Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Stop and Smell the Roses by Carol Ross & Amy Vastine



Who could resist stopping for a whiff of these?

This post was originally intended to explore the fascinating and rather mysterious role that pheromones play in physical attraction.  In overly-simplistic and decidedly unscientific terms, pheromones are chemical secretions from one creature that can affect the behavior of another creature of the same species.  Sounds simple, yet intriguing and maybe even a little sexy, too, right?

Definitely some pheromones at work here...
 A quick internet search reveals that there are perfumes and colognes claiming to be chock-full of these “mood creating” pheromones.  But don’t strain your credit card’s limits just yet, because research also reveals that while it widely accepted that pheromones play a role here, scientists have not yet identified the pheromone that acts as a sexual attractant in humans.  (They’ve isolated other pheromones, like fear.)  And they’ve pinpointed the role of this magnetizing pheromone in insects and some mammal species--like pigs and deer.  Thus, hormones from those species are being added to the perfumes with the assumption/hope they will work on people.  Um, a pig attractant?  No thanks... 

Carol dated this one back in the late 80's...
   
But we know those pheromones are there, right?  And the fact is there’s plenty that is potent--and yes, romantic, about the olfactory nerve.  Bottom line--we like things that smell nice--perfume, cologne, shampoo, lotion, potpourri, flowers, food...

And what science has proven is that the sense of smell can stir up some very powerful emotions.  That’s why as writers we often describe the way a scene--or our hero or heroine--smells.  Odors evoke memories, yank us into a mood, and even instantly transport us into the past...   

The way a cozy house filled with a yeasty, cinnamon scent can put you in the middle of Grandma’s kitchen where a fresh batch of pecan sticky buns awaits.

Mmmm....Love You, Grandma!
Or how a whiff of spicy fir boughs conjures up that best-Christmas-ever morning when you finally got that Barbie Malibu Mansion or the red and black, three-speed bicycle of your dreams.
The Sweet Scent of Christmas Memories.
Has anyone ever walked through the perfume counter in a department store and been catapulted back to the prom with their high school sweetheart?  Or had the aroma of a sweet rose remind them of the best Valentine’s Day they’ve ever had?  What scents conjure up your sweetest memories?  Is there a certain sweetness in the air that is guaranteed to take you away?

19 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness! I love smells! So much so that I spent five years as a distributor for Gold Canyon Candles. Nothing brings back memories as well as a good scent does. Every time I get a whiff of hay, I remember climbing to the top of the hay loft in our barn and cuddling up on a blanket with a good book. Nothing was as satisfying as reading in the barn, surrounded by the smell of fresh hay, animal sounds below....add some rain bouncing on the tin roof and I was in heaven! I'm not sure about the science of pheromones, but I think they're different for everyone. For example, I love how my husband smells...even when he comes in from working outside and he's all sweaty and smelly. To me it's a good smell that makes me smile just thinking about it. I read somewhere once that smell is the true sign of compatibility.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my goodness, LeAnne! This is a great one--the smell of hay. My grandparents had a cattle ranch (my uncle runs it now) and the smell of hay takes me back the same way--playing in the barn and "jumping" hay bales. And yes, the science of pheromones is very complex and fascinating!

      Delete
  2. I love this. One of my great gratitudes is that I'm not allergic--I think scents are some of the greatest mood-setters of all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too, Liz. Other than some typical seasonal stuff I get to smell away... And I agree. I think that's a big part of the "comfort food" thing for me. Sometimes if I get down I just want to fill my house with the smell of something cooking.

      Delete
  3. I think pheromone studies are some of the most interesting to read about and, of course, it's an area romance authors want to know about :). I've read that cinnamon is one of the top smells men are attracted to. Hmmm...must be in his mind it's a gal that can feed him.

    And I've have negative smell associations/experiences too (my nose is hypersensitive). Not any villains, but I can't stand the smell of foods that I know I'm allergic to and have had bad experiences after eating. And some perfumes (usually women's...rarely men's cologne) trigger a migraine and make me nauseous, while others I absolutely love and could smell all day. Wish I could figure out the offending ingredient!

    But wonderful scents are awesome!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. P.S. Still laughing at the caption under the pig photo ;).

      Delete
    2. Rula, I am the same way! I'm not a big fan of "chemical" type smells like perfumes and colognes. They also trigger migraines for me, which is interesting and probably why we don't like them, too... I think we could write another blog about the negative feelings smells conjure up!

      Delete
    3. I get migraines, too, often from strong perfumes and soaps. My rule is if I can eat it (vanilla, cinnamon, etc.) then I can probably smell it without a reaction. I love vanilla scents the best. And the smell of a fresh water lake on a sunny day makes me swoon with happiness.

      Delete
  4. So interesting ladies. I avoid all perfume counters because of allergies. And some perfume bases actually make me ill. But I have to say just the picture of Grandma's cinnamon rolls is sending me downstairs to put some in to bake.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Roz, I've been thinking about cinnamon rolls since I saw that photo, too! I'm going to have to make some and I can't wait for the house to fill with that yeasty, sugary, cinnamon smell...

      Delete
  5. Oh, wow. I think I fell in love with Astoria because the smells of salt, fish, diesel, and strong fresh air that survives anyway, reminds me of New Bedford, Mass. where I lived until I was ten. Although Astoria is on the Columbia River (fresh water) the river flows into the Pacific Ocean not very far from us, hence the salty smell.

    A whiff of Emeraude by Coty brings my mother right back to me. And my father, because he used to tease her with, "Are you wearing that hemorrhoids stuff?" And they'd laugh.

    Our candy shop makes caramel corn, winter and summer, and always leaves their door open to snag us. It's heavenly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Muriel, what sweet memories! Those are exactly the kinds of remembrances we had in mind. Funny about your dad! Sound like he and I would get along just fine.

      Delete
  6. I walked out of Walmart at Christmas time and there were Spruce trees leaning agains the building and the aroma took me back to Christmas when I was a kid. I literally stood there for five minutes, smelling those trees! lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patricia, I know what you mean! The smell of spruce reminds me so much of my dad for that reason. He was so crazy about Christmas trees. He and my mom would argue about the size--he wanted the biggest, tallest he could find and my mom always thought a fake one would be nice. Dad always won--of course he had the backing of all five of us kids!

      Delete
  7. When I lived in The Bronx, we had a garlic bagel store behind us. Garlic was with us always and fortunately, I loved the smell. However, absolutely nothing romantic about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love this, Marion! Of course not all of our smell-reminders are going to be romantic, right? There are a few for me, like the smell of chicken manure, that aren't so nice. That smell still reminds me of planting and weeding our HUGE vegetable garden when we were kids...

      Delete
  8. Lovely post about how important scents are to us. Last summer I visited a cousin in Oklahoma and discovered that one corner of her kitchen smelled exactly like her mother's did many years ago, a sort of yeasty, buttermilky scent. Made me so happy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patricia, I love this. Perfect example of the power of scents to transport us. What a wonderful memory.

      Delete
  9. Aromas are definitely memory triggers for me… Johnson’s Baby Shampoo - those precious years when my children were so sweet, little, and freshly bathed. Baking bread – summertime at Grandma’s ranch. Estee Lauder perfume – my Mom (the Granny smell!) Fresh brewed coffee – the smell of a good start to a new day. Ocean air – vacation and relaxation. And one of my very favorites, fresh sawdust mixed with a slight mixture of pine – my Dad who I love and miss dearly.

    ReplyDelete