Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Wednesday Walk - Nasal Observations"

So I’m walking along on my Wednesday morning excursion slash ‘cause there’s a big hill coming back exercise program to get coffee at Groundwork, when I pass a young woman –mid-twenties maybe – walking her dog.   

I take a few steps… you know, like, there’s the speed of light, and the speed of sound? There is apparently also be “the speed of smell”, which, my experience suggests, lags slightly behind. 

I have moved a few feet past the young woman with the dog, when my nasal passages suddenly constrict, and my throat closes up to “one notch below choking.”

The problem? 


I’m talking, really strong perfume. 

Perfume with the piercing pungency of the Air Freshener at the car wash, where I instruct them, “‘Luxury Wash’ – no Air Freshener.”

Here’s what seems to be happening, though I could easily be wrong.  A young woman – wearing sweats, so if she’s not a gym teacher or a fitness instructor is not dressed for work – has apparently immersed herself the most powerful perfume this proboscis has every experienced…

Before going outside to walk her dog!


The dog wasn’t enjoying it.  The stuff made its eyes water.  Not to mention the dog's look of abject bewilderment:

I’m fine with my scent.  What’s wrong with her?

I seem to want to relate this to other olfactorial infractions, they may not really go together, but I’m doing it anyway.  The connection, though tangential, may, on further investigation, have overarching implications.  (Whatever that means.)

The global idea here is this:

We in our culture seem to have a serious difficulty with anything that, in any way,


That’s the concept.  Agree on disagree?  I agree.  But, of course, I said it.

We want things to smell pleasantly.  Or inoffensively.  Or, in some cases, not smell at all. 


You open the fridge, and you stick your head in.  How do you determine whether some food item in there is “off”? 

It’s “off” if it smells.

You smell the milk.  If it smells like nothing, it’s okay to drink.  Meat, vegetables, cheeses – except those that were born smelly – the same thing.  The primary indicator for a food’s “eating acceptability” is that its “Basic Odorosity” be zero. 

The signal for, not all food, but for a lot of food’s okayness for consumption is that, when you smell it, the smell you smell when you smell it…is nothing.

Okay, I get that.  A smell in certain foods sends the loud and clear message, “You waited too long.”  This is, in fact, good.  It’s Nature as “Safety Monitor.”  For our health and welfare, Nature “smells up” the bad food.

But consider your facial response when you get a whiff of that cottage cheese that’s gone well past its “Expiration Date.”  It’s not just a calmly objective, “Oh, this has to go.”  It’s disgust, mixed with outrage.  It’s like you’re personally affronted.

How dare anything smell!

Despite the grooming industry’s adopting the same idea, our culture is not, I don’t think, implying that people who emit, what we define as an undesirable odor – or smell – are “going bad.”  But it seems to me these liberally-doused young women walking their dogs – and I’ve encountered a number of them during my Wednesday Walks – seem to be making a not dissimilar assessment about themselves.  To wit:

“You would not want to come near me if I’m not wearing perfume.”  

Now, I know that self-scenting has been around since ancient times.  Until recently, however, I was under the impression that this had to do with people – both male and female – perfuming themselves to cover up the fact that they rarely bathed.  (Fearing that, lacking central heating, they would emerge from the bathtub, contract a chill, and die.  This is not as bizarre an idea as it sounds.  When I lived in England, exiting my bath into an unheated room made me think long and hard about taking any further baths in the future.)

I have only been recently illuminated to the fact that scents and fragrances were primarily employed as a sexual enticement.  It is, in fact, this purpose – seduction through the nose – that makes the perfume industry is so incredibly huge, leading superstars the likes of Brad Pitt to hawk Chanel Number 5 on television.  (Seeing an actor of Brad Pitt’s stature doing TV commercials left me wondering whether the man had a serious gambling problem.  Or a wife who likes diamonds.)

Let me be clear here.  I am not advocating “Stink Nation.”  I am merely offering One Man’s Opinion on the issue of “going overboard.”  It may not even be necessary.  The natural “You” may smell better than you think.

In the end, it’s no big deal.  You do, you don’t, you go subtle, you go for broke – it’s entirely up to you.  I am just planting a modest contrarian seed here, by suggesting that your “come hither” intentions may actually be working the other way.

And by the way – and you can take this for what it’s worth –  

Your dog hates it.

I passed them on my way back.  It was sneezing its head off!

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