Janna just returned home from a long business trip and the least thing about her I thought I’d miss was the first thing about her I missed most: The smell of her skin. Whenever we embrace or pass by each other there is the faint smell of human emotion, perfume and sweat mixing in the air between us.

I love kissing the soft path where her hairline meets her forehead and even if she isnt with me I can close my eyes and breathe her in again with the memory of that intoxicating brew of pheromones and promises.

Smell is memory and it reeks from lust and of ancient attics. Smell is the attacking sense and it wafts among the history of dangerous moments and insidious sin. There — floating on face and falling into bosom — tracked by tendrils of thought and electrified by sensation and fever, is the battlefield inspiration men have used across centuries of human sorrow to slay enemies into conquering graves and to thwart evil into heroic darkness.

The promised aroma of victory mingling in the meadows homeward has been tendered and waits for the inhaling.

35 Comments

  1. This post brings back memories of college when a girlfriend would stay over and leave her scent on a pillow.
    Even after she had left for her apartment, her scent always brought back memories. Even a whiff of another woman with the same perfume could fire up the neurons and bring back memories.
    It’s strange, but I haven’t been away from my wife — even with her filing for divorce — for any period of time to miss her scent.
    I wonder if women’s brains register the same emotions when they smell our scent?

  2. Hi Chris!
    Ah, yes, that’s it! The scent left on the pillow. Jack The Cat slept on Janna’s pillow while she was away and he’s never done that before in the 15 years we’ve had him so there must be a power in smell that moves beyond men and into beast.
    It will be interesting to see if you begin the miss the smell of your wife if you are completely apart for a week or two.
    I am curious to know if a woman has the same reaction to a man!

  3. You are quite right about the power of smell, Dave!
    Janna and I are not much on perfume and cologne — her smell comes from her sweat and the small amount of aroma in her shampoo and body soap.
    Too much artificial smell can lead to danger by clouding real threats to nose, throat and body. Because of allergies there are several big businesses in New Jersey that do not allow people to wear artificial scents while working.
    Scented toilet paper does no good to anyone! Leave it alone and leave along the TP with dye on it, too!

  4. I’ve noticed that most people are pretty good about not wearing too much cologne or perfume.
    But, I remember days in high school smelling people who bathed in cologne. The worst were people who splashed on fragrances to cover up lack their lack of personal hygiene.
    There’s also the opposite extreme of not using any type of perfume (or soap). I remember seeing two beautiful young women on the London Tube during the summer in 1994. (They weren’t English from the language they were speaking).
    I decided to move a little closer to maybe say hello, but recoiled in horror when I realized they probably needed to splash on a little perfume, if not spend a little time in the shower.

  5. The women were beautiful Italians in their early 20s.
    Too bad they didn’t have some French perfume because I wouldn’t have moved away so quickly after working my way over to them in the subway car.

  6. Hi Chris!
    Yeah! There are a lot of people who use perfumes and pomades instead of a shower! Yikes!
    Sometimes even aftershave can cause people to recoil in an “Old Spice” moment of revulsion from their childhoods!
    Many of the newer men’s lines from Clinique to Loreal to Neutrogena to Nivea now have “allergen free” which means “fragrance free” and that’s always a good thing. Most men don’t like to smell too much even if it is a “good” sort of smell.

  7. Ah! You’re in a car! I didn’t get that from your story. So, yes, the windows are “up” in a car.
    It’s interesting how on the East Coast in NY and CT people with double-hung windows in their houses prefer to open the top window instead of the lower window because, they claim, it “cools faster” because the cold air comes in and falls on your head instead of coming in the lower window and falling on the floor.

  8. As I remember from grade school history class, the French did popularize perfume, if they didn’t invent it outright. It was believed that bathing could cause a person to contract the plague. I could be wrong.
    Women do indeed experience the same reaction to smell. I’ve been searching for a article I had read about the genetic correlation between smell and a potential mate’s dna. I can’t find it, so I’ll paraphrase what I remember.
    The study had 25 different men wear a plain white t-shirt for a few days. The men were asked to go about their daily lives, and not wear any cologne or perfumes. After 2 or 3 days, the shirts had acquired their natural scent, much like your wife’s pillow. The T-shirts were collected and put into plain paper bags.
    25 different women were asked to smell the bags containing the t-shirts, and decide which ones smelled the sexiest to them. Comparing the dna of the women to the men they deemed the sexiest by sense of smell alone, the reachers found that the dna of the ‘sexiest’ men were genetically the most different from the dna of the women. The dna of the men that smelled the least sexiest showed significantly similar genetic markers to the women’s dna. The conclusion was that women using their sense of smell to determine who would be an attractive mate allows the women to choose a mate with the most diverse dna from their own, thereby decreasing possible genetic defects in their offspring.
    I’ve always noticed that if I like a man’s natural scent, I know there will be pretty good chemistry between us, and I haven’t been wrong yet. it also explains why I won’t peruse a intimate relationship with a man who doesn’t smell good to me. I always followed my sense of smell, but never really noticed I was doing it until I read the article.
    Strange, i’ve always wondered if men felt the same way about a women’s scent.
    P.S., After you hug your girl goodbye, you can smell your lapel for her scent after she’s gone.

  9. I knew a couple of strippers back when I was younger and wilder. They knew the power of scents as it related to their business.
    They’d try to not splash on super huge amounts of perfume because they knew that their customers’ wives might smell it if the man got a lapdance. (Same thing for lipstick — if they gave a customer a kiss, they’d make sure to wipe of the evidence from their patron’s cheek before he left the club).
    Also, the strippers seemed to think that using vanilla-type food scents seemed to attract men more than the fancier fragrances. Something about food smells stimulated men to spend more than they would otherwise.

  10. Hi Ingrid —
    Thanks for the outstanding comment and welcome to the blog!
    I remember that study you mention, but I didn’t remember DNA opposites being a part of the mix. That’s interesting.
    I do remember another study done recently that found the ordinary smell of a man’s underarm has a soothing chemical effect on women and that is why many women are drawn to taller men so they can fit their nose near his armpit while in a standing embrace.
    I do react to how a woman smells when she chooses to splash herself with “smell advertising” — the sharp, harsh, flowery scents turn me off — I am reminded of grandmothers and of death of antiseptic hospitals and I would never choose to hang with a woman romantically or in friendship if I had to have that particular scrubbed sense of death about me. I appreciate the earthy aromas — cinnamon and vanilla and coffee beans are always good!

  11. Dave —
    I remember cinnamon rolls were the number one smell for men and I think the second was pumpkin pie.
    They say when you sell your house to bake cookies in your oven and offer them on the kitchen table during your Open House. The aroma of the cookies sells your house because it feels warm and familiar.
    Your analysis of gender roles based on smell is interesting, Dave. I wonder if there is any hard research that addresses your argument.

  12. One of these days, I’ll have to do a little writing about strippers!
    I used to write reviews for a strip club website that provided free membership in exchange for the write-ups. If I stopped in a city someplace, I’d try to stop by to get a sense of the place and talk to some of the dancers. I haven’t been to a club for a while, but I’m sure the more things change, the more they stay the same.
    I usually went during the day, so it was easier to converse than during the peak times. I also wasn’t bothered to tip as much or pay cover charges during the day.

  13. David, I feel for you! Jack the cat on Janna’s pillow instead of Janna…? I am afraid one day he is going to call you in a sword fight! 😀
    Colognes and perfumes instead of a shower??? I am from a tropical country where if you plan to go for a day without a shower you better call an ambulance beforehand – because your family members are surely going to beat you up and your neighbors will willingly participate in it because of your “sweaty aroma!” Even in Wisconsin here I shower twice a day.
    A man, I think smells best when he comes out of a shower – it’s a mixed smell of everything – gel, shampoo, aftershave…that creates the magic.
    I better shut my mouth now.

  14. I don’t know about the underarm study, but if a man is the same height as me I can nestle my nose and mouth into the nape of his neck and breathe him in until I become intoxicated by his scent. I’m not sure I’d like to do that to his armpit.
    Dave,
    Your theory is interesting. Perhaps it is the other way around? The men toiled, and the women connected the scent with being a good provider, and therefore attractive? And vise versa?
    I feel that we have lost much of our animal abilities (acute sense of smell, ability to determine danger) as the human species has evolved to our current state, so perhaps we’ll never know.
    I’ve noticed that the smell of cooking invokes the same reaction in both men and women. Breath in deeply, make a comment about how good it smells, and relax.
    They say the way to a man’s heart is though his stomach. I suppose that after a shower I could barbecue some meat and head on out to meet someone. Scent of a woman + barbecue = irresistible!
    The way to a women’s heart? Make her laugh. In the sword fight, my money is on David to win, Jack the cat to show(Jack the cat does not have opposable thumbs):)

  15. Dear Ingrid —
    I hope you don’t think I’m less of a man for confessing this, but Jack The Cat is stronger and much more powerful than me. He smells better, too. He plows a better field. He is better fed. His bathroom habits are better than mine. He runs faster. He has better hair. He is practiced in the way of Bedroom Eyes. He’s tender when he wants to be and cute always. This man cannot compete with that beast because even through our evolution I have yet to meet a woman who would pick a smelly man over a purring cat!

  16. David,
    Looks like I would have lost my money. I will remember to study all contenders much more closely before placing another bet. Jack The Cat sounds like quite an opponent!

  17. Dear Ingrid —
    Thank you for understanding and we feel for your loss. You are not alone. Jack wipes out all bettors and when it comes to a 12 pound bi-color Persian with 11 pounds of hair, you always bet on Black. And White.
    The most humiliating part of the whole thing is I am the one who gives Jack his weekly bath. I am the one who primes and primps the King of Beasts for drinking in all that love!

  18. I wish I could be “Jack the whatever…”(except the Ripper, definitely!)in my next life just to get that kind of pampering!!!
    What a lucky cat, rather Jack!

  19. ???
    I think I better be a human being; I don’t want to give up my reading habit…(way better than bathing in ‘god knows what…!’) 😀

  20. I just thought I’d give ya’ll a little medical background info on smell and memory. The reason these are so intertwined is because of the region on the brain that is involved with smell (primary olfactory cortex) is adjacent to that of memory (hippocampus) as well as emotion (amygdala). That would explain why, when sometimes you smell something, it brings back memories.
    This is also the basis of aromatherapy (the link between smell and emotion)

  21. You mentioned armpits – I can vouch that if I put my nose into the right armpit, it’s the biggest aphrodisiac ever! The fresher the better of course, but I even like the smell of my boyfriend’s sweaty old t-shirts – in fact, i sleep with one if he is ever away.
    I’ve had my nose in a few different armpits over the years and only two different guys have affected me so strongly. In either case i only have to be standing a metre or so away from them to react to their natural scent. And if I am ovulating – watch out! Of course I try to steer clear of one of them nowadays haha.
    For me, the natural smell of my boyfriend is all i need – and it’s better than perfume because I never have to worry about smelling his smell on someone else walking past in the street.
    This is also better if you’ve broken up and you don’t want to be reminded of them ever again!
    It’s a pity in this modern world that people are so influenced by marketing that they feel they would have to pay for pheromones. Doesn’t anyone see how ridiculous that is! Each of us has a natural scent that will attract the right partner(s) – it’s just a matter of getting out there and letting your senses lead you to them, and them to you!

  22. Ahhh… the scent of a man. I have a thing for the smell of a man’s armpits first thing in the morning when he hasn’t had a shower since the morning before and he’s worked hard physically the day before.
    I’ve started dating a guy in the past month or so who loves the smell of my feet, and between the two of us and our scent turn ons we’re one crazy aroused couple.
    I’d love to say I think it’s going to go somewhere serious, but I just don’t know.
    So guys… I don’t know about your women… but if I’m one with this particular affliction I’m sure there are others. Let yourselves sweat uninhibited… it’s damn sexy.

  23. Funny I found this by searching for a problem that my wife and I have. Every 2 weeks I come home and we have a great reunion and then the next day she has her period. It is so bad she has to Iron pills because she has so many periods. I didn’t know that she was that used to me. We have been together for 30+ years.