Those people who know me well know that I have an almost nonexistent sense of smell. It is a trait, I’ve been told, that I share with several serial killers.
Last night I was going to broil some dinner using the gas oven. Apparently, the house started to reek of gas before someone informed me that the broiler did not work so well.
Then today I read an article by Elizabeth Zierah, horribly titled “The Nose That Never Knows,” that chronicles her battle with anosmia, which she describes as “the medical term for ‘you can't smell anything.’” It is a condition that affects two million Americans.
Zierah has also had problems with cooking:
I've also found that life is more dangerous. I've burned food and melted pots so many times I should be declared a walking fire hazard. Like most anosmics, I view any gas appliance as an archnemesis. I've become compulsive about making sure my gas stove is really on when I turn the dial.In addition to problems with cooking, anosmics have problems with eating. Food just doesn’t taste the same. I tend to dump lots of salt and hot sauce on stuff. I once almost ruined an awesome shepherd’s pie because I came dangerously close to adding too much garlic, mostly because I can’t taste garlic.
Some anosmics just stop eating a lot. This happened to Zierah, and she lost eight pounds. She had to find new ways to appreciate food:
What saved food for me, eventually, was texture, or "mouth feel." Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's, who has said he is anosmic, pushed his partner Jerry Greenfield to add bigger and bigger chunks to their ice cream.In the article, Zierah relates some stories from the book The Scent of Desire by Dr. Rachel Herz.
Herz talks about Michael Hutchence, former singer of INXS, who committed suicide perhaps partially as a result of depression caused by the onset of anosmia following a blow to the head.
Herz also writes, "For those with this devastating condition called anosmia, everything changes. Our sense of smell is essential to our humanity: emotionally, physically, sexually, and socially."
If our sense of smell is essential to our humanity, does that mean that I am somehow less than human?
It's clinically documented that acquired anosmia often leads to anxiety and depression. Just take a look at any online anosmia support group, and you'll see thread after thread discussing how to fight sadness, frustration, and loss of sex drive. In extreme cases these distressing emotions can become overwhelming.I find solace in a single word in that paragraph: “acquired.” I can’t remember ever having a sense of smell. I don’t see how I can mourn the lack of something I’ve never had.
I don’t know why I can’t smell. My twin brother can smell. My parents can smell. I don’t know when or where things went wrong.
Unfortunately, my other senses have not super-compensated for my lack of smell. My eyes are horrible, as is my hearing ability. Even my sense of touch is lacking. I tend to wound myself without even realizing it.
But my lack of smell has made me super efficient. I never waste time by stopping to smell the roses.
Which leaves plenty of time for other stuff, like plotting the demises of my enemies.
The previous discussion of gas has led me to think of other ways to save energy and reduce consumption. Last night, I ate cereal straight out of the box so I wouldn’t have to use water to clean a bowl.
And now, the EU is pushing forward regulations that will require manufacturers to make the standby modes of electric devices more efficient. The regulations are a stake to the heart of the dreaded electrical “vampire mode.”
Until we enforce similar regulations here—early improvements will probably result more from foreign manufacturers meeting the requirements of other countries—unplug appliances you aren’t using. Even if you don’t think you’re saving the world, you can at least save a buck or two.