07/13/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

What You Can Tell from a Man's Smell

Part 8 of a serial, "Sex Love Enlightenment." Previously: Billy and I make love while I'm still in a shoulder brace, and it's the best first time I can remember. But he doesn't cancel his dates with other women. Click here for past installments.

Smell. Let's talk about smell - the intense animal chemistry that pulled me to Billy against my judgment and reason.

I remember, decades ago, dating a man who I thought was a perfect partner for me but I couldn't bear his smell. The natural scent his pores emitted even after a shower was, to me, sickly sweet, like something rotting. It seemed absurd to reject this extraordinary man because of his scent, but I did.

Some men, I've found, are scent neutral - their smell is not pronounced or has no effect. But Billy's was like an aphrodisiac. I would set my head against his chest and savor it as if it were perfume. It reminded me of Dorothy and her crew in the Wizard of Oz, falling under the spell of the fragrant poppies and going to sleep. That's what it was like.

To continue our story....
On Saturday, the day after we first made love, Billy brings over dinner from my favorite restaurant. We eat quickly and go to bed, taking breaks to talk and laugh and sit in the hot tub, all the while playing "Name that Tune." We set my ipod to shuffle and see who can be first to name the song that starts playing. I have the advantage - it's my friggin' ipod - but he beats me almost every time.

We fall asleep late and he wakes me at 7 a.m., fixes coffee for himself and tea for me and brings them to bed. Making love again, I have to resist the urge to arch and roll with him. I need to keep my shoulder still, (broken collar bone) but if we stop and lie motionless, so much energy is coursing through us that it's even more exciting.

Suddenly he looks at the clock - 9 a.m. - and starts hustling to get dressed. He says he's sorry to run and leave the house a shambles.

"Where are you going?"

"The festival - to watch a movie."

"With number three?"

He nods, pulling on his pants and shoes.

"Who is this one?" I ask.

"Sally Burton. Actually, she knows you."

"She does? I've never heard of her."

"She's a marathon runner." He kisses me. "I had a wonderful time. I'll call you later."

Left alone, I start straightening the bed, picking up towels and I don't feel good. There's pain in my chest and it's hard to breathe. I try to be mindful: There's pain in your body, what is that? Just observe it, breathe into it. Know that you are larger than that sensation of pain, and it will pass. But as I'm writing this blog, I can feel the pain again - it's outsized, overwhelming, like my survival is at stake.

I meet my friend Claire for lunch and she says she understands, she just broke up with a man because he refused to be monogamous. "My experience," she says, "is that you can only go deep with one person at a time. And no woman wants to be strung along in an extended competition."

We've been studying the teachings of Adyashanti, and she reminds me of the distinction he makes between universal love - the love and sense of oneness that always resides within us - and romantic love for one person, which brings the duality of joy and suffering. I close my eyes and try to tap into that oneness and love.

We go for a hike and when I get home, there are three phone messages from Billy. I don't answer them. Let him stew. When I don't hear from him all evening, though, I start to get anxious. I've found that if I make love with a man and it's good, I inevitably want more with him than sex. As one of my women friends says, "Once he's penetrating me and it's wonderful, I'm in love."

With Billy now, there's a powerful wish, a need, an urgency to cement a relationship and a strong knowing to pull the plug.

He calls at 11:30 and I'm in bed, emotionally exhausted. "I didn't get much sleep last night," I tell him. "Someone woke me up early."

"I can arrange for the same guy to do that again," he says. "Want me to come over?"

"No," I tell him.


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PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT. What's your experience and understanding of smell? Did his elusiveness make me want him more strongly?