Friday, February 4, 2011

Aimee's Sense of Snow - I mean Smell

Today, I was in a certain place where I was stationary for about an hour. On either side of me were people who also couldn't easily move for that period of time. Instead of concentrating on the matter at hand, as the minutes ticked slowly by, I became more and more aware of an unpleasant odor. It wasn't body odor, it was more like a very unfortunate cheap perfume, cat piss, or a combination. As George will attest, I am highly sensitive to odors; certain smells will send me running from a room or even make me gag. If anyone else had been in my location besides me, the odors may not have even made an impression. But I was so overwhelmed, I found myself holding my breath to keep the sensation at bay. I never did find out what the smell was: probably cheap cologne or perfume. (I would be very embarrassed to discover that Walter peed on my coat.)

The smell and/or texture of many foods is the primary reason I can't eat them (onions, for example). For many years, the smell of any kind of meat has initiated my gag of the many reasons I hate work-related events associated with food. When I saw the story on NPR that bacon is the "gateway" meat for vegetarians returning to a carnivorous diet, I was first disgusted by the picture of bacon on the website, dismayed that it would be so easy for someone to betray their principles for something so gross, and finally surprised and simultaneously nauseated that the "aggressive" odor does many in. For me, it's the opposite. The smell would forever keep me away from eating meat; it's inextricably connected with suffering and murder.

But, that's not what this entry is about. Instead, my strong reaction to the odor(s?) I experienced reminded me how sensitive I am to certain stimuli, and it's quite fascinating to me that others aren't as affected by sounds, smells, lights, and textures. Lizzie has a funny story to tell of taking me to my first ever basketball game; I think we had to leave early because I freaked out whenever the buzzer sounded. Certain fabrics, like silk, give me the heebie-jeebies.

One of my previous co-workers suggested I read The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron; she thought the description of a highly sensitive person who has a "sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment" accurately described me.

What about you? Are you more sensitive than others to environmental stimuli or do you find it easy to adapt to different smells and sounds?


  1. Yes, the basketball game was not a success. The buzzer was way too loud for "Baby Aimee", as we called her back then.
    I can't smell as good as you, but cheap perfume and cat pee will get me any time.

  2. Hi Aimee, I think I'm most sensitive to any type of fumes, even the very slightest like the little bit of gas from a pilot light on the fireplace or kitchen stove, or Turpinoid when I paint with oils. I've actually switched to painting with acrylics or water miscible oils whenever I can.

    Do you think having an acute sense of smell is related to having a good memory? I've noticed that as I've gotten older, my sense of smell in general seems like it may have diminished somewhat…along with what used to be a very good memory.

    How's your memory young Aimee? I'm thinking pretty good ;)

    Enjoyed reading your blog…


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