Does your man smell like schizophrenia?


by Cyn Collins

Dear Cyn,

I’ve recently started dating a guy who is great except for one thing: he smells funny. It’s not that he smells bad or unclean…you know how some people just have a smell about them? Well, his is kind of odd: sweet and musty. It’s not too bad when we’re out together or at my place, but at his place—especially in his room—it’s intense. It seems shallow to break up over this, but he just smells so weird! Is this something I should bring up with him?

A Nose Who Doesn’t Know

Dear Nose,

While your new guy’s pheremones and scent inspire animal lust outside his musky den, it smells like human (and, by extension, baby) repellent, killing your spirit inside his cave. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and in this case it is definitely something you should bring up with him! Your nose knows, more than you know. The scent of a man has played a role in the mating ritual all through time, and has only recently been scientifically acknowledged as a viable means of selecting (or de-selecting) your future mate.

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Are you on the pill, or off? The reason I ask is this: Claud Wedekind, a biologist at the University of Lausanne, gave t-shirts to 44 men, instructing them to wear them for two nights. The shirts were then sniffed by 49 women and rated for levels of attractiveness. The highest number selected were those worn by men most immunologically different to the women. Opposites attract, so the human species can bear more immunologically sound children. According to Rachel Hertz, author of The Scent of Desire, “Body odor is an external manifestation of the immune system, and the smells we think are attractive come from the people who are most biologically compatible with us.”

This smell test backfires when you’re on the pill. If you’re on the pill, I suggest you go off for a week or longer—but definitely use another form of contraception that doesn’t involve your own hormones. Wedekind discovered that women on the pill were attracted to the wrong guy—he smelled good while they were “under the influence,” but when they went off the pill, they couldn’t stand the smell of him, and the relationship went sour.

Not being sure if “weird” is a good or bad thing, I’ll assume for the moment that it’s a good thing (just a bit much too much in his room). First I’d bring up playfully that his pheromones are sexy outdoors, but a bit of a t.k.o. in his room—a touch too much, as AC/DC might put it. Seriously bad, and not “bad” as in “good.” Tell him (if you’re comfortable enough) that you read about pheremones and this Claud t-shirt test guy, and would like to conduct a scientific experiment of your own. Make it a romantic experience, asking him to wear clean clothes and wrestle them off him after he’s worn them for 2 days, and give them the smell test. Or if you’d prefer not, just request that he do some laundry, open the windows and let in fresh air, maybe burn some sandalwood or sage incense, or take a hot, soapy shower together. Or at the very least, just lead him to the shower and open the windows.

Unfortunately, genetic incompatibility may not be the only reason he smells funny. If it’s unusually intense—and it sounds like it is—he may have a medical condition. Ask him to bring it up with a doctor. A very sweet scent is sometimes evidence of diabetes or schizophrenia, both inheritable. Strong odors may simply come from his diet—does he overindulge in spicy foods and garlic? If so, introduce him to new flavors he’ll love: fruit, ginger, lemongrass, etc., and request he cut back on the garlic in the name of love. Last but not least, his laundry detergent could be merging detrimentally with his personal odor. As he now knows this is an issue, he’ll be cool with you requesting he try changing detergents.

If the scent of this man is somewhere in between tolerable and intolerable, and the dense den odor issue is resolved, buy him some nice essential oil. I don’t care for cologne, and many people are allergic to that, but a little essential oil (myrrh, or a blend with a little tiny bit of patchouli with other spices you prefer) goes a looong way toward helping you stay close. Burt’s Bees Bay Rum shaving stuff is nice, too.

If he still smells bad after all this, then hit the trail and go sniffing for a new man. Trust your nose, and your heart will follow.


Published on 1/1/09. Photo by Xopher Smith (Creative Commons).