The husband bent down to kiss the cheeks of his friend’s bed-ridden grandma. “Mmm, you smell great,” she murmured, taking in the scent of Kouros perfume that I had so lovingly bought for him in duty-free. Looks like I wasn’t alone. I’m one of those people who are charmed by a good smell, or conversely, put off by an unappealing one.
The smell of love
The jury is still out on human pheromones, much to my disappointment. I genuinely believed in them until recently, when a study poured cold water on all researches on the relevance of human pheromones in sexual attraction. Alas, I thought, as it shattered my theories on why I fell in love with the husband or rather why I didn’t reject him as I evaluated the prospect of marrying him.
Smell is important for me not only because I work in the industry, but also because I evaluate all aspects of anything based on smell.
How do I check the quality of mangoes? By smelling them. What was my foolproof method of checking whether my twin boys had soiled their diapers? By shoving my nose on their bums. How did I decide the husband was worth dating? Because he didn’t stink by the end of the day, nor did I detect a trace of bad breath as he spoke. Why do I push my children away when they come home after playtime? Unfortunately, my maternal love is defeated hands-down in the face of their sweaty and smelly clothes. I can love them only when they are scrubbed clean. Yes, I’m a bad mother.
So going back to pheromones. Apparently, pheromones linked to sex and attraction in humans are too complex to understand. However, babies respond to a pheromone-like substance in mother’s milk and this could form the basis of study on pheromones. Didn’t old wives’ tales encourage new moms by saying your child can recognise you by your smell? Perhaps the logical conclusion is pheromones.
The scent of a man
Even if modern science trashes the existence of my favourite chemical, I have my own take on how smell is important as far as my marriage is concerned.
The husband, in an attempt to smell good until the end of the day, douses himself with deodorant right after a bath. During my early pregnancy, the trail of scent that he left behind would play the same role that the smell of food played for the sleeping Kumbhakarna and would rouse me from my torpor and trigger a bout of nausea that propelled me out of bed instantly.
On the other hand, this devout South Indian man prayed every morning and evening at the household altar and applied a generous quantity of vibhuti or holy ash on his forehead, making it hard for me to profess romantic feelings for him as I snuggled next to him. The holy smell drove away any sexual or intimate intentions I might have had the moment I drew myself closer to him and forced me to shift away and think pure thoughts.
One day, the spouse bought a certain strong smelling deodorant that ensured I could smell him before I could see him. This made me cringe with embarrassment. Being the perfume expert in the house, I advised him to go easy on the deodorant and dab the Hugo Boss sitting on his shelf for an effect that would be gentler to the senses.
“But that is expensive,” the spouse commented. “I use it only during special occasions.”
I gave him what I hoped was a seductive look and played to his baser senses. “Don’t you wish to smell sexy for me? Look, it has citrus and woody notes. It is perfect for office wear, suitable for you because you are the boss and it is my favourite scent.” The spouse looked unconvinced. This wasn’t easy. I checked the pack date. “Anyway, it will expire in six months. You are better off using it.”
It’s all in the senses
That did the trick. The husband learned the art of applying perfume on strategic points like the pulse points on the wrist, behind the ears and the neck and supported it with a not so generous application of deodorant. I admit this did wonders to how I felt towards him every morning as we hugged before leaving for work.
I made a mental note to pick the right deodorants that would linger throughout the day without assailing the senses and another list of possible fragrances to buy for him to make him smell just right for me. So, that was how I bought Kouros perfume, which enchanted not only me but the ancient grandma of his friend. Was it time to look for another perfume?