By Sagar S Apr. 13, 2016
For the swipe-right generation, Tinder marked the “dawn of the dating apocalypse”. Do we dare detect a whiff of hope in a primal service like Smell Dating?
Somewhere in New York City, a 20-year-old man excitedly grabs his package and waves off the delivery man. He slams the door shut, turns all the locks, and dims the lights. It’s date night and he’s just been delivered a couple of dank swatches.
Slowly, he opens the box, and ten pieces of cloth roll out, all neatly wrapped in plastic. He takes a deep whiff of the first one; it’s horrendous. Then he smells the second, and is mesmerised. The smell of sweat diffuses into the incense smoke around him, as his heart skips a beat.
“It smells like a wet oasis in a dry desert,” he exclaims, placing the other nine swatches neatly in the dustbin by his chair. He then calls out to his mother, who can’t wait for him to move out. Finally, he’s found a girl he wants to settle down with.
You’re probably thinking, “What a fucking weirdo,” but about a hundred adolescents in NYC would disagree.
The box of swatches was delivered to our enamoured bro by Smell Dating, a service that a matchmaking site thought was prudent in the backdrop of the current swipe-right-for-sex climate.
Their business model is simple: Find a lonely person, give him a tee shirt, make him wear it for three days straight, and then send it back to the Smell Dating HQ (note: no perfumes or deodorants, please, only Grade A BO).
In return, said lonely person is rewarded with ten swatches worn by female suitors for an equally creepy amount of time. Based on these odours, suitors meet, and hopefully seal the deal.
If this seems like another “fringe” scheme, marketed to “desperate” kids, it’s worth mentioning that Tinder drew a similar reaction when it first came out. The same Tinder that you and 50 million other people downloaded on the sly, but are still embarrassed to admit you use.
One hundred young adults have already signed up for Smell Dating, and paid $25 each for the chance to sniff out a partner of their own. These 100 students are just a part of the test group; once Smell Dating goes public, chances are many more will jump on to the bandwagon.
So could Smell Dating replace Tinder the same way Tinder replaced actually going out and socialising? The same way “Netflix and chill” replaced “come over for a drink”?
Once you get over your gag reflex, you may realise that Smell Dating is just about as accurate as Tinder when it comes to matching you with a potential lover. Swiping right on a photograph of a person with a vague descriptor about how s/he likes to travel, and is attracted to sapiosexuals (I always imagine astronauts), can’t possibly be more informative that the smell of a person’s armpit. That, in fact, may tell you more at a primal level.
According to the Scientific American, we have a smell system that’s designed to “detect and discriminate between thousands of chemical compounds” – which could be useful when sniffing out a potential partner.
One study in the ’90s found that when women were given sweaty swatches to smell, they were more likely to pick tee shirts of men with dissimilar genes, indicating that it could be a genetic method of preventing inbreeding and promoting diversity in the offspring. Yet another study claims that the sense of smell could also be the reason why so many spouses share political views. According to the author, smell conveys information about long-term affinity in political ideology that becomes incorporated into a key component of subconscious attraction.
Well, here’s the thing about Tinder. Nobody really knows how many matches end in therapy, or murder-suicide, considering it is so shamelessly open to manipulation.
Now that we’ve dumped all this data on you, Smell Dating is probably starting to seem a little less strange, isn’t it? Or are you still wondering whether you should just stick to Tinder and its 10 billion matches?
Well, here’s the thing about that figure. Nobody really knows how many of those matches ended in therapy, or murder-suicide, considering Tinder is so shamelessly open to manipulation. For example, Mr A could just get himself photographed standing next to a Lamborghini, to imply that his father is loaded, and then take the bus to his seedy little house. Or Mr B, who secretly likes cats, posts six dog photos, because he saw a statistic on Facebook which said that women dig dogs. Maybe Mr C is really dull, but still bright enough to Google “Mitch Hedberg best quotes”.
Another way Tinder can sometimes mess with the uninitiated is through chatbots – computer programmes that have been specifically designed to compliment your mountain photo. Bots account for 61 percent of web traffic, meaning that so many are crawling around the internet they’re creating more traffic than humans. Odds are, you won’t know if the person you’re flirting with is a bot or not, unless it says something completely random like, “wanna cuddle?” after you ask her what her culinary preferences are.
With all this tampering, Smell Dating then seems a more natural way to hook up. Think of it as embracing an organic, back-to-earth lifestyle along with kale, quinoa, and yoga pants.
So unless the second date involves us going all out and smearing urine on our feet like monkeys, sniffing out your lover might be the future, after all.
Sagar has lived in Mumbai for most of his life. You can often find him complaining about potholes and local trains when he isn't out having a mediocre time.