Jen Can’t Smell: 15 Years Later

The excitement of the brain scans and nasal sprays are now in the past.  However, the excitement of being an Anosmic never seems to end.

I sell perfumes and beauty products made with essential oils.  Go figure.  I waited 2 full years to get up the nerve to tell my boss and co-workers.  Up until that point, I faked it.  Yes, yes, it’s true.  I resorted to my childish ways and faked being able to smell.  My co-workers now know, however I don’t let my guests in on the secret.  This isn’t because I’m cruel and a liar…well, maybe just a little.  In all honesty, when they ask me what pure-fume is my favorite and I quickly shove a bottle into their nostril and say “Well, uh, this is an customer favorite” …or when they ask me to smell an aroma and tell me what’s in it and I mumble that I’m “a little stuffed up,” I do this to avoid the FAQ’s.  Otherwise known as:  Frequently Asked Questions.

Typical Conversation:

Jen: “Sorry, but I actually can’t smell.”
Person:  “You can’t SMELL?!”
Jen: “No.”
Person: “But can you smell ___{insert scent}___?”
Jen:  “No, I can’t smell.”
Person: “But can you smell ___{insert scent}___?”
Jen:  “Like I said, I CAN’T SMELL!”
Person:  “But can you taste?”
Jen:  “Yes.”
Person:  “But smell is associated with taste!  You can’t taste.”
Jen:  “Yes, I can taste…just not as good as ‘normal humans.'”
Person:  “No you can’t.”
Jen:  “Yes, I can.”
Person: “CAN NOT!”
Jen:  “CAN TOO!”
Person: “Nuh-uh!”
Jen:  “Yuh-huh!”
Person:  “NO WAY.”
Jen:  “WAY!”

As you can see, it’s all very exhausting.

Alright, I’ve been skirting the real issue here…and I’m interested in your thoughts.  People will come into my store and smell the SAME EXACT BOTTLE of pure-fume.  One very normal woman will exclaim that it’s TO DIE FOR, she’ll take five!  Then, another very normal woman will come in, smell the SAME BOTTLE and push it away in disgust saying it smells like Cat Pee.


One person will smell a hairspray and buy it for the scent.  The next person brings it in for a return claiming it smells exactly like Bug Spray.


Help me out here smelling-people.  How can the SAME THING smell SO DIFFERENT to people?  Surely the first woman does not WANT to smell like Cat Pee.  And surely we would never bottle up the scent of Cat Pee and try to sell it.  So HOW does Person #2 despise what Person #1 adores?  These are mysteries about the human nose that I simply do not…perhaps CAN NOT understand.

More smelling questions for you: What is your favorite smell?  Do you have an “earliest smell” in your memory?  On average, how many times per day are you offended by someone’s breath or body odor?  Does EVERYTHING have a smell?  …like billboards, or mailboxes, or jewelry, or DVD players?

5 comments On Jen Can’t Smell: 15 Years Later

  • I get the same reactiong: No way! But you can smell….right? My usual reaction is, “No. If a skunk sprayed right next to me I wouldn’t notice a thing.”

    Questions for you now! (I’m so looking forward to non-anosmics answers to your questions…) What are the most common things people use as an example of things you should be able to smell? Mine are flowers and skunks. One time, and only one time, I had a woman say, “So you don’t know what fresh, clean baby smells like?” It was one of the few times I wished I could smell.

  • So HOW does Person #2 despise what Person #1 adores? This is a mystery…of pheremones. Things like perfume/body odor smell different to different people because of the physical makeup and the pheremones released. Also, in the case of perfume, if you sprayed the same scent on five people, it would smell different on every single one because of the chemical reactions. That said…
    What is your favorite smell? bread, bleach, cookies, tim’s deodorant, fresh air in the country after rain.

    Do you have an “earliest smell” in your memory? Not really. There are occasionally smells that “bring me back” – country apple from Bath and Body Works reminds me of high school, there’s this kids’ shampoo that reminds me of popscicles…

    On average, how many times per day are you offended by someone’s breath or body odor? On average, maybe once. People are very cautious about their smells. There are times, though – and when it’s bad, it’s bad.

    Does EVERYTHING have a smell? …like billboards, or mailboxes, or jewelry, or DVD players? Yeah, but you rarely notice it. For instance, Tim doesn’t notice much in the way of smells, ever. He can smell things burning, but the rest of it you grow used to and you basically ignore it. I have a hyper-aware sense of smell, so I smell cat pee across the room, our mailbox just smells like metal (taste a penny, that’s what it smells like); jewelry smells like metal, DVD players smell like metal. :p Billboards smell like wood and paper (the ones I’ve stood by – taste a popsicle stick)…

    I guess the hardest thing is how different everyone smells – each person has distinct odors despite using the same shampoos and soaps and stuff. Want to know any more?

  • Oh, Jenni….I secretly envy you and your, anemia, um, amnos…whatever. Truly. I have been given a gift that is such a burden: the gift of super-hero smelling ability. It’s awful. Those people that can’t agree on what makes a good perfume stand next to one another in front of me at church and I nearly faint or vomit. Any “white-haired event” (translation: where the majority of people in the crowd are old enough to have white hair) gives me a headache–I think old ladies become anosmsic and don’t know when to lay off the cheap perfume.

    Dogs? L.O.V.E. them unless they are wet, in need of a bath, or have tooth decay. In any of the aforementioned cases, I H.A.T.E. dogs.

    Playdates? Kids in diapers should not be allowed unless parents promise to promptly change all dirty diapers in the vicinity of an exhaust fan and room spray. And by promptly I mean, NOW, not when you’re done with your conversation or when Junior is done sitting in his poo and eating his snack at the same time. {Gross}

    Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, can’t it?

  • With some dozen bottles of perfume on my dresser I lost my sense of smell on Thanksgiving eve of 1998. At least that is when I realized the onions I was chopping had no odor. None at all. From adoring the smell of my husband’s skin and my stepdaughter’s hair to – nothing. Just a ranker rendition of stepson’s cig smoke, a few phantom odors (horrid, alien, coming from – apparently – nothing), & a candy sweet sickening odor that was wood smoke. No cilantro, no Aveda oils, no popcorn, no rosey lipstick. Zero, zilch. Visits to every sort of medical wizard, various scans/schemes/diets – nothing. “You might get it back, you might not, we don’t know”. Middle of night I would sneak into bathroom, open the bottle of Shampure, put it to my nose with something akin to a prayer. Nothing. One summer day in 2002 I was making salsa fresca, and “what’s that? what’s that? Is that the smell of CILANTRO?” A long, slow miracle began. In 2006 I thought I smelled clovers in the old homestead yard. But surely not. ‘Though perfumes had come back & apples & Shampure & popcorn, & green teas smelled green & black black.. Last year I smelled cut grass & burst into song. One day I will again smell the coming of the rain. That small window in time before the drops actually fall. I believe it is not possible for a smelling person to conceive of what it is like to not smell. And, yes, I tasted tastes just fine.

  • i am sure that that convo is what my reaction was and the argument to go with it buahahahhaaha i love u my sister

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