One scorching summer day when I was living in New York City, my friend Chris and I met up in Union Square. When I first saw him he was covered in sweat, and he looked exhausted. He explained that he had felt adventurous that day and had opted to walk an at least five mile trek across the city from his apartment in Williamsburg rathar than to take the train as usual. Anyway, we were about to take off on our own excursion when he confessed that he was nervous that he smelled. Being the great friend that I am, I agreed to discretely smell under his arm for him (no judgement, please). So I think he pointed up at something, I quickly sniffed his direction, and told him he was all good. His fear of being repulsive was quelled and we went on our way.
It wasn’t until later when we were inside the DKNY store that I somehow caught a second whiff of him and realized that my first hurried analysis was wrong. Chris actually smelled pretty bad. At this point though, I thought it really wouldn’t be much use to say something. It was just the two of us, we were walking mostly outdoors, everything smells in the city anyway, and what could he really do to remedy it at this point? Plus, I’d already told him he smelled fine.
Anyway, we ended up having one of those freak NYC afternoons where we ran into people he knew like crazy, including a love interest and some old friends of his. Then there was really no way to tell him. So I just let him stink, I guess. Afterwards I told him and he got kinda mad at me. That was definitely the least effective time I could’ve said something, but at that point it was a little funny too, and I couldn’t keep it to myself. Now we both get a good laugh out of it, and luckily he’s forgiven me for my unintentional treachery.
I tell this story not to incriminate my friend, but only to bring up the point that it sucks (a) when you suspect that you may smell bad (b) when you actually smell bad, and (c) when there’s nothing you can do about it. I’ve had plenty of days when I get somewhere and have an unsettling suspicion that I’ve forgotten deodorant, which feels the same to me as not remembering whether or not the candles are out or the garage door is down. It would be nice to be assured that we smell pleasant and aren’t driving people away.
Which has led me to my latest line of research. I’m going to be investigating what determines a person’s scent, how certain scents are interpreted, and what power scent has over us. With so many unfounded claims about all of these topics, its been a bit of a dig to find what’s legitimate information, but it’s all very interesting and pretty useful. As I learn, I’ll post my findings for you to see too.