Nov 2, 2010

Absorbing the World and Repelling it

Our world is mainly visual, or so we tend to act like. In our vision of world, there isn't anything as bad as to be blind, because you honestly believe you are missing the whole planet. Can't read a book (though there are braille books), can't watch a movie - less an old mute movie - can't see the fireworks, can't go in the Net, can't read this post... and so on. Add to it, it is said that, taking as starting point Flemings VARK learning styles' structure (where people's learning style is classified as Visual, Auditive or Kinetic), an important percentage of the population is visual, meaning that most of the population learns the world around them throught their eyes.

If you pay attention, that tendency to suck everything in through the eyes follows us everywhere, in fashion, for instance, where the point of it is for you to look in a certain way. Space decoration is designed to please the eye, and even the efforts many people do to change their bodies is also to please the eye. We even talk about the looks of people. You combine colors, watch prints, take pictures, watch the TV, paint your face, watch a game and place a wallpaper on your screen. Of course, not all of us are visual, but the world certainly set us and presses us in that direction. and even though other areas of the world would commercially offer us things for other senses, like parfumes, music, food, pillows, are brought to us through our eyes. How many time have you picked a parfum based on the image first, then the scent? How many times have you picked a meal in a restaurant for the look it has, before you even know it's taste?

Okay, lets be honest here for a moment: for those of us who can see - not meaning that we actually do so - the portion of the planet we absorb with our eyes is important, and the amount of information we get from it is also quite sizable, but the other senses, truth to be told, are also there and eventually something happens that makes us far more aware of them.

So it happened that yesterday, on my way home, from the office, my sense of smell was tickled and put in the center of my life. Quite like in "The Perfume", by Süskind, and I even came close to murder a couple of times. Yesterday, however, was divided in two chapters, like "Hostel" and "Hostel II". One was worse than the next.

In the first part, titled "The Patchouli", I sat down, unavertedly next to this age-inapropiate lady. Short and chubby, she had dressed her parchment, loose skinned body in a peasant-like white dress with deep clivage. Her poorly coiffed hair was horrendously dyied into some sort of redish tone, that seems to have been waning for a while as it had been taking that distinctive cockroach tone. (That or she purposefully decided to die her hair into that insect-color). Her face, on the other side, looked like a failed color test, with Heidi-like cheeks, and a mess of products all over, almost as if she would have put in a bowl the shadows, lipstick, pressed powder and mascara, stirred it and then smeared it on with a spatula. Honestly, it was pitiful. Just one look at her told a story. Uneducated, low self esteem, strugling with relationship problems, either because her partner is cheating on her with a younger woman, or she's the mistress of a man who's turning more towards his wife, or she's lovely and is desperate to catch a man, any man. Perhaps she could be in her 50's, but by the looks of it you'll put her in the mid 70's. It was a walking-talking dissaster, canditate only to be approached by What Not To Wear.

Now, that was the visual. Once I sat down, an aggressive, invasive attack came over me. Posessed by some insane conception, she seems to have dumped on her head a big bottle of Flower by Kenzo. I'd like to tell you here that this particular parfume is one of my favorites, along with Pure Poison, Ysatis and Brit. For over 45 minutes I simmered in the stench of the perfume, forced to press my nose to the glass and hope against all hope that she would remove her perspirations in the closest stop, and that it wouldn't rub on me.

A lot of people do that, by the way, among them my Dad. He also seems to believe that colognes and perfumes have been invented to bath in them, and so they liberally dose themselves with it, pouring on easily some $40 worth in smell in each turn. At the office there are also some people who are literally announced by their smell. Don't they know that just makes them repelent? Don't they know that covering themselves in stench they manage to be unappealing and unapproachable? Scent is a way or a wall. Poorly used, it becomes a wall that keeps people at bay. They won't come close to you because you smell so bad or so strong you could kill a horse with the stench around you. Try it. Pour a bottle of perfume on your head and see how the Red Sea divides before you.

Scent, properly used, becomes a way that leads people to you. How? Use it wisely. Just a little, enough to be felt faintly close to you, so that people, intrigued by it, come closer to get a better sniff of it. It works. Yes, it does. I've known girls who have fell for a man just by his cologne. I, myself, have been trapped by a perfume, that lead from a friendship, to friendship with rights to kiss his neck, to rights to nibble his neck to... well, you know. It works and I can personally testify for it.

The smelly-lady eventually removed herself from the premises, but nor before leaving me sick to the point that I had to sit down and breath in deeply the cleansing smell of the city.

Now, if you think that this was bad, the second part was far worse. This chapter, titled "The Stench", was just like ripped from a Childfree book. Yes, a mom and her stinky child sat next to me.

Now, if you recall, yesterday I wasn't well, due to the intoxicating amount of sweet goodies I ingested on our Halloween party. I hadn't eaten all day, so by 6 pm I was getting hungry, which left me with going to a McDonald's (was the closest) to score some food. After waiting in line, patiently eyeing a couple of retards - they were in line 10 minutes, but didn't think about what to order until after they were at the counter. Then they took  another 10 minutes to make up their minds, only to have the male-retard interrupt my order and say that his partner, the female-retard, really meant something else, and then have mended the order... which was already served - and finally ordering some whatever meal  to go, I went to my bus. Sat down and leaned my head to the window.

First an old man sat down, who tried really hard to pick up a conversation with me, regardless of the fact that I was evidently indisposed, as the healthy Green Giant green tone of my complexion may have suggested. I ignored him really hard, even closing my eyes and pretending to sleep, which the old dude didn't pick up, as he surely believed I can talk in my dreams. Prying no reply from me to his many attempts, he gave his seat in the first available chance. To my disgrace it was to the mom and the baby.

From the moment they sat down a nauseating cloud of warm baby-shit smell flopped down and expanded like an epidemy. It was sheer luck that the kid was silent, and so the mother, but the smell was loud and clear. This nauseating cloud, however, seemed to have life of its own asn it evolved, developped, riped. The stench of baby crap mixed with rancid sweat and milk, that only deepened as the mom decided to breastfeed the thing, and flapped out her boob in the middle of the bus and stuck it in the mouth of the thing while she dexterously started also opening the baby's pants and fingering the diaper. The stench waved all around, alternating stronger tones of rancid milk and saliva with buckets of rancid sweat and fresh shit in a rancid diaper. I nearly went Omen as I turned my head as far as I could and pressed to the glass to the point of nearly fusing my face into the plastic pane. At one point, however, I had to look at the driver, and a slap of stench hit me flat on the face, making me visible gag. The facial expression of the mom made it clear that she did not took well my not aproving the "baby scent".

As a Childfree and a Childfree life style supporter, this comes handy as a clear case of what babies are about: stench. Even a perfectly well behaved flesh lump like that becomes disgusting through all the virulent smells it produces, which then transfer to the mother. Sure, you can always keep your baby clean, and nicely dosed with baby cologne and all that, but babies still shit and still burp and vomit and sweat and pee and get that rancid milk smell. Parents, on the other hand, lacking time and space to organize their things, soon find themselves dirtied, covered with specks of baby food, baby vomit and baby shit. Sexy, right?

Sitting next to the stinky family, I wondered about the lines we are fed with about babies, how "cute" they are, and how much satisfaction they give you. Well, those flesh lumps are not cute. Stinky kills cute. Besides, really, the baby was ugly. Ugly and smelly. It was a moment to preech Childfreeness in the most successful environment.

So, in this visual society, where other senses are relegated to a second plane, these senses, like women back in the day, can still wreck havoc and can still surreptitiously manipulate the world around us. Smell becomes an unspoken sort of Social Norm, where you are expected to smell pleasantly. It is considered rude, for instance, to fart or to speak with bad breath, or walk around people smelling badly. The daily cleansing rituals, including the dosing of antiperspirant and cologne are a social expectation. Does parenthood then, particularly motherhood, give you a free of jail card? No. Society tolerates it, but it is still seen as a transgression, and regardless of the condition of motherhood, outspoken or not, messed up parents and kids are regarded as dirty, and thus avoided for as long as social rules allow it.

Now, lets put aside the Childfree activism, or the age-apropiate topic, and lets concentrate on the senses and how the world is brought to us by them. Visual or not, Auditive or not, the world around us signal us through many ways, and we all, at the end sip in that data. You might be very visual, but if I ask you to think about the smell of chocolate, you can immediatelly recall it, right? Or if I ask you to remember the feel of a cotton ball, the sensation comes to you right away. The taste of milk, the sound of laugher, the feel of heat or cold, speed, sudden stop... being particularly visual, particularly auditive or particularly kinetic doesn't make you exclude all the others, thus exersize paying attention to those details on your daily life, not simply to be more pleasant to others or receive more negative signs, but also to grasp the world better.

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