"The scent without what their body does to it is like trying to recreate love bites with a hoover"
Take a vox pop on the tube, ask around your office, even text your best mate – would any of them like to sleep with your dirty, stinky t-shirt over their pillow for the night? The answer will probably be no. Yet it’s got to be one of the most endearing parts of the human condition that we find ourselves, during those long nights when a lover has gone away on a work trip, or a partner has left for the final time, covering our pillow in their laundry, trying to suck in their scent before it fades.
It’s never as simple as buying the same brand of perfume, spraying their deodorant or cologne around the room, because it’s them that MADE the scent magic. The scent without what their body does to it is like trying to recreate love bites with a hoover. It’s the difference between the smell of cigarettes and whiskey on the breath of someone you love, and some slimy dude leering over you in a pub and coughing in your face. One woman’s perfume really is another woman’s poison.
When my boyfriend and I broke up a few months ago now, I immediately ransacked the laundry basket, pulled out a dirty shirt and clung to it all night in bed. This was back when I was still crying, when I couldn’t imagine how I was going to continue having a life with him. But, as his things left the flat, photos were put away and the rotas of best mates coming over with wine and cake began to calm down, I realised it was for the best. I cleaned, washed everything and then I finally downloaded some swipey dating apps.
It’s in equal measure amazing and terrifying how much fun being completely judgemental can be. He’s dressed up as a terrifying clown? No question about it, swipe left. He says he doesn’t want to know women who’ve ever been on mental health medication? Left. He mentioned gin, beards and cats dozens of times in his blurb. Ok, I get it, you’ve discovered gin, you like to think of yourself as making bold facial hair choices and you’ve noticed women like cat memes. LEFT.
Within five minutes of chat he’s asking what you’re wearing in bed and accusing you of being a prude when you don’t immediately want to provide Whatsapp porn for his evening pleasures. It’s almost like swipey apps were invented to showcase bozos, but then it’s easy being self righteous about the non starters, it gets way harder when you start chatting to someone you think you could really fall for. You have to catch yourself and remind yourself that you don’t know really know the things about them that would make you fall - what their accent sounds like, how they laugh – all those ethereal parts of a potential partner you just can’t sample in an app – particularly their scents.
No wonder in the past few years pheromone parties have sprung up as an alternative way of finding your match. It’s the mirror opposite to left swiping.
That combo of detergent, air fresheners, materials, food, toiletries and products, all marinating in their sweat and pheromones, all making the notes in their perfume so spellbinding you have no option but to nuzzle into their neck. No wonder in the past few years pheromone parties have sprung up as an alternative way of finding your match. It’s the mirror opposite to left swiping.
For those that aren’t aware, this is where a relationship begins with a dirty t-shirt, rather than ending. Imported over to the UK from LA you wear a shirt for 3 nights in bed, bring it in a sealed bag to the party and you all take turns snuffling these little packages over the course of the evening, hopefully being matched with someone who loves your bed smell too. It’s like pigs looking for truffles.
The wonderful thing about choosing a date from their smell is that it takes the brain out of the game. As opposed to looking at someone's face and judging based on bias and fashion, or reading someone’s self conscious blurb with all the empathy of a music journalist receiving an over zealous and cheesy band bio – Coldplay meets Drake on acid – you have to close your eyes, let the logic leave you and go with something deeper. It’s like listening to a person as if they were music. It’s soulful, you can’t be pretentious when it comes to sweat.
If only we could smell potential dates through our phones. We wouldn’t try to use so many clever turns of phrase to explain the unexplainable about ourselves. We wouldn’t all end up sounding the same, that mantra of how we all love traveling, box sets and attempting to be fit. If you love someone’s smell you’re already falling in love, especially if it’s not perfect, if it’s got some stank in it.
It’s only when it’s gone that you realise how beautiful the smell of that stressed out, sweaty, mid week mix of a musty suit with hastily ordered curry on the way home is. That is what love is. Why else would we miss smells that would horrify others? Why else would we sleep with dirty laundry?