Something's Off[ ... Read the full article ...] (free registration required).
By ROBIN MARANTZ HENIG
17 October 2004
The New York Times
Smell is the stepchild of the senses, the one that many think they could do without. But when I couldn't smell things, I couldn't fully inhabit the world, and my movements in it were somehow, almost imperceptibly, more clumsy. This month, when the Nobel Prize was awarded to two researchers for investigating the science of smell, it brought back my mixed feelings about my own sense of smell's protracted disappearance.
It vanished in 2002, a result of a bad fall. As my neurosurgeon explained, when my head hit the ground, my brain sloshed around, which smashed delicate nerve endings in my olfactory system. Maybe they'll repair themselves, she said (in what struck me as much too casual a tone), and maybe they won't. If I had to lose something, it might as well have been smell; at least nothing about my personality or my memory had changed, as can happen with head trauma. So it seemed almost churlish to feel, as the months went on, so devastated by this particular loss.
But I was heartbroken. My sense of smell was always something I took pleasure in. I could tell, by smelling him, if Jeff was troubled, excited or sad. I could fall in love with him all over again -- or with a passing stranger -- with one good whiff. And one of my favorite parts of mothering has been smelling my daughters, those deep sweet smells in the crooks of their necks and at the shaggy tops of their heads. Without scent, I felt as if I were walking around the city without my contact lenses, dealing with people while wearing earplugs, moving through something sticky and thick. The sharpness of things, their specificity, diminished.
Saturday, October 16, 2004
Tomorrow's New York Times Sunday Magazine has a short piece written by someone who lost her sense of smell and her effort to try to find it once again: