Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

More Dubious Holidays, and Senses

Siri Ann decided that rather than merely being Beat Mrissa's Butt Day, it was Torture Everybody Day. She announced this having thoroughly vanquished markgritter, though she did, in fact, beat my butt several times. There you have it: Torture Everybody Day. An even more dubious holiday. Though if your idea of torturing me involves bringing me chocolate hazelnut torte...well, darn anyway. What a horrible fate for me. I think the Geneva Conventions are involved somewhere in there.

Writing about being scent-oriented has gotten me into several conversations about it off lj. Some quasi-random thoughts:

Having a strong sense of smell means that if I am a close enough friend to hug you or even stand fairly close, I know what your body smells like. If you use scented soap, deodorant, etc., I also know what those things smell like. But unless you bathe in cologne, they will only be...notes in the chord, for lack of a better analogy. A very strong cologne will be like someone wearing a bright optical illusiony shirt: it will draw the attention more, but if you feel like it the other stuff is still sense-able.

People often say things like, "Oh, don't hug me, I'm all sweaty." To me, this is like saying, "Don't hug me, my shirt is a very bright color." Yes, it is...and it still is when I'm at arm's length from you. If you're near enough that I can hear you and might be trying to hug you, you're near enough that I can smell your sweatiness already. This is okay. There are worse things than fresh, active, healthy human sweat. I would have a heck of a lot less fun in life if I got upset at smelling somebody sweaty, even if I do smell it more strongly than most people.

You know all those old old SF stories where they tried to come up with scent symphonies or other similar new art forms? It's probably your fault we don't have those things. Instead we have things like the abomination that is Yankee Candle, because most people don't have a strong enough or delicate enough sense of smell to appreciate carefully composed scents. The ones who do are often involved in the perfume industry, which tries much harder to be a marketing (of you) industry than an art form or even an entertainment. Unless you-all start marrying us for our noses or genetically engineering kids for better smell, we'll probably never get scent compositions on a widespread or serious level.

Most foods I don't like are foods whose texture I don't like. This is lucky, since I can't un-smell what you're eating if you're eating with me. Or maybe luck isn't the dominant factor at all.

We don't have as much scent vocabulary as I could use. Much of it is either taste vocabulary or analogy vocabulary ("like grass" or "like wet wool"). My mom and I can communicate about scent because we can smell equal amounts of stuff and have talked about it for awhile. Unfortunately, none of this is intuitive; someone else with a strong sense of smell will not automatically know what we mean that something smells "sort of to the left and up." So if you ask what you smell like and I list off a couple of things like your soap and your lotion and then wave my hands and say "like a [your name]," it's just that I lack vocabulary. Or that the vocabulary I have would sound unpleasant when the reality is not.

Scent-sensitive people learn not to talk about a lot of this stuff. If you share your home with people and smell that they are ill, it's not considered polite to offer them remedies for the sniffles they haven't mentioned (at best; at worse, it's considered a little crazy). It is perfectly polite to tell your friends that you were thinking about what they were saying after they'd gone, even that you could hear their voice in your head repeating something to you, but telling them that you were happy to smell them in your house or clothing after they'd gone is generally not nice, or else implies more than you might want it to. It sounds more intimate to people than sight or sound, and yet it's unavoidable. Unintended intimacy, I guess. But you can't warn people by saying, "if I hug you, I will smell you," because that's...more than a little weird, frankly.

porphyrin mentioned that her sense of smell had been heightened during pregnancy, and that this was not uncommon. I don't think it's the same experience. I used the analogy of cochlear implants with her, and it's what I believe: it is entirely different to have a strong sense from birth than to get it later. People with cochlear implants have to work very, very hard to learn to filter the data they're receiving and place it in context. People with "normal" or excellent hearing do it automatically. Also, most of us are not nauseated a lot of the time, which helps.

Some smells are perfectly bearable at one strength and horrible at another. I once got a shampoo that felt to me like someone had made a mint truncheon and was attempting to rhythmically beat the inside of my nostrils with it. I like mint. Not that much mint.

When they discontinue my lotion and I have to choose new, it feels like a stranger is following me around the house, hovering at my shoulder, for days and days. Same for the hand soaps we have in the bathroom, shampoos, body wash, detergent, and dish detergent. I do not change such products lightly. It's very distracting when I do.

Okay, enough spamming my friends page for one day. I'm going to poke the book with a long metaphorical stick and then get some rest.

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