My treasonous nose

Back in high school, a friend and I had a big, BIG, big crush on this one guy. Let’s call him John. He was popular in general, though not a jock, and was definitely the #1 male in the drama department (yes, I was a choir and drama geek). He was the male lead in every production, play and musical. But I digress… So I already had the hots for John. John wore Obsession for Men. I’d never even been interested in finding out what anyone wore, EVER, and here I was, in love with a fragrance. (I’ve even considered wearing it myself. — I’ve heard that’s not as uncommon as one may believe, a woman wearing men’s fragrance.) So my feelings for him transferred to the cologne. Of course, if it had been nasty smelling, I’m sure I wouldn’t have liked it. (I have a killer sense of smell, by the way… I can smell plain Chapstick when applied across the room.) So here I am liking both a young man and his eau d’. Ever since then, the moment I smell that fragrance, I’m back in high school. (I had a good high school experience, so this is not a bad thing.) I’m thinking of him and the plays and the performances and the slumber parties my friends and I had, watching him on tape (our families purchased VHS tapes — back in the day — of our productions) over and over. And over. (We were such typical teenage girls.) But while I remember all of this, and how I felt and what I did, I don’t experience the same types of feelings (i.e., I don’t go all gaga for John at the ripe ol’ age of thirty-something). I do, however, get the general sense of “oh-my-goodness-this-smells-good-who-is-wearing-that-I-need-to-meet-them-I-wonder-if-they’re-cute,” etc. Old habits die hard. This would be a very illustrative example, I believe, of how strong our sense memory is.

/anatomy lesson

OK So at least part of the reason for all of this ado about “sense memory” is literally in our anatomy. Inside our skull, just above and behind our nasal cavity, there is a bone called the ethmoid bone. This bone has something called a cribriform plate. This is a horizontal part of the bone that has many small holes in it (foramina). These holes are where the many projections of the olfactory bulb, our olfactory nerves, pass through. (The olfactory nerve begins in the brain – on each side – CN I.) Here’s a decent image of a lateral view of a saggital section of the nasal cavity. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/835585-overview You can see just how close the olfactory bulb is to our brain and nasal cavity.

/anatomy lesson

Isn’t that fascinating? I love it when things can be explained by our anatomy. So anyway — here I am, smelling this ambrosia-like smell, and then I see who’s wearing it. Enter me running into a cartoon brick wall (doooiiiiing). Yeah, not so cute. Missing some teeth, actually. Not quite approaching carnie, but too close for comfort. (I have a thing about teeth.) So how do our psyches deal with this smell-sight disagreement? Can it damage our attachment to a certain smell/sight/sound? I’m not so sure about that. My correspondence was created so long ago, and it wasn’t a one-off. It seriously had 4 years of conditioning/strengthening. I think that puppy’s here to stay. (I just have to make sure that the next person I date — whenever that is — is open to wearing Obsession for Men once in a while. Then I will erase any surprising, uhem, not-so-attractive associations that have affronted my previously hard-won smell-sight correspondence.)

Have you had any experiences that have been jarring to any of your senses? Please share!

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