Friday, June 30, 2006

Scent and Sensibility

This morning I awoke to the smell of jasmine. My plant survived our trip to Philly under the care of a friend, who despite having a self-described "not great track record" with plants, managed to keep most of them alive. Two bit the dust but that was just due to over attention. They got too much water. When I left, the jasmine plant's soil was mud under the topsoil. It must have liked that because when I returned home it had shot out three new stalks which grow blazingly fast. Ten inches in a few days! It hasn't bloomed after its initial blow out that was underway when it came home from the Despot. I was warned that they are finicky and difficult. No worries my main man said I have a "green thumb." A year ago at this time that would have been a ridiculously optimistic statement; however, it turns out I do actually have a knack for it. Gardening is a lot like grooming so I suppose it comes naturally. I was rewarded for my attentiveness this morning with a solo yet intensely fragrant blossom. I could smell it from 5 feet away.

Meanwhile, the gardenia is going great guns in the office. It has three full blossoms and smells fabulous. I moved it a month ago so that it could get full morning light and diffuse light the rest of the day. Judging by the numerous buds that have survived and thrived, it loves this spot. The rubber plant it displaced now lives on the kitchen counter where it can get low levels of diffuse light all day. It seems to be doing well for the time being and a side benefit of its move was a noticeable shift in its stature. Simply by elevating it, Bouncy looks three times as tall and makes me worry that we might have to knock a hole in the ceiling to make room for her!

As long as the babes continue their mid-morning, post-breakfast snooze I may as well blab about something a little more academic. A few announcements for the people who just came in. Others have heard it five times before already I'm sure.

Scent is a topic I've been academically interested in for the past few years and probably personally since before I was born. Scientists have discovered that people who share the same genetic code for MHC prefer the same scents as well. So, it stands to reason that perfume preferences would "run in families." Are sisters and mothers genetically programmed to select the same aromatherapy products from Bath & Body Works? Not exactly. It's not like such convenience was available in the nature red in tooth and claw days (and nights) of the EEA. But we probably did choose mates based on their body odor. Nowadays we cleverly manipulate our body odor to maximize our appeal to others. The mark of a true Darwinian winner is whether or not you actually choose artificial scents that match your MHC.

MHC is a stretch of DNA that creates portions of the surface of immune cells that help the body recognize and differentiate self from non-self. It has profound implications for our ability to stay healthy, but research from Wedekind has also turned up some fascinating connections to its role in mate selection.

It's not surprising that my sister and I and our mother all wound up choosing Jasmine Vanilla scent. Originally I chose Ylang-Ylang Myrrh but it was discontinued so I had to switch. Miraculously the same time I was in PA and shopping, B&BW had a close-out sale of discontinued products so my pal and I stocked up on our favoriate scent. My guess is that this scent, though incredibly appealing to my friend and I, is simply not a hit for a lot of people. Does this indicate we have similar MHC? Well, I can say that I was profoundly sexually unattracted to my friend from the get-go. Perhaps he just didn't smell right to me. An inbreeding avoidance mechanism.

He has turned out to be a truly remarkable friend and what's better, he's found a beautiful woman who adores him. I'm not sure what scent she likes, but the trick is to find someone who is a good match - similar enough that you can stand each other but also not so dissimilar that you can't stand to be near each other.

The fact that the scent was discontinued may also indicate that those who like this oddball conconction might also have a rare form of MHC. This can be both good or bad in an evolutionary sense. I can say, that my mom and sister both have asthma and allergies while I don't. Asthma and allergies are both ultimately caused by immune system reactions that go too far. Their immune system keeps going where others would stop. That's where the problems like itchy watery eyes and tightened airways start. I'm happily free of that hassle. Maybe I won the MHC lottery or maybe I'm reading to much into scented product selection.

In any case, the Ylang-Ylang Myrrh has jasmine in it though you wouldn't know it from the title. We all love jasmine. It's one of the most popular scents in the world. I fell in love with it when I smelled wild jasmine growing in Tunisia. There's just something magic about it.

Just like good breeding combined with Skinnerian Conditioner :-)
We are 6-3-1-1-1 on Housebreaking 101 and W afternoon got a few more steps closer to the livingroom goal:

That night she slept at our feet while we watched the last 20 mins of a Lost re-run. Last night she repeated her performance, albeit with different programming for the audience. Yesterday she sat on command using only hand signaling. The number of trials? 4. Wow, this pup is bright. My brain swelled with visions of her potential. I only hope that doesn't mean my spindle cells are ballooning out of control too...

1 comment:

Alasdair said...

I didn't realize jasmine was so popular. But of course that makes sense, and it's been popular forever, too.

I wonder if the whiz aspect that I pick up on in jasmine's aroma suggests that it has something in common with whiz, which it seems like every other animal uses to assess strangers, or at least as a calling card. Maybe whiz has some undertone to it that jasmine has, too?

Or maybe I'm putting too much stock in that particular scented product. :)