Serge Lutens, a popular perfumer, describes perfume as "a choice, a weapon, a courteous gesture." Smell.dating took this weapon from me and made me examine why I felt I needed it so much, and then dared me to use scent itself more intimiately and with kindness. I’d forgotten that was a possibility with beauty for awhile, there: that it can in fact give you second chances, that maybe being stripped of your weapons is what you might need or want. Forget meeting potential dates in bars, or flipping through endless profiles on OKCupid.There’s a new kind of speed dating in town that doesn’t require you to brush your hair, pick out a great outfit, or even pose for a profile picture, according to The Daily.All you have to do is be willing to air your dirty laundry. 25 year-old Atlanta-based artist Judith Prays is the mind behind this smell-based dating trend, and she made it official in 2010 when she threw her first Pheromone Party in New York City.Speaking from experience, I definitely smell better than testicles I’ve still ended up interested in. I imbued it with leather because I wear leather jackets all the time, and their collars are naturally always mixed in Tom Ford perfumes. I got it sweaty and took it off to drown in the vetiver incense of the room. And then my 10 potential matches came, in little dime bags with sharpied numbers. [I did match with them.] 90 smelled liked someone actually lived in it, and weren’t afraid, like I was. (Sex smell would have been totally fine, too.) The next two smell very similar to me — workout sweat of salt and musk.When I sent it back to be matched, I sighed because it didn’t smell like anything in particular to me, because I am so used to those smells in the room. And so, freshly showered and away from the smells of my kitchen, my cat, or my wardrobe, I stuffed my face in the smell of strangers shirts, and took notes on each one. I smothered my face in it and imagined where all that life came from. Did they attend the same soul cycle class or something? The other three smelled variously of comforting cotton, grass…. I wasn’t as fascinated with them as the other, but I didn’t dislike them, so I was open to learning more.I’ve long thought of perfume as my favorite psychological weapon in the art of seduction: invisible, and fraught with potential to push you into lust or horror with such a grace that you can’t see coming.Perfume is like language in the way that it can wound and seduce at the exact same time. When my system is so shocked by the opener of a perfume, I’m forced to stop to examine it like a sensory car crash — watch it unfold in glorious detail, to examine the remains and smoke and ruin.
I don’t wake up and smell like burning forests and dryads and gold — I pay my way into that illusion. I wore jasmine scented all natural deodorant and sprayed my favorite perfume in the air of my room and walked around the scent plume — I wasn’t it, so to speak, but if a few molecules dropped on the cotton then IT WAS MERELY A COINCIDENCE, YOUR HONOR.
I matched with 7 people immediately — I don’t remember clicking "yes" to meeting 7, just 3, but I am less upset and more curious about this fluke in the algorithm. I reverse google’d the ones I could and eliminated some from the blandness of their instagrams (I’m shallow).
This is a sense of victory Tinder has seldom given me. Looking them up illuminated an entirely new profile around their shirt samples.
Given that I have a spectacularly depressing success rate of matches vs actual communication on Tinder, I figured nothing could really be worse than what is already uneventful. For smell.dating, they require of you a few things: I sent in the money and promptly forgot about it until I got the shirt in the mail. At the same time, a growing body of research suggests that a person's genetic compatibility, gender, age, and predisposition to illness are reflected in their "smell signature." Even in blinded experiments, subjects' smell preferences align broadly with their sexual desires." So my questions then inevitably became: how do I hack this shirt to make sure everyone who smells me falls in love with me?
Before I started, I thought having my control over scent taken away from me would be fun, but now I realized that it was actually terrifying and vulnerable in ways I hadn’t bargained for. What if this experiment just proved my deepest fear: that I am utterly unremarkable?