I once had a boyfriend who smelled like nothing. Literally. Sometimes he smelled like cheapy booze, but only after a night of really raging drinking. He never smelled like vomit or garlic or anything! And he was really sweaty, like all blue-eyed, pink-faced individuals. It was unfathomable to me that someone who lived on a steady diet of alcohol, klonopin, nicotine, and pizza could have no fragrance. Not even the perfumiest soap would cling to him.

Coincidentally, I just couldn’t trust him. Ever. Sure, he was an inherently dishonest person, but it took me months to figure that out. But even in the beginning, when he seemed truly devoted to me, I just distrusted him without any actual reason. Further on, when I was consciously aware of actual dishonesty on his part, his lies were never malevolent in nature (until much later, and even then…it was more about his own insecurity and guilty conscience).

I could only attribute my early skepticism to his lack of smell. Because really, everything else about him was pretty appealing: smart, funny, generally a barrel of monkeys when it came to fun and excitement, and decidedly cute (despite his girl pants). And yet I always knew–despite my affection/admiration for him–that he was not the right person for me. I felt like I was in play wherein we were both cast in the parts of “Boyfriend” and “Girlfriend.” Strangers thrust on to the stage to act out the director’s concept of a relationship.

I had a (theoretically) casual friends-with-benefits situation with a tall fellow in Chicago. The smell of this boy’s hair made me lightheaded. Overall we shared few interests and our personalities clashed. Furthermore, I constantly swore that I was cutting it off, because he was a good friend of my ex-boyfriend. It just seemed unethical. But then I would walk by him at a party on my way to the back porch (always the smoke spot in Chicago apartments)…I would be hit with the slightest whiff of his smell…and suddenly I was negotiating complicated rendezvous plans (because everything between us was top secret). “Meet me on the corner of Ashland and Irving Park, and then we can ride to your apartment together.” or “Here is the key to my apartment. Let yourself in and hide your bike in the pantry. I’ll leave the party 15 minutes after you.”

Several years and thousands of miles between us, I saw him again. Giving him the obligatory “wow…here I am” hug, my nose picked up something I had forgotten. Oh, man. He smelled really good. Not at all like the cigarettes he smoked relentlessly. And so soon I was sitting on his sofa pretending to watch cartons while actually mentally mapping out a plan to spend the night in his bed.

So I guess it’s obvious them a weirdo smelling stuff person. I haven’t reached the level of buying dirty underpants on EBay. And really, I believe that a majority of physical attraction is based on super secret pheromones, even if we might like to attribute our lust for someone to good record collections, nice shoes, or pretty eyes. After all, we are all animals, even if we drive cars and post bulletins on MySpace.

Why am I writing about this today? Last night Marlyn was sitting on my bed while I packed my suitcase for LA. I was rummaging through a pile of clothes on my chair, looking for anything appropriate for my trip. I pulled out a t-shirt that was decidedly larger than any of my stuff. Further inspection revealed that it belonged to my recent out-of-town guest. I turned away from Marlyn, covertly smelling it. I’m pretty sure that sheer delight made my eyes roll back in my head briefly. I pulled myself together and tossed the shirt to the opposite corner of my bed.

Fifteen minutes later, mostly done packing, and just hanging out and chatting, the shirt was calling my name. Sure, I was talking to Marlyn about something serious, but all I really wanted to do was rub that shirt all over my face. Finally I just had to say, “I know this is going to seem weird, but I have to smell that shirt for a second.” She laughed.

This morning I was reviewing the inventory of my suitcase, adding a pair of moccasins and my Diana camera. I surveyed my room, looking for anything I might have missed (phone chargers and the like)…when I spotted the shirt in the corner. I tossed it in my luggage, zipping it up as fast as I could before I creeped myself out. Look, travelling can be stressful, especially when it is a business trip. Think of it as aromatherapy. Really creepy aromatherapy.


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