22 June, 2009

Does this fragrance make me look fat?

Of all the five senses — sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell — the latter is the one that has always held the most intrigue for me. Actually, let's be honest, I am captivated by smell and our ability (or inability comparatively speaking) to detect a scent and apply meaning to it whether consciously or subconsciously. We have a lot to be thankful for the role our sense of smell plays in our lives.

A. The secret to womanhood is — mmm, bacon...

First and foremost, in my humble opinion, taste and scent are intricately tied to one another — food would not be nearly as appealing and enjoyable without it. In fact according to one scientist-turned-CEO cited in a recent New York Times article, as much as 80% of what we perceive as taste might really be smell. Any sommelier or wine coinnesseur worth her/his salt, for instance, will tell you breathing in the bouquet and/or exhaling on the finish is so important to properly appreciating a fine wine. I swear to you it is true, based on first hand experience with this flavor-enhancing behavior almost every night. My most memorable and poignant example of this was in Portugal during the Euro 2004; I tasted the smell of olives in a vinho tinto we enjoyed late one night upon returning to our country pousada from a day spent driving through the vast stretches of olive trees during the drive to and from Aveiro.

Next, of all the five senses, smell is the one most closely linked with memory. Have you ever been somewhere else, when a wayward smell immediately transports you back in time to corn dog day in your elementary school cafeteria, summer camp after a light shower, or the weekly visit to a beloved elderly family member in assisted living, etc.? A few years back there was an interesting study published in the British Royal Society biology letters, which noted the roles memory and smell play in elephants' ability to keep tabs on family members near and far. I can imagine how liberating this might be if I had a similar ability to keep tabs on Big and Little CL at the neighborhood park around 11am every Sunday.

Many animals of course use their sense of smell to guide them, sometimes over considerable distances, to a member of the opposite sex ripe for mating. And this brings me to smell as a vehicle for bodily communication, or smell's sensual and sexual sides. I recently brought your attention to one study that suggests women are more capable than men of sniffing out biologically relevant information from sweat. As gross as that may at first sound, odor and the ability to detect it play a crucial role in mate selection, and thus reproduction; this is a biological function of hormone and pheromone production seen in many (most?) animals.

Think about it, body odor is either a turn-off or a turn-on, and a strong one at that. Humans are the only species of which I'm aware that intentionally apply scents in order to be more sexually attractive — dogs do not roll in deer feces to attract other dogs. The company who can develop and bottle human pheromones will make a killing (ever see that X-File gender bender episode?), and those Axe commercials would have you believe that company already has. Is it any wonder perfume is a multi-billion dollar business? And that doesn't include aromatherapy or the myriad other personal care product companies that spend fortunes on developing or acquiring fragrances for their lotions, shampoos, lip glosses, etc.

With all of this in mind, I am pretty sure I'm advertising to Mr. CL that I'm open for business when I wear perfume (personal favorites are Lauren and No. 5, oldies but goodies). Having children has altered the frequency with which I apply fragrance; I don't spritz and dab as regularly as I used to because a mother's scent is very important in the early bonding with baby (and vice versa). My childhood memories of my own mother are tied to Jungle Gardenia, and I can't help but think of her when I smell the real flower.

So, what does your scent say about you —
Can you bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan? I won't hate you because you're Beautiful, smart and a good cook.
Do you have a Passion for Poison?
What's your Pleasure, or has it been an Eternity?

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