What’s that smell?

What’s that smell?

 I’ve always had a thing about ‘smell’. From the first boyfriend (Drakkar Noir) through my college years (Cool Water), to my first serious boyfriend (Polo) to my last (Armani Code)..I can remember smells almost more than actual events. Growing up on a continent where cologne is de rigeur, Old Spice will forever be my Dad, and watching a man slap on some cologne,  always one of the most intimate things to enjoy.   

When I first moved to the US I found it weird that men didn’t ‘do’ cologne and that those who did were generally regarded as ‘hiding something’ or ‘gay’ (their quotes not mine). What had historically seemed as much a part of shaving as foam and a razor, was entirely missing amongst men in the States.
When I mentioned it to the few guys I dated early on, I was met with jeers of ridicule and protestations that ‘that’s a black guy thing’.
Seriously.. only black men and gay men wear cologne? Where did that leave my Dad and every guy I’d ever dated? But 17 years on, I’ve got to say, black American men – to a one – smell delicious and I’ve never met a gay guy who wasn’t rocking some kind of cologne. Straight guys? Well I’ve stumbled across a few anomalies, but they’re few and far between. Generally, (and having not smelled 99% of America, I have to generalize), American men don’t seem to do much other than soap. Maybe sunscreen.
Which is fine… but kind of a big missed opportunity. Big.

For example, did you know that our sense of smell is the first of our senses to develop when we’re ‘in utero’? Before we’re even born, this sense is full formed and functioning (a weird fact that explains why the smell of cocoa butter is so soothing to me.. my mother practically bathed in it during pregnancy). In fact not only is it one of the most developed of our senses, it actually renews itself every 28 days (taste wins out with renewal every 24 hours). We smell (and taste), better than we will ever see or hear. 

And while 50% of us can’t remember a face after 3 months, your odor recall remains at 65% a whole year after you last were exposed to someone’s smell. Which means while you might not recognize that dude you dated in May, you’re sure as hell going to remember his smell long into next year. Which I guess explains why the faintest trace of Armani Code always makes me smile and I can’t remember much about many of the men who I’ve dated since I got to the US.

While you might like how someone looks, you’d probably be better off smelling and tasting them. It’ll last longer.

In fact 75% of our emotions are triggered by smell, which I guess is something they should factor in to that future dating profile. If only we could smell the guy.. there would probably short cut a whole lot of that time consuming weeding out process. In fact, some personality traits actually affect how a person smells, from extroversion and neuroticism to dominance. Can you imagine if you could scratch and sniff your Match.com profile? Scary.

And women, with our superpower noses, can literally sniff out nut jobs. Due to our ancestral need to mate with a healthy male, we can smell diseases from diabetes to viral infection to schizophrenia. So if you’re turned off by a guys smell.. there might actually be a real reason why.

Note to self.. sniff harder next time.

Of course ‘odor driven dating’ would only work for women, because men’s sense of smell is roughly 50% less effective than our’s (no surprise) which itself peaks right around ovulation. Apparently when we’re ready to mate, smell is actually more of a determining factor than what we see (makes you want to rethink that cologne aversion, doesn’t it?). Guys.. if you want to get it on with your lady.. you might want to take that shower and break out the ‘Sex Panther’.  After all, “it works 60% of the time, all the time”.

But since you’re only smelling 50% of what you’re putting on.. you might want to dial it down a little. If you can smell it on yourself, we’re probably going to be gasping for breath in the car.

But its not just cologne or soap, pheromones, those much maligned compounds from the 80’s, mean that even if you’re an unscented type of a guy who slavishly showers three times a day.. you’re still putting out a smell. I know an ‘unscented’ guy who smells like olive oil, one who smells like grass and I once dated someone who smelled like buttered toast. Whether you want it or not, you smell.

But its just a smell, right?  As long as its not nasty, it doesn’t matter really does it?
Actually, it matters much more than you’d think. As most of us who’ve ever had a cold know, your sense of smell accounts for 75-95% of the impact a flavor has… which means if he smells good, we know he’s going to taste even better (and vice versa). And rarely are you going to get to ‘taste’ us, if you don’t smell good. Which might explain why men without any sense of smell at all, have fewer sexual partners that anyone else. 

Ok. A lot of interesting facts, but what does this smelly stuff actually mean? Really?
For me, no matter how much I find someone attractive and smart, develop rapport and genuinely enjoy their company.. sometimes … you just don’t like the way they smell and that’s that. Game over.
You think that’s high maintenance?  Dan Savage once said ‘I knew I loved Terry when I realized I liked the taste of his spit.’ Apparently a good match is someone with ‘tasty spit’.
I think I need to rethink this online dating thing.

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