You’re gonna die some day. Don’t be sad, so will I, so I’ll get my comeuppance too. But before we get there, horrible, humiliating and down right cruel things happen to us. The LEAST of which is that we start smelling funny, and no, it’s apparently not all in our head.
You’re eleven years old. It’s Christmas Eve and against all of your protestations you are piled into the family car, pointed in the direction of Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Upon arriving you enter through a side door in the garage (your entire life you have never once walked through what qualifies as the “front door” and don’t understand why) and are met by family members you only see once a year on the exact same day, Christmas Eve. You are surrounded by wood paneling and furniture older than your parents, oh, and the stench of death.
And now, a study has confirmed that, as it turns out, you weren’t that far off.
The question of “old people smell” has lingered, hot and musty, in the air for years. Is it the actual scent of impending mortality, or perhaps an accumulation of decades of dead skin cells and dust mites that have all but replaced the original cushions in the chairs and couches that sit in the living room that, again, you have never set foot in. My theory had always been that their skin is so thin that we’re smelling the inside of their bodies, but it seems that wasn’t quite accurate.
A Japanese study of people aged 26-75, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology (“Special Odors Unit”, I assume) shows that “2-Nonenal” a substance with an “unpleasant greasy and gassy odor” was found in only participants over the age of 40. And while 40 isn’t exactly old, it does prove that our chemical biology does change as we get older, and we begin producing what I can only assume is a scent designed by evolution to warn potential mates that our insides are in fact spoiled and we are no longer of worth using to perpetuate the tribe.
So yeah, while it may not exactly be the stench of impending death, it certainly ain’t a perfume of virile and potent breeding stock. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to measure my love seat for plastic slip covers and size some hard candy dishes. The smelly end is coming.