting into bed. Blake Johnson bathes every other day. Tara Freymoyer shampoos with Herbal Essences. And Alice Feiring bathes four times a week. Not a single subject of the story claims to have completely abandoned washing…One of the story’s subjects uses a “natural deodorant” and another uses a “sliced lemon” on her armpits. In my book, anything you rub into your underarms—be it mothballs or gunpowder—to smother smell qualifies as deodorant. If you’re a user, you don’t belong in a story about nonusers.