Attraction between people may be taking place at a level more subtle than clothing choice or facial appearance. There’s considerable evidence to suggest that we’re drawn together by our sense of smell. It’s not surprising that Proust’s Madeline prompted five volumes of memoirs. The smell of a cookie reminded him of his childhood and was the beginning of his remembrances of things past. When we look at scans of the brain as the subject is smelling, the areas of the brain that deal with mood, emotion, and memory light up. Different smells have different effects. If you believe the aromatherapists, lavender is soothing and sleep-promoting, while pine energizes.
The smell of a loved man’s arm pits has been demonstrated to reduce tension in women (although that probably won’t be an option at your spa anytime soon).
Women do have a better sense of smell than men, possibly because of our estrogen levels. Recently, there has been an uptick in the number of female sommeliers and beverage managers at some of New York’s best restaurants. A friend of mine who knows the wine says the women put the men to shame during the high-level tastings he attends.
When we smell someone new, we may be gathering data about a mate’s potential suitability. Underneath the soap, shampoo, and perfume we adorn ourselves with, every person has a unique and individual scent, like a fingerprint.
Newborn babies, just a few days old, can differentiate between genders on smell alone and will express a preference for the smell of their mothers over anyone else. The US Defense Department is considering developing technologies that would be able to identify people based on their signature smells. Scientists call this unique smell our odor type, and many people believe that it plays a significant role in whom we find attractive.
Dr. Marianne Legato, Professor Emerita of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University is an internationally known academic physician, author, lecturer, and specialist in gender-specific medicine. She is founding member of the International Society for Gender Medicine and also the founder and director of The Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University and its next iteration, The Foundation for Gender-Specific Medicine. These enterprises are the first collaborations between academic medicine and the private sector focused solely on gender-specific medicine: the science of how normal human biology differs between men and women and of how the diagnosis and treatment of disease differs as a function of gender and sex. Her ground breaking textbook on Gender-and Sex Specific Medicine has been published in 2017 in the 3rd edition.
She has published extensively on Gender and Sex Specific Medicine, both scientifically and for the lay public. She is also the founding editor of the journal Gender Medicine, and the Journal Gender and Genome, published for the scientific community. In 1992, Dr. Legato won the American Heart Association’s Blakeslee Award for the best book written for the lay public on cardiovascular disease. She is a practicing internist in New York City and has been listed each year in New York Magazine’s “Best Doctors” since the feature’s inception in 1993.