- Gender and Relationships
It's kind of a smelly story ...
Pepe le Pew
Every night around 10pm, I walk my dog outside through my neighborhood before bed. About seven times out of ten, I encounter a skunk somewhere on our walk. I used to be more alarmed about it, but now it seems as though we're used to each other - me, my dog, and Pepe le Pew. I suppose like any nocturnal creature, he's looking for the things skunks look for at night. I, on the other hand, look for the opposite.
So the other morning, imbedded in the newspaper that I seldom read, is an article about a new matchmaking phenomenon called pheromone parties. At these events, organizers ask guests to submit a slept-in t-shirt, to be smelled by other participants, so they could get a sense of attraction to the other person by their pheromones (i.e. does this person smell like someone I want to know?)
Okay. On its face, it does sound a little ridiculous. But, it's not as though we haven't done some ridiculous things in the world of dating. We place so much on the value of the visual attraction, many unwittingly date psychopaths. So, perhaps they're on to something.
So here's how this apparently works. Guests sleep in a t-shirt for three nights in a row, to capture their "odor print", which they bring to the party in a Ziploc bag to preserve the scent. Each baggie is given a blue or pink label, as well as a number - lest we fall in love with the scent of Larry the Lumberjack when we still pine for Lucinda the Landscape Architect. Bags are placed on tables and guests open and smell the color and number-coded Ziploc bags in between their margaritas.
If you like the smell of pink baggie number seven, you take a photo of you with the bag and that is later embedded into a slide show which is shown to others on a wall. So, if you see Kyle holding your smelly ZZ top shirt and grinning, that's a good sign you're a match made in olfactory heaven. Which some might say is a candle and incense store. Or a chocolate factory. Or a locker room.
The parties started out as an experiment by a woman tired of online dating (all computer monitors pretty much smell the same) and decided to go low-tech to find romance. Low tech meaning primal, base, evolutionary. Pre-Match.com.
Apparently, scientists believe humans can use scent to sort out genetic combinations that could lead to weaker offspring. "Humans can pick up this incredibly small chemical difference with their noses," said Marcia McClintock, founder of the Institute for Mind and Biology at the University of Chicago.
More than a decade ago, Biologist Claus Wedekind of the University of Bern conducted a study where he let female students smell T-shirts been worn by a male test group and tell him which they found to be the most appealing. The study showed that the women consistently chose the men whose immune system was most different from their own.
Either that, or smelled most like Axe body spray...
It's an interesting premise. If you momentarily furrow your brow and purse your lips, perhaps you're a candidate. Certainly with us men, attraction is highly visual. Not sure how much hearing enters into our attraction-meters; witness Fran Drescher. Of course we all make assumptions based on the sound of a sensual voice - the phone sex industry bills millions of dollars every year, fifty cents at a time!
Touch is obvious, but there are certain laws protecting us from strangers rubbing, touching or squeezing us at inopportune moments without our explicit consent. Of course, that could explain high ridership for trains and subway systems. Same goes with taste - so little time, so many people to lick.
Hmm. Licking parties. Can you imagine? I could be on to something!
"Excuse me, you smell wonderful. Can I taste you?"
As far as Pepe, my dog and I, for now, we're going to stick with the visual.