I must admit that I was almost totally ignorant about our sense of smell until I read Rachel Herz's Scent of Desire. Herz is recognized as the world's leading expert on the psychology of smell, and she now shares her knowledge with us in this book.
Scent of Desire is full of fascinating information about our sense of smell and its functions, and after reading it, I am amazed by how much I now know on the subject. Most of us never really think twice about this amazing sense of ours, taking it for granted and never noticing how valuable it is until we lose it. I'm guilty of not appreciating my own sense of smell as well.
There's a question that I like to ask the people I meet in an effort to get to know them better, "If you had to choose, would you rather be deaf or blind?" Their answers let me learn a little more about them, but isn't it a telltale sign that out of all our five senses, we usually only focus on our sight and hearing.
Perhaps we believe it's unlikely for us to lose our sense of taste and even more unlikely to lose our sense of touch, unless someone writes a book about these two senses and enlighten us otherwise. We also seldom hear about people losing their sense of smell, but even if we did, we don't understand the importance of the loss and we'd probably go, "He's lucky he didn't lose his sight or hearing instead!"
The few times I've contemplated my sense of smell are mostly when I travel and am forced to use a particularly foul-smelling toilet. At times like these, I usually wish I could lose my sense of smell. I'm glad I didn't get what I wished for, after reading Herz's Scent of Desire, I now realize that a loss like that would be devastating.
While it's true that losing my sense of smell would mean that I would be spared from smelling foul odors from a dirty toilet, it would also mean that I wouldn't even be able to detect my own body odor. In the case of Jessica Ross, one of Herz's clients who became anosmic(loss of smell) in a tragic accident, she started becoming paranoid that every time someone looks at her in a certain way, it's because she smells bad and doesn't know because she couldn't smell herself. She would shower at least twice a day, and wash her clothes every day, and still she'd worry that she may have an offensive body odor that she wouldn't be able to detect. She also worries that she wouldn't be able to smell smoke and fire, or spoiled food.