SparkNotes Blog

Life Without A Sense Of Smell

Dear thenameselodie: this post is so good that we actually stopped eating our lasagna ravioli in order to give it our full attention. Now THAT’S love.—Sparkitors

Life without a sense of smell…

Just kidding. I think that’s what everyone expects me to say, though. My friends stared at me, dumbfounded, when I told them, as though they couldn’t possibly imagine such a pitiful existence. But the simple fact of it is, I’ve never been able to smell before, so I have no idea what I’m missing.

I can telepathically sense you doubting the statement I have no sense of smell. Yes, I’m serious. No, I’m not making it up. Yes, it is weird. No, there is no truth to the rumor that I’m dating Tyler Brunsman (Lucius Malfoy in AVPM… swoon), but I’m working on that.

As a kid, I faked it: I would copy my parents’ reactions to smells. I wasn’t hiding it; I just didn’t know any different. I don’t know what I thought, exactly—maybe that everyone had this made-up concept called “smell” and that we all just navigated our way through life pretending. I think I figured it was something that would come to me as I got older. I thought all my classmates were in the same boat as me. Little did I know that they had boarded the “Ability to Detect Odors” yacht while I was chugging along alone in my little “I’ve Been Traumatized By Scratch-and-Sniff Stickers” dinghy.

It wasn’t until fourth grade that my mom dragged me to the allergy doctor to find out if I had fallen victim to the same crippling spring sneeze-a-thon as my parents. After being told that I was allergic to pollen, grass, and cats, the doctor threw in, “And, oh yeah, she has no sense of smell. Have a great day.” This startling tidbit made all my relatives feel suddenly really awkward about all the perfume they’d given me that Christmas (bottled perfume is something that will never cease to confuse me. Names like “Moonlight Passion” and “Dancing Waters” are the most deliberately unhelpful names on the face of this earth) not to mention the T-shirt my uncle got me that quoted Spongebob: “I smell the smelly smell of something that smells… smelly.”

No one seems to have a clue what causes anosmia, which is the scientific term for it. I’m guessing it’s caused by the same thing that doomed me to a life of allergies and impossibly curly hair: genetics. My parents were somehow able to spawn not just one, but two nasal-damaged kids. My little brother can’t smell either. You’d think we’d be really gross people who live like pigs and walk around in a state of perpetual BO, but that’s not the case. I’m pretty odor-conscious—but my brother’s a fourteen-year-old boy, and in the face of sharing a bathroom with him, I’m suddenly glad I’ll be spared the odors associated with that.

By far the biggest misconception is that people who can’t smell have no sense of taste. Not entirely true. I’ve still got taste buds—sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. But distinctions in flavor are made possible by your sense of smell. Ever eat with a cold? I imagine that’s what it’s like.

I’ve had my fair share of embarrassing incidents. In the second grade, we were learning about the five senses. Our teacher had us close our eyes as she went around putting objects under our noses for us to smell. We would then write down what we thought it was. For the kids in my class, it was fun. For me, it was nothing short of traumatizing. The teacher called on me once to say what I thought the odor was. I panicked. What could I do? What could I say? I hated this little game, and I hated Mrs. Lewis, and furthermore I hated everyone else for knowing all the answers when I didn’t. Instead of, like, I don’t know, saying “I’ll pass,” I instead blurted out, “MONEY!” (At that age, I felt sure that money had a distinct odor.) The correct answer was laundry detergent. The class laughed. I cried.

All in all, I don’t mind having no sense of smell. I mean, sure, I can’t smell cookies baking, if there’s a fire I’ll be the last one to know, and when the milk goes bad I’ll be in for a nasty surprise. But that one time I forgot to add water to the Mac and Cheese and our kitchen, according to my father, smelled distinctly of road kill for the next three days—yeah, that was pretty hilarious. He taunts me continuously with comments like “Man, the smell of popcorn is probably my favorite thing in the world. Too bad for you.” So I felt fully justified in laughing at him.

Wow! This is such a fascinating post—do you guys  have any questions for elodie?