When you keep forgetting your farts stink

Photo: Unsplash

My husband has started doing pilates. We were standing in front of the mirror before bedtime, mindlessly brushing our teeth and not saying much, like married couples do, when I commented that he’s looking quite buff. Not a second later, with complete and utter abandon, he let out a ripper. It was maybe the third of fourth one over a couple of weeks. If you know my husband, you’ll know how amusing this is; loud farting is anathema to everything that he is.

‘The only muscles that haven’t tightened are your sphincter muscles’ I told him. ‘I think you’ve lost control of those.’

‘It’s not so much that I’ve lost control of the muscles, as of the urge to suppress the farts’ he replied, deadpan. ‘It’s finally sunk in, 14 years later, that I can fart and you won’t smell it.’

(He’s a slow burn kind of guy).

It’s the first thing people say to me when they find out I don’t have a sense of smell. ‘Your husband is so lucky! He can fart in front of you. And you can’t smell his morning breath.’

The second thing people say is ‘Oh, so you can’t taste either’. When I tell them that, actually, yes I can, they’ll challenge me on it. ‘But how do you know you can taste? Or, my favourite, ‘You think you can taste, but you can’t really…it’s impossible to taste if you can’t smell.’

My husband is indeed lucky, but being married to an anosmiac is not all it’s cracked up to be.

See, the no-farting rule doesn’t always cut both ways. I’ve been farting in front of him since we met. Usually I’ll stifle it under a blanket or swat the surrounding air with my hands to disperse the particles. If we’re in a public place and I become uncomfortably gassy, I’ll sometimes let one slip out. If he’s around and gets a whiff, he’ll look at me accusingly and mouth

‘Your brand’

I know it’s an extremely anti-social thing to do, but in defense of anosmiacs everywhere (who I’m pretty sure are all public farters), not being able to smell farts makes it tricky to remember that letting them out is not socially sanctioned behaviour.

What we lack in our cavalier attitude towards farting we make up for in our close attention to body odour. Like most anosmiacs, I have an irrational fear of smelling bad. Most mornings I shove an item of clothing under my husband’s nose and ask him if I can get a second wear out of it (sometimes its rotting food that gets thrust under his nose). I’m also a lousy camper because of my incessant need to shower.

But, I need gentle reminders to take the trash out, or clean the dog poop from the garden.

It’s a strange contradictory world, that of the anosmiac.

I’ll change every diaper but am so sensitive to texture, anything sticky or gooey makes me dry wretch, including my own children’s snotty noses. I can’t share my food (I get you Joey!) particularly if it’s slimy or mushy (can you imagine the horror of my first few months of communal eating in China). Apparently, it’s quite common among anosmiacs —because we don’t get that initial whiff of something before we eat it, our sensitivity to texture is heightened.

Do I wish I could smell? It’s not a ‘Hell Yes!’ Perhaps I just don’t know what I’m missing out on. I’d love to know what rain smells like. I’d love to have known what my babies smelled like. I’m curious about body scent. Does it make you experience a person any differently?

But I’m most curious about what a fart smells like. Everyone wants to be in on the joke, and of all the things we can smell in this world, there’s nothing that gets quite the same reaction as when someone cuts the cheese.