Today I am going to talk about aroma. I have an interesting and sensual relationship with it. How things and people smell is very important to me. People underestimate how smells effect our life, they tend to give priority to the other senses such as sight and hearing. Not for me. I can feel deep fondness for something (or someone for that matter) or intently dislike it just because of its smell.
I breathe in the essence of my children, I inhale the flavour of fresh bread, catch the whiff of cinnamon on my cappuccino and it’s blissful. I pick up on the unique way in which different people smell and it affects my willingness to share the same space with them. I am not talking about a stinky, sweaty guy at the gym, or a woman who has put on too much perfume. These are extremes that everybody can detect. I am talking specifically about the barely noticeable skin odour that for me acts as a loud announcement about whether this is my kind of person or not. If I love a man I want to inhale him completely and for the most potent experience I sniff his ears. I read somewhere that foxes do the same, they emit powerful pheromones from behind their ears and it would seem that we do too. But sometimes the opposite is true, and I find myself breathing through my mouth so as not to smell a person next to me. My mum’s nickname for me is “The Nose” and it has spread throughout the family because I can walk into any space and smell which individuals were there earlier that same day.
Unfortunately, nowadays most Europeans hold little regard for the role of smell in dictating people’s behaviour. Whereas I believe that even someone’s choice of partner depends on their reaction to the other person’s smell. It seems that we are not so different from other creatures such as the male Luna Moth who selects their mate purely based on their smell, even if they are parted by several kilometres. Humans, just like any other animal, track down their ideal partner using their olfactory senses. However most people tell themselves that this choice is a matter of the heart.
Without a doubt the most attractive smell on a man is his own natural odour. To find your true partner you need to be able to smell the real him unadulterated by artificial scents. Sadly these days most people’s subtle odour is masked by the overuse of deodorant, cologne and perfume. I think this trickery is a leading cause of bad matches being made repeatedly by people the world over.
Napoleon springs to mind. Everyone knows that he loved the natural smell of Josephine so much that he would send a message to her telling her to stop washing ahead of his arrival back home. Centuries later these Napoleons still exist and although their tastes are extreme, for my liking, you’ve got to admire their passion.
By contrast in Ancient Rome it was only the lower classes who could not afford to buy essential oils and their natural fruitiness denoted their lower status in society. The noble men’s wives so craved the genuine smells of a ‘real man’ that they would secretly collect gladiators’ disregarded clothing for the sexual arousal it caused them. This effect of a man’s natural odour on a woman’s mood and even on her reproductive hormone levels has since been scientifically proven. It’s clear now why the women of Ancient Rome went to such lengths to get hold of these garments that were imbued with the pong of these powerful male figures who fought for their survival. Their husbands were slathered in pungent perfume and smelt more like a bouquet than an attractive mate.
I am particularly choosey in my perfume buying habits. I dislike almost all the fragrances that I come across. Unusually, around seven years ago I actually did find a perfume that I liked. It was a subtle fragrance that reacted uniquely on different peoples’ skin. I wore it religiously for several years until very recently when my romance with this perfume ended abruptly. I suddenly realized that it didn’t reflect me anymore and that I had outgrown it.
To sum up, my relationship with aromas…it’s complicated and something that I find infinitely interesting.