Glen and I went shopping a couple of years ago for spring bulbs, and while he is an expert shopper, and he certainly enjoys beauty, he is not terribly interested in the details of bulbs and gardening. Still, we share a home, so I wanted to know what he likes in the way of flowers and other foliage. He put some thought into it, too. He looked at everything, and finally settled on some hyacinths. So we bought several bags of them, and set about planting them once the conditions were right. They came up the following spring, and it seemed to me, he had forgotten (in a cute, innocent way) about all the thought that went into picking out the bulbs, and later, the work to plant them in the yard. He watched them emerge with awe and respect, and commented on their lovely smell. The beauty and hope associated with the emergence of spring bulbs, I suppose, should make people forget about the toils of the previous seasons.
Now, this may seem unrelated, but it isn't, I swear. Whenever Glen encounters an unfamiliar odor, he describes it as "pee-like." I have no idea why this is, but it is what it is. He is so ridiculous with the "Hey, something smells like pee in here," and I'm so used to it — even though he isn't — that I normally punch his arm and point out the non-peelike smell, and sheepishly, he'll say, "Oh, that's what it is. It doesn't really smell like pee, after all." If I were a more sensitive person, I'd probably find this trait devastating, because he has, occasionally, detected my new deodorant, but unable to identify it, will say something like, "Wow," [big inhale, and an even bigger exhale, as if to harshly expel the offensive odor from his head] "there's a strong pee odor in here." He will walk around the room, sniffing the corners, and exhaling rudely, and make his way back toward me, and say, "It's coming from around here. I wonder what it is?" Experience has told me that if it isn't x, y, or z, it is almost always my deodorant — and no, I don't smell like pee, and neither does my deodorant. He will sniff my pits, and determine, yes, it is the deodorant he smells, and sometimes, he will backpedal, and sometimes he stands his ground, claiming my deodorant smells like pee.
He's also done this with my cooking, but, lucky for him, very infrequently. It's always when I've got something fantastically elaborate going on: something baking, while something is sautéing, while something else marinating, etc., etc., and maybe my priorities are out of whack, but I find his, "Hmm, it smells like pee in here" while I'm cooking to be hugely offensive, even more so than when he encounters a deodorant on me he doesn't like. Maybe it's because I know I'm a good cook — and he does too — and I'm very aware of all the ingredients and how the flavors will work together, and I take pride in this ability. On the other hand, I don't have that much control over the ingredients in my deodorant, so if he proclaims that it smells like pee, I'm irked for awhile, but not ruined. When he does it in reference to my cooking, he will receive some curt words and a punch in the arm. I allow him a do-over: he walks away, comes back, and tells me how delicious dinner smells, and he will mean it. Or else.
I admit, I DO worry about bad smells, especially during the time of the year when the house is closed up: we have a freakin' pack of cats here, and this winter alone, the sewer pipe burst, the furnace is old and periodically emits disconcerting odors (we think it's the furnace anyway), the oil tank was replaced, and there are even more cats outside. The potential for bad smells is monumental. And I think we all worry, deep down, that we may personally smell offensive, which is why I shared my deodorant story: I really don't think that many of us do smell badly — especially those of us who use deodorant and/or shower regularly. This whole weird pee smell thing is on Glen. Something is miswired in his nose, and that's all there is to it.
So, we were in an office last week, and when we walked in, immediately, the sweet smell of hyacinths filled my nose. To me, it's one of the best smells in the world, even if hyacinths are a tad bit perfume-y. That fragrance is such a welcome message on a gloomy March afternoon: better days are ahead. While I was filling my head of hope and visions of sunny mornings in the garden, Glen leaned over and said, "There's a strong smell of pee in here, don't you think?" I really don't consider myself exceptional at anything; I don't mean it in a self-deprecating way: there's something comforting in being just like everyone else, sometimes. But after nearly seven years of Glen's stunned, "It smells like pee in here" comments, when clearly, it does not smell anything AT ALL like pee, and often, on the contrary, it actually smells GOOD, I don't know how the heck he hasn't learned that perhaps his initial olfactory identification abilities are a bit compromised. I mean, he should KNOW by now that his nose is off, since he's only been right about the urine smell ONCE and it was in an alarmingly dirty South Jersey thrift store/animal shelter combo, and he was wrong every single other time, and that was at least 400 times in the last 7 years. So when he said it in the office last week, I punched him in the arm, told him to zip it, and gestured toward the flowers on the receptionist's desk. My kitchen, my armpits, the receptionist's bunch of hyacinths, and in fact, most of the world, does not smell like pee. Dammit.
He looked at me apologetically, and I wondered if he remembered our own hyacinths from last year, the time he took to pick them out, and the energy he personally invested in digging all the holes for them. After our appointment, we went to the supermarket, and were met by racks and racks of potted hyacinths. He walked over to them, inhaled, smirked, and said, "Yep, pee. That's what they smell like." I rolled my eyes. I know that he really does like the smell, or at least he did. And he likes the way those pretty little flowers look, too. So, in the very next breath, he said, "Do you want to get some?" He may have been saying it to appease me somewhat, but I know, too, Glen is motivated by that which is exceptional — food, nature, beauty, etc. — and I know he wanted to get some. But I said no; after all, we planted a load of them, and while it's somewhat perplexing why our bulbs are always the last on the block to emerge, I had faith that they would.
The hyacinths just started to bloom this weekend, and so, yesterday, I cut a few** — they're so top-heavy that they always fall over outside, anyway — and brought them in and put them on the dining room table (where, it's just a matter of time, the cats will get them, the bastards). Glen got home from work, gave me a kiss, and said, "They look really pretty. But don't you think it smells like pee in here?"
* Because of my line of work, I've run into clients who don't have the money to shell out for premium stock photography. I know sometimes I've needed an very specific photo of something I just have not been able to photograph myself, due to geography and/or lifestyle choices and/or ability, and agree, stock photography is VERY expensive. I'm not saying it shouldn't be, and at the same time, I love how the digital age has leveled the playing field a bit. Maybe I'm a closet communist? Not to toot my own horn, but I do take a decent picture, and have taken some nice flower shots, but I didn't take the one above. I got it from a freebie photo reference site called morguefile, which is about the most helpful site I have ever encountered. The photo was taken by a talented user called prisonbreak, and you can see that user's glorious morguefile archive here.
**Since it's early spring, and if you're like me, out cutting flowers, there's a good chance you've got some daffodils to bring in, too. You may know that squirrels won't eat daffodil bulbs, which is a plus, because the little jerks will eat almost everything else. They can't help themselves, though, and so, I don't hate them for eating up my tulips (not much, anyway). After all, I have, on occasion, looked at a healthy, firm, nutty-fleshed tulip bulb and and thought, I bet this tastes really good. Deny it all you want, but I know if you've handled a tulip bulb, the thought to take a bite has crossed your mind too. Anyway, that's why I can't hate the squirrels: they're just doing what we WANT to do, but don't because we worry about being too freakish or indelicate. The whole thing taught me to plant more daffodils. Anyway, I like science, but I'm no scientist, and may be incorrect in linking these two items: since there's something in the daffodil bulb that is unappealing to squirrels, it's interesting to note that when you cut the flowers, there is sap in their stems that will poison your other spring flowers in a shared vase. Pack a vase full of tulips, crocus, hyacinths, and daffodils, and everything but the daffodils will wilt and die. So, keep your daffies in a separate vase, or if you don't want to, cut them first, and allow them to sit for a couple of hours in their own vase before introducing them to your other cut flowers. That way, the nasty daffodil sap will dissipate, and will keep all the flowers happy. And that's what we all want, right? Happy Flowers=Happy Humans.