Forget "love at first sight." A new social dating initiative called "Pheromone Parties" encourages singles to find "love at first sniff" instead.
Good magazine's Amanda Hess reported on Monday about her experience participating in this mating ritual, which she says, "leans on the pseudoscientific record to suggest that wafting the odor of strangers' armpits could help you figure out whether you ought to have sex with them." Definitely not the sexiest-sounding idea out there, but with a slew of niche dating services seemingly popping up each day (there are now ones for foodies looking for their perfect pairings and best friends wanting to double date), the idea of choosing a husband -- or a hook-up -- based on this primal instinct stands out.
Yet, the idea of enlisting pheromones to help people's love lives -- and even their marriages -- is nothing new. In fact, pheromone advocates like Dr. Virgil Amend, founder of The Pheromone Advantage, are all too eager to capitalize on the idea that pheromones have developed a reputation as a love potion of sorts. Amend, and others, hawk their own pheromone concoctions (Risk free! Only $49.95!), proclaiming that their products will increase marital flirting and transform sexless unions into a spicy ones. However, as Randi Hutter Epstein reported on Slate last year, speaking with Richard Doty, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Smell and Taste Research Center and author of "The Great Pheromone Myth," "no scientific study has ever proven conclusively that mammals have pheromones."
So, while the science behind the concept is murky at best, the idea of holding these communal "Pheromone Parties," is at least a unique way to meet your future spouse (and would make quite a story for the wedding toast). Hess reports that singles pay a fee to sleep in a white t-shirt for a few nights, then they seal it (along with their unique scent) into a plastic bag and bring it to the designated mixer location where those participating will root through a pile of body-chemical-soaked shirts hoping to inhale and find their match. Maybe it's because I'm already coupled up and have access to more smelly t-shirts than one woman could ever need, but Hess' description of singles clamoring for shirts, sample-sale-style, initially made me turn my nose up -- sorry, couldn't resist -- at the idea. (I can barely shop Rue La La without getting anxious). Why not just send a chaste, unmarked box (you know, the kind that mail-order sex toys come in) filled with potential suitors' t-shirts for people to sniff quietly in the privacy of their homes?
Because, to me, the act of smelling a man -- or, at least his clothing -- is a highly personal endeavor. There's a sense of intimacy about the secret, satisfying ritual of burying your face in a guy's worn t-shirt. In my single years, I relished this guilty pleasure when one pseudo-boyfriend or another accidentally left an article of clothing behind -- and I would creepily wear said item to bed (okay, and sometimes out in public) until the heady cocktail of cologne, body odor and that indescribable smell of "boy" faded completely.
Even now, I find pleasure in inhaling familiarly from my live-in boyfriend's closet, ripe t-shirts and all, when he's away on business. Maybe it's just me, but the idea of smelling a man who I don't know, can't see and haven't slept with yet just seems a bit backward -- and, well, gross. It's the man himself who makes me want to obsessively engulf myself in his scent. Without some kind of context or history of said man -- and no confirmation that pheromones actually do anything to us humans -- I'm afraid that a dirty t-shirt is just a dirty t-shirt.
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