Sense of smell. I know that all of my readers are “sensory” people. We all understand descriptors like “damp”, “bitter”, and “dry” when we speak of fragrance. I find that many of my readers are also foodies and can equally “read” a description of a flavor/taste and understand. As a sensory person, I thought all people had this skill. I spent childhood rubbing various leaves between my fingers, sniffing them, and “filing” those smells in my brain. I spent adolescence sniffing every bottle of perfume I could get my hands on, keeping a journal of scents in a teal composition notebook. I also enjoyed unpleasant odors (sulfur water, mildew) and realized that the sense of smell increases our safety. I thought everyone could detect the smell of a wood fire versus an electrical fire, etc. I thought that we all had smell. I mean they don’t do a routine “smell” screener at the pediatrician like they do with vision and hearing. I believed this until my late teens when I started working at a perfume counter.
I realized that not all people enjoy scents. They don’t wear perfumes and often dislike “smelly” foods and environments. I suppose these people have hyperosmia, an increased ability of smell and this causes them to be easily offended by odors. Others have a “weak” sense of smell, hyposmia, usually describing scents as “good” or “bad”. Some people have temporary or permanent anosmia, an inability to smell. I have been asked by people to help them choose a perfume because they can’t smell. They listed their personality traits and how they would like to be perceived and I would help them find a match. This is when a good looking bottle really pays off in the industry. 😉
Leaving the perfume counter after college and working as a speech therapist, I was introduced to a new aspect in the world of smell and taste. Many of the children I work with have autism or spectrum disorders. Most of these children have sensory integration disorders. This makes the world an even more confusing place for these kids. They avoid foods because of taste and texture. I’ve done no formal research (yet) but most of these kids dislike chocolate, peaches, and most fruit because the “flavor is too strong“. I work on introducing flavors and controlling reactions to these flavors. In extreme cases, when the child doesn’t eat anything, I usually the numb the mouth with ice, decreasing taste, with the hope to diversify diet. These children also need “trained” on smelling, for example, the smell of a fire, for safety. Think of it like a fire drill for the nose. Some of the kids are very aware of smell, others not. I suspect synesthesia in many but they lack the verbal skills to communicate that at this time.
Working with this group, I’ve heard some interesting comments, the sort of comments that only I, a fumehead, would understand:
“I’m not going outside. Do you smell the mushrooms?!” – Yes, I did but nobody else could smell the mycelium. That’s in touch with nature, especially for a 5 year old.
“Motor group smells like Blue crayons and you smell like Peach.” – Peach. Really? That’s the ugliest crayon in the box. I need to rebrand myself. I want to be Robin’s Egg Blue.
“Chocolate melts my face.” – I completely understand. I avoided chocolate 90% of my life because it made me feel uncomfortable. It’s a drug. 🙂
“Peppermint makes the best sound. Lavender is too quiet.” – What does civet sound like?
National Sense of Smell Day is a day to think about and use our sense of smell. My sense of smell is dear to me. It’s my way of exploring and enjoying the world. It’s my hobby; I cook and write about fragrance. All of the things I love to do involve smell: perfume blogging, mushroom hunting, blending spices, cooking, and drinking tea. And my sense of smell has helped me out professionally, never expected that. I often think about going back to school for chemistry. I’m finding myself obsessed with the science end of it all.
Other fragrance bloggers are participating today. Google “Sense of Smell Day” and hopefully, they’ll be there. For more insight of my scent memories and sense of smell, here’s my post.