Wednesday, July 13, 2005

And I've Got 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...Senses Working Overtime

Today, class, we will be discussing the sense that evokes the most memories in our fellow man.

The sense that makes us
Swoon with delight!
Shudder with fright!
Cry all night!
Pick a fight!

Yes, ladies and gentleman, I'm talking about that prominence, that olfactory factory, that dee-rect non-stop Super Train to the Brain....

The nose.

More specifically, people, the sense of smell.

I'm sure you've all read the studies published the last few years, what smells trigger what responses in males and females. Cinnamon, cut grass, bread baking, lilacs, all evoke memories of childhood or holidays or what-have-you in most adults.

Oh yes, and lavender.

This is how un-girly I am...I had NO idea what lavender smelled like. I assumed it was like lilacs, because they looked vaguely like them. Girl-child has a scratch-and-sniff book of Gardens, and the roses, cedar, and cut grass smell only vaguely of the real thing...nature mixed with binders glue and cardboard pages. The lavender scratch/sniff page smells like, well, alcohol.

Yesterday, whilst birthday-gift shopping for Sergei, I happened across something in the bookstore that stopped me in my big-footed tracks. "Lavender Linen Spray." Hmm...now, I've read more than my share of parental articles touting the calming benefits of lavender, how parents use it as 'Monster-Under-The-Bed' repellant for their frightened children, spritzing it on their pillows, supposedly bringing blessed relief and deep sleep. Knowing my own insomniacal children (like Dave Attell's "Insomniac", but without the beer and nudie bars), I thought...yes...YES!...this might be good...I need them to sleep.

I picked up the bottle in the store and tried squirting some out, just a lee-tle bit, to smell the smell. I didn't want to get too much out, I was right by the little coffee shop in the bookstore, and the last thing those folks needed was foreign spray in their lattes and biscotti. So I didn't actually SMELL it. I just bought it.

Impulse buyer, me.

I got back to work and pulled the bottle out and squirted my little work cube liberally.

All!
Of!
A!
Sudden!

BAAAAMMMMM!!!!

Suddenly I was 6 years old and in the bathtub and my younger brother was there and mom had just given the two of us EACH a squirty can of 'Crazy Foam' which was like soap but FOAM and it was pink! and green! and squishy! and we giggled and squirted it on our hands and chests and in our hair and made crazy devil horns and mohawks and watched it disappear like cotton candy in the warm water and we were then sitting in gray water because of the colors and shook the can and more came out and more and more and we felt SOOOOO lucky!

It was the smell.

Lavender was the smell of Crazy Foam.

That smell has haunted me since childhood. I've tried my entire non-kid life to find out what that smell was called. I've caught whiffs here and there, never quite finding the answer, but wanting to press my face into it.

When I got home last night with girl-child, we sprayed her bedroom and that of her brother. Her eyes got all moony and she moaned, "MMM...this smells gooooooood!" Later,when boy-child was explaining his insomnia to me (probably more as a 'cuddle with me' thing, but I went with it), I got the spray and doused his pillow. He yawned. He rubbed his eyes. He was asleep in minutes, and didn't get up at all until morning. So. There's the rub! It may actually work!

I can't find the article, and I could google all day, that says women have a better sense of smell than men. Usually I pick apart research studies, "the act of observing disturbs the observed" (see epic poem, Schroedinger's Cat), but this particular thing I took at face value. Because I whole-heartedly believe it. I can smell things Sergei can't. Or that the guys I work with can't.

For example, we live in an old house (built 1936), and the plumbing is crazy. Last summer, I couldn't figure out what the stench was upstairs, as hard as I tried. Finally, I stuck my nose in the bathtub drain...A-HA!...stench identified! Sergei couldn't smell it, but to me it smelled like sewer. I got a plug, all is well. Monday I got home with the kids, Sergei was there, and as I walked in the house, I could smell...THAT. I told Sergei, "I'll bet you five dollars the plug on the tub was left out." He shrugged, he couldn't smell anything. I went upstairs, to the bathroom, pulled back the shower curtain, and...YES. The cork was out. Oogh, that smell....

I smell ozone at work when a monitor goes on the fritz.

I smell the cat box, which is in the basement, from the front door.

I smell which child has had an 'accident', and which kind, even if they're in another room.

I smell the toffee tea that a co-worker in a cube two pods over is drinking.

I am often caught at work, or home, or shopping, just sort of wandering with my nose up in the air, sniffing like a very tall bloodhound, for the source of smells. Some of my girlfriends are the same way. The guys? Hmmm...not so much.

So here are some things to ponder:
1) What smells evoke the strongest memories in you?
2) Do you think there is a gender difference in the sensitivity to smells?

(sniff) Someone just made a fresh pot of coffee. Think I'll wander over there now. Class dismissed.

11 Comments:

At 11:17 AM, Blogger your fiend, mr. jones said...

Women tend to have specific smells to me (no jokes please), for instance...

1) I remember a girl breaking up with me in High School, and I couldn't get her scent of out of my mind for weeks after. Now, of course, I can't remember what that scent was, but it did inspire me to write my Cole Porter-esque hit "Everything Smells Like Jeanie".

2) I was in a relationship with a woman in the late-eighties/mid-nineties who smelled of coconuts. Whenever I smell that now, I compulsively begin denying I've been stalking her.

3) My gorgeous, talented (or "g-alented") wife wears Chanel. It is an old stand-by gift for her, as Jerry Lewis dvd's are for me. And they both smell exactly the same!

 
At 1:16 PM, Blogger annush said...

Lavender Linen Spray from L'Occitane!!!!
I actually buy that stuff.
GREAT investment.

 
At 1:22 PM, Blogger Maine said...

I definitely think there's a gender difference when it comes to smells. I've noticed this my entire life.

And the difference seems to be even stronger when a woman is pregnant. My wife can smell if I've pumped gasoline in the car while I'm still pulling up in the driveway. It's crazy.

 
At 5:31 PM, Blogger Bear said...

Mona,

Dump some drain-cleaner down your drain to clear out the gunk in the pipes, then pour a couple bottles of Hydrogen peroxide down there. It should help with the stank-nasties..

My two cents.

Bear

(I'm off to replace a faucet, replace a sink, and replace a floor... gotta get this sh*t done!)

 
At 6:42 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

I can't smell for shit. Er...I mean, well, I can't smell very well, and I guess that's top on the list of things I'm glad I can't smell... So screw your theory. Just kidding. I am a mouth breather, that's the main reason. Like darth vader. So I can't answer your questions...and I feel left out. And suddenly guilty that I haven't done the book thing yet. but i'm sure you're not worried about it, so I'll dismiss the guilt, for now...

 
At 6:43 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

dammit. I got distracted and forgot to include:

I'm really excited for your kids to be getting better sleep--for your sake, as well as theirs.

 
At 7:49 PM, Blogger Pisser said...

Lisa, don't sweat it. My cousin has a nose, but she cannot smell.

To me, pink oleander, although poisonous, smells like Play Doh. I love happy smells-!

Lavender is supposed to help w/ anxiety attacks. If anyone has one, plunk 'em into a lavender bath (if you happen to be carrying one with you) ;) Or else, shpritz 'em in the face with lavender mace-! I grow it, too, and roll in it.

My drains smell like my friend Eric's house...!

Agh! I sniffed out a dead bird under Cranky's sofa. I told him all day I smelled dead stuff and he didn't believe me, he thought it was poo. I told him, "I *know* that smell" and if that's what he thinks poo smells like, there is something seriously wrong with him.

I think that there is definitely a gender difference in nose abilities, although my friend's ex husband used to claim he could smell when she was menstruating (gross!) but he later became a woman (pre-op transexual), if that means anything...

Not that Cranky thanked me for my superior female sniffer-dog abilities. I think I'll go work for the Border Patrol.

 
At 9:55 PM, Blogger Orange said...

Bitch Ph.D.'s husband can smell it when a woman is premenstrual. Ick, right?

Everyone knows that most women have a better sense of smell than most men. Fact.

I loooooove lavender, but I'm really choosy. Most lavender-scented things turn me off, but just the right kind of lavender is so soothing. L'Occitane has some great lavender soap, but the other products I've smelled aren't right. I bought a lavender linen spray (maybe at Target?) and need to use it more.

I walked into a musty old school building a few years back and was instantly transported back to nursery school—the identical smell. The musty building is used more and aired out more, and no longer transports me.

The Blommer chocolate factory near downtown Chicago puts out a brownies-in-the-oven aroma. Yellow cake still in the oven is an awesome smell; same with chocolate chip cookies. A flowering dogwood bush in the backyard when I was a kid—yummmm. Remember the icky toy Slime around 1981? Gross, but I inhaled it deeply. My mom loved leaded gasoline fumes as a kid.

My cousin who gets wicked migraines sometimes gets a heightened sense of smell when a headache is coming on. Recently, she's had a super-keen sense of smell, picking up strongly unpleasant stinks I can't detect at all, when a migraine isn't descending on her. (She suspects a brain tumor.)

Oh, I could go on. And I will! A little. I love the smell of oranges and tangerines (see blog name). Febreze makes a room spray that really (to my nose) captures the essence of delicious tangerines. Fresh peaches also num-num-nummy. And strawberries, ripe but not overripe, and not so overfactoryized that they have no fragrance.

Okay, really, I must stop. I may ramble on more tomorrow.

 
At 11:10 PM, Blogger your fiend, mr. jones said...

I meant to tell you...

you had me at the "Senses Working Overtime" reference.

Go eighties pop, go!

 
At 11:34 PM, Blogger Mona Buonanotte said...

Mr. Jones: Some of the guys I work with wear the most exquisite cologne, and I am constantly pressing my nose into their necks for a deep inhale. Funny...they don't seem to mind!!! So glad you got the XTC reference! I'm all about the 80s pop, baby!

Annush: Where do you find it? What I got is from Crabtree and Evelyn, but I'm thinking you can't have TOO much lavender spray!

Maine: When I was pregnant, first trimester, I couldn't drive past a Burger King because the smell of cooking meat made me want to urp. Now I drive by just so I CAN smell it.

Bear: You're a hard-working man! Thanks for the peroxide tip! I'll give it a try this weekend. I think you need a drink right about now....

Lisa: I was poking around some 'smell' sites this morning, and one said that 10% of the population has virtually NO sense of smell. On the other hand, I'm sure YOU smell terrific!

Pisser: How did a dead bird get under Cranky's couch? Was it a cat gift? And I can sometimes smell other women menstruating. Is that so very weird?

Orange: Bitch PhD's husband is a wonder! Our kids go to preschool and camp in an old elementary school building, and every morning I'm met with that school-smell, still gets me excited! Oh, and we use an air freshener called Pure Citrus that smells like oranges and lemons...pretty powerful stuff, though, will knock you on yer ass if you stand downwind of it.

 
At 12:14 AM, Blogger Orange said...

My husband got all excited when I read your title to him—he's a big XTC fan and he has a crush on your boobs and your extreme hotness compared to the QA women he works with.

Have you got a L'Occitane store in any of the posher malls in your area? There's one at Old Orchard near me. If you can't get a better connection, let me know if I need to pick up some spray (what Annush raved about) for you next time I'm out that way. I could use some of their overpriced soap anyway.

 

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