Something smells funny about new dating game
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All right, you know the drill: Trends are manufactured in the coastal cities of New York and Los Angeles and are then loaded onto band tour buses and into the tubes of the Internet to be distributed gradually from city to city toward the heartland.
On arrival there, they are declared dead, but they linger, zombielike, for a few years -- or in the case of big '80s hair and mullets in Pittsburgh, for decades beyond their useful lives.
Let me tell you what's headed our way now.
Those who remember the '80s may recall a song by the J. Geils Band called "Love Stinks." This could be the theme song of the latest trend in questionable mating behavior: pheromone parties.
It's a way to literally sniff out a new romantic prospect. As if the whole mate-screening process weren't distasteful enough already.
At pheromone parties (getting a snootful in N.Y. and L.A. and threatened for other cities) participants are asked to bring a shirt they've been sleeping in for several nights and submit it to be smelled by other partygoers.
I will explain that basic premise again, in case you thought you were hallucinating.
You sleep in a shirt for a few nights. Sure. Then you take the shirt to a party that has lots of fellow single people at it. Uh, OK. And other guests SMELL YOUR SHIRT.
TO SEE IF THEY WANT TO DATE YOU.
This sounds more like some kind of adolescent summer camp nightmare than a way of finding a compatible partner.
The concept was invented by a California woman who must have decided online dating, while discouraging, wasn't invasive enough. This is more like speed-dating for your brain stem; tables are heaped with shirts in plastic baggies, each with a number on a card, and when you smell something you like, you are photographed holding up the number, and the shirt's owner can find you and initiate one of the most awkward conversations imaginable.
Don't get me wrong: I am aware of the scientific underpinnings of this matchmaking method. Some years ago, researchers did an experiment where young women were asked to sniff and choose among shirts men had worn while exercising, and they tended to choose the shirt of a man with a complementary blood chemistry that was genetically advantageous.
The makeup of your bodily fluids does have some influence on the robustness of your offspring, and some people are a better, stronger match on a biochemical level than others -- but that's no guarantee they will have the same attitude toward religion, politics or even personal hygiene.
I will also admit that I have tossed a shirt I've slept in into my dog's crate to provide what I hope is a comforting scent in my absence, and I have been comforted by the scent of an absent boyfriend's shirt. But that was because I was already acquainted with him on a more than purely olfactory level.
Whatever you may think of Napoleon as a dictator, the man wrote absolutely sizzling love letters to his wife, Josephine. And at least one of them, advising her he'd be home soon, instructed her to quit bathing for a while in anticipation of his arrival. I wonder if either of them ever suspected that letter would outlive them both and continue airing their dirty laundry in public.
People are already somewhat embarrassed to admit that they met a partner online. Can you imagine confessing to a successful BYOBO party pairing?
"You two seem really great together. How did you meet?"
As a woman, I can't help thinking this just adds to the list of physical attributes a man may want you for that have nothing to do with your heart, mind or soul. It's replacing beer goggles with the stink eye.
Instead of "His athletic build caught my attention" or "Her beautiful eyes took my breath away," shirt-huffers must admit "There was something intriguingly spicy about his armpits" or "She's so honest and genuine -- no fabric softener or baby powder, just a whiff of sweat."
Well, I suppose it's inevitable. Studios in Shadyside and lofts in Lawrenceville will soon fill with slightly funky freezer bags. Hope springs eternal in the heart of the questing single.
I just hope we don't start taking our introductory cues from dogs.
First Published August 19, 2012 12:00 am