Earlier this week, I walked into the luxurious offices here at the
newspaper and stopped short. Someone had been warming up their lunch in
the company gourmet kitchen, specifically the oven that works with
microwaves. The high-class odor was some sort of nacho topping —
probably refried beans from the 50s and a little Velveeta. And it
smelled quite badly. My office is not close to the kitchen, and the
fumes were somewhat overwhelming. Now, I’m not one to complain about
smelly odors that often, but this time I had to mouth off about it for a
while until I found the culprit (who smelled just like the foul
contents of the microwave.) For the next few hours I tried to ignore the
stench that hung in the air, occasionally stepping outside to clear my
head. As the office began to clear, I started thinking of what it should
smell like, something that smells good, and clean.
Clean is not
really one of those smells that we men are familiar with. We can
identify with a room that doesn’t make our eyes water, but apparently
there was a woman somewhere at one point who decided that things that
are clean should smell like pine. Cleansers for years were scented with
pine, I guess so we’d think we were walking deep in a pine forest. For
some reason a pine smell began to remind people of cleanliness, an
interesting concept as I’ve never been in a pine forest that I thought
was particularly clean. Even the Christmas tree in December creates a
horrible mess late in the month as dried pine needles end up everywhere.
Now lately, the makers of Pine-Sol dropped the pine scent from the
product, supposedly due to a shortage of pine oil. There’s a petition
online to try to get the pine back in Pine-Sol, probably because many
people have been conditioned to think that pine equals clean, which, as
illustrated above, is just plain silly. Still I would have taken the
aroma of Pine-Sol over the stinky refried bean smell that refused to
dissipate for more than two hours.
Now there are some smells I
find pleasurable. We men have our favorites. For me, I like a
tropical-smelling candle to put me in a beachy kind of mood. I like the
smell of bacon (of course), and steaks on the grill, and I even like the
smell of coffee (although I can’t stand the taste). But I can’t tell
you what “clean” smells like. I’ve seen scented candles that are
supposed to smell like fresh linens and things of that ilk, but that
means nothing to me.
Perhaps I (and most men) can’t identify the
smell of clean because women and men have different ideas about what
clean really is. A man can sniff the shirt he wore yesterday, find
nothing objectionable, and pull it over his head to wear for another
day. He can move all the papers and junk off the kitchen counter and be
set to use the kitchen. Meanwhile a woman will go to the trouble of
usually actually soap or cleanser (probably reeking of pine) to wash the
counter before daring to use it. And a woman will often trick a man
into taking off the already-worn shirt by getting him to think she wants
him to take off clothing for another reason, only to grab the shirt and
toss it into the washer with a capful of Tide.
As men, we check
only for the smelliest emergencies, and resort to a deeper cleaning only
if the smell brings a tear to the eye. It is as though we live with a
permanent five-second rule with a stopwatch that only goes to three.
current phenomenon for men who have their own space is the man cave.
There is ample room for tools, a giant-screen television, a
refrigerator, and maybe a few games like darts or cards to while away a
summer afternoon. There’s one thing you can bet on — a true man cave
does not smell like pine. Although there is a chance it may smell like
warmed-up refried beans and Velveeta. You’d just better hope that’s as
stinky as it gets.