Drinking coffee upset my mother’s stomach, but she loved the smell of freshly brewed coffee. When I came home from school after my mother had hosted a group or club, as she cleaned up she would empty the coffee pot last, and I’d watch her breath deeply and smile. Now her dementia has diminished her appreciation of favorite smells, and she no longer responds to coffee, fresh pineapple, frying bacon, or the scents of lilacs or roses.
The power of smell is undeniable. My favorite descriptions in books are often about scent. One of my favorites is from author Neil Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS: “The house smelled musty and damp, and a little sweet, as if it were haunted by the ghosts of long-dead cookies.”
This week I was surprised to learn about a new plan for matching up couples. Those of you looking for perfect mates can forget about going online, trying speed dating or lunch-only meetings, filling out long questionnaires or trusting the blind dates arranged by friends. Instead, trust what your nose tells you.
Several services offer matching mates by smell. One of them, Smell of Success, sends each participant a T-shirt to wear for 3 days—no using deodorants, powders, colognes or after shaves allowed—then mail back the T-shirt. Each person will receive at least 10 samples cut from the shirts of other participants to sniff at their leisure. After they choose, the service provides phone numbers. (Currently, this service is available only in New York.)
Before my dad died of Alzheimer’s, he and my mother were married more than sixty years. I remember once asking Mom what made her fall in love with Dad when he was a gangly kid in high school. She laughed and said, “Well, it wasn’t how he smelled. He used this goop stuff in his hair, and he wore more Old Spice than my brothers and their friends put together.”
This from the woman who loved the smell of coffee but couldn’t drink it without getting an upset stomach. Yet she fell in love—and stayed in love—with my over-scented dad. Ah, the surprising power of true love.