His & Hers: Sense and scentsability

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller use this space to offer their views on everyday issues.


Bob has very little scentsability.

I can prove it. A couple years ago, he went away on a business trip and came back with a present: some expensive body lotion from an exclusive shop. He was pleased with himself; had taken the time to sniff various samples in the shop (was the salesgirl cute, Bob?) and select the "perfect" scent for me.

When I opened the jar, I was overwhelmed by a combination of ginger and a Ben-Gay-type scent. I thanked him for the gift, and then I made a big mistake. I said, "Hmmm. Kind of smells medicinal."

I've never seen Bob so offended. He threw a fit and announced that I was ungrateful and that he wasn't going to make such an effort ever again. I apologized profusely and vowed silently to use the lotion even if the smell gagged me.

Two weeks later, we're laying in bed, and he says, "Oh, whew. What's that smell?"

"It's the lotion you bought me, Bob."

"No, it can't be."

"Yeah, it is. Sniff."

Round 256,098 to the wife.

About a month ago, Bob got caught at the office on a day he'd promised to be home before 6 p.m. At 8, he started home and was thoughtful enough to stop by the grocery store on his way to, as he put it, "save his own butt." He fast-walked down aisle after aisle, trying to find something that would appease the grouchiness he'd heard in my voice when he called to say he was running late.

He ended up, inevitably, in the lotion aisle and, being a man, grabbed the most expensive thing he saw on the shelf. His first words as he came through the door were, "I bought you something."

You'd think that would only work with children, but no, wives, too.

Unfortunately, what he grabbed was a large bottle of body oil with a sesame scent. I don't know whether to wear it or cook with it. I've found a way around any future panic-induced smelly gifts, though. I've made a wish list, one that ranges from jewelry to new laundry baskets, for him to carry around in case of emergencies or for holidays.

Meanwhile, if you smell a walking medicine cabinet, look around. It's probably me.


I do not trust my nose.

At a basketball game during my senior year of high school, I was sitting in the bleachers during the junior varsity game when someone asked aloud who was wearing the cheap cologne.

I must confess, it was me. I was wearing an odorous product, something I probably bought with my allowance trying to impress my girlfriend at the time.

Even before then, I didn't want to be That Guy, the Cheap Smelling Guy. And after the incident, I made myself a promise to only wear cologne that was purchased for me by my significant other.

I don't trust my nose when picking out perfume, either.

It would be a disaster to inflict my inscentsability on Callie and make her Cheap Perfume Lady.

All of it smells good to me, though some of it makes me feel the urge to sneeze.

But perfume and lotion can be an intimate gift. It is always intended to make a woman (in this case my cute and talented wife) feel feminine and pretty. When attempting such a gesture with a wafty gift, I figure expensive means quality.

One Christmas season I went to a nice department store and made a selection based on the top five most-expensive perfumes. I sought input from the sales associates and they helped me narrow down the selections to one. Callie actually wore that perfume.

That was not the case, as Callie described, with the fancy-schmancy lotion I brought back with me from a business trip last year.

At the fancy-schmancy store, the sales associate made a suggestion and allowed me to sniff a sample. But it was not the real sample. I don't remember exactly, but I believe the scent I tested came from a candle or some other product that was not lotion. It smelled great. Subtle. Cool. Heavenly.

But Callie was right. The lotion reeked. I refused to believe it and too quickly assumed that my wife's sensitive and picky nature had been a little too judgmental on the expensive and thoughtful gift.

That was until she came to bed one night smelling like she had taken a bath in cough syrup. I should have learned a lesson there, but I didn't. In that case, I really was trying to be a thoughtful and romantic husband.

The other purchase, the body oil, I'll be honest: I didn't even know it was oil. It was an act of desperation. It, too, despite its expense, failed miserably in its usefulness.

But I won points with Callie in both instances. As a guy, that's all you can ask for.

Callie Clark Miller is the special publications managing editor for the Southeast Missourian and can be smelled a mile away. Bob Miller is the Southeast Missourian managing editor with no sense of smell. Feel free to fart around him. Reach them at cmiller@semissourian.com and bmiller@semissourian.com.

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