October 26, 2011 9:04 AM   Subscribe "A community for people who can't smell and an educational experience for people who can."

And so, I’ve built this website for the fascinated individuals who call or email me with questions like “Wait, can you taste if you can’t smell?” or “So how do you know if you can wear a shirt a second time?”
posted by pracowity (20 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
A friend of mine has partial anosmia, and he once insisted that Old Bay consists of nothing but paprika, on the grounds that they are indistinguishable. We have never let him live this down.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:10 AM on October 26, 2011

I'm not sure you can call a site that hasn't updated in 359 days a "community."
posted by cjorgensen at 9:21 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

The word for this is "smeaf."
posted by msalt at 9:27 AM on October 26, 2011

Aww, I'm anosmic and I was all excited about this when I clicked the link, but it looks like it hasn't been updated in over a year. Oh well, the archives look interesting.

Apart from the “Wait, can you taste if you can’t smell?” question, the other thing people always ask is "How about bacon?". Bacon is not magic so, no, I can't smell it. Mmm...magic bacon.
posted by badmoonrising at 9:28 AM on October 26, 2011

I did not intially interpret "NeverSmell" this way...
posted by boygeorge at 9:28 AM on October 26, 2011

msalt, I believe the preferred term is "smell blind"
posted by BobbyDigital at 9:40 AM on October 26, 2011

My husband has this - it means that he thinks completely differently about food. His sense of taste is much more about texture and subtle things like umami and protein content. He does taste spices, but differently that I do; he likes paprika and cumin, but he dislikes cinnamon. He loves bacon, and sausage and tofu - he finds tofu very interesting. He especially loves a mixture of different proteins (mixing different kinds of meat, tofu, legumes, etc).

There are a very few things that he can smell - like alcohol and tobacco smoke. But like a bright light in a dark room, he finds the sudden intrusion very unpleasant. So to him, a glass of nice wine tastes like turpentine. Of course, that means we never lack for a designated driver. He can also smell the chemicals in most perfumes - not the pretty ones, but the binding agents, etc. Funny enough, so can I, so neither of us wear any scent except essential oils or body shop stuff.

I always have to check any new foods or spices or scented things to find out whether they are okay with him, and once we find a product like a deodorant that doesn't offend him, we stick with it religiously. God forbid that the company changes the formula. I hate when they introduce new scents.
posted by jb at 9:59 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Smell is critical to memory, too. I wonder if this changes how certain memories are stored or recalled?
posted by glaucon at 10:04 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

A professor I knew some years ago had lost his sense of smell as a result of a car accident. He told me that he once had to fight off a bear in a cabin in Alaska, the bear could smell the rotting meat in a disused fridge and the professor could not. I always thought of him as a badass after that.
posted by pinky at 10:09 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

I enjoyed learning that I was an "olfie." But I am thinking that I might have to take umbrage if Ricky Gervais tweets about us.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 10:09 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to work with someone who claimed to be anosmic but, like most of this guy's many and varied claims, we were skeptical. Until, that is, a whole pallet of UHT milk went sour, exploded, and got filled with mold and maggots, and this guy got asked to clean it up. Which he did. Without complaints. We never doubted his anosmia again.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:11 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah, this is me, too: not 100% anosmic but near enough as makes no difference (call it "legally smell blind"). As a kid I worked in a movie theatre and one of the regular jobs was cleaning out the popcorn machine every night and wiping it down with vinegar. The machine was the kind that most are familiar with: a thing about a cubic yard or cubic meter with clear plastic sides. Leaning into that to clean it, spraying the sides with vinegar and inhaling the fumes in that enclosed space, I could detect a faint tang of vinegar.

And not being able to tell -- as the OP says -- if I can wear a shirt a second time is damned inconvenient. I have historically tried to err on the side of caution hygienewise, but then again, it seems I produce no natural odour of my own. I have mentioned this before and am used to the barrage of skepticism from people who are naturally smelly.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:18 AM on October 26, 2011

msalt, I believe the preferred term is "smell blind"

In cases of partial anosmia, I've used the phrase "hard of smelling". Like from that episode of Seinfeld.
posted by mhum at 10:21 AM on October 26, 2011

Taste and smell disorders can be bizarre, complex and often difficult to treat. Anosmia is benign compared to phantosmia, wherein the sufferer experiences sourceless, "phantom" smells, sometimes very bad ones. I know of one victim who smelled rotting meat constantly and without relief. She had endured endless diagnostic testing to no avail and had lost significant weight as a result of finding all food disgusting. The disorder came on as the result of a very slight forehead trauma, and left a trail of baffled practitioners. I don't know that she ever found relief.

I'm so grateful to have my senses functioning as designed... so far, at least...
posted by kinnakeet at 10:26 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why am I picturing the NeverSmells wearing little cutoff shorts on their noses?
posted by mudpuppie at 10:29 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Dewey's Mom: I'm just so glad you learned to play the guitar so good...even without having a sense of smell!
Dewey Cox: It's okay mama, I learned how to play by ear.
posted by zephyr_words at 10:39 AM on October 26, 2011

Person 1> I say, I say, my dog has anosmia!
Person 2> How does he smell?
Person 1> He can't, you insensitive clod! He lacks a functional olfactory bulb!
posted by kcds at 1:38 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

There are literally dozens of us!
posted by Naberius at 2:00 PM on October 26, 2011

This reminds me of my GF. She was anosmic but that went away for a few hours after giving birth. So she was able to briefly smell our baby daughter.
Obviously it meant a lot to her. Almost intoxicating.
Very touching to see.
posted by joost de vries at 4:06 AM on November 6, 2011

> phantom smells

My late cousin wore tons of perfume, convinced that he smelled horrible all the time. Then again, he was very depressed and this was right before he killed himself.

I resist the temptation to extend this experience to those who wear Axe body spray and the like, but I think there might be something there
posted by msalt at 11:37 PM on November 6, 2011

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