What could we have been thinking?
When I was a kid, there were two kinds of candles in my world. First, there was the tall, skinny kind that would sleep quietly all year long in that kind of flat little drawer in the dining room until Thanksgiving day, when they got ritually melted onto the tablecloth.
The other kind were much smaller and lived in a kitchen drawer with the screwdriver and the superglue until your birthday, when they got ritually melted onto your birthday cake. In either case, the only real aromas involved with these candles came from the sulfur in the matches when you lit them and that burned-wick smell when you blew them out.
Man, how the world has changed!
Just about every husband has been through the trial-by-nostril of accompanying his wife into a modern candle store. When the door opens you have to actually lean against the wall of fragrance that blasts out of the place. And if you know what’s good for you, you crank up your best beatific smile for when she gives you that look of ecstasy and says, “Mmmmmm, doesn’t this place just smell scrumptious?”
Your entire mission in the candle store is to follow her around with that smile frozen on your face while she shoves candles under your nose and says things like, “Oooh, this smells just like applesauce and garlic with just a hint of thyme!”
OK, I’ll admit that the candle in question really does smell just like applesauce and garlic with just a hint of thyme, and that is a part of my problem. You see, I happen to want all of the substances in my life that smell like food to be food. You can actually buy a candle that smells exactly like mashed potatoes, but I doubt that any amount of butter and salt would make it work out particularly well next to a chunk of meat loaf.
So as my son and I were staggering through the candle store, fighting for breath and watching wives treat their husbands to periodic bouts of Cranberry-Pecan-Mountain-Breeze asphyxiation, I began to wonder how the respective sniffers of men and women could be so different.
Think about it – in many respects, your average man has a pretty resilient sense of smell. He can casually plunge his nose into a shirt plucked from the laundry pile, then put that shirt on and wear it to work if the odor doesn’t actually cause a seizure. He can happily chat and drink a beer after a game in a hockey locker room filled with his fellow “Masters” (old guys like me), as house flies swoon and fall dead after violating the airspace over the equipment bags.
A man will even generously share with his friends the most unique smells he encounters; “Hey Ted, give this a sniff – how long do you figure it’s been dead?” And yet, his wife can chase them both into the garage with just a spritz of Artichoke-Gardenia-Cheesecake air freshener.
All I can figure is that a woman possesses a virtually superhuman level of olfactory toughness. She can easily survive for hours at a time in a closed space with a man and the entire range of creative fragrances he can produce, then stroll nonchalantly through the cosmetic department of a department store without supplemental oxygen.
And to think that past generations called them the weaker sex!
Copyright © 2007, Michael Ball