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Sex, Sausage & Armaggedon

[whitespace] Better living through chemistry

By Bob Harris

OUR TOP STORY: We're all gonna die! Oops, never mind. Everything's fine. So I wake up the other morning and settle into my daily breakfast regimen of eating fake soy-based pseudo-sausages while warming my brain with mindless TV channel surfing.

(Disgusting, yes, but how appetizing are you when you first wake up? I once dated a fashion model who burped and scratched like a dockworker, although a dockworker would probably have been in a better mood most of the time.)

So I'm half asleep and flipping through channels, and darn if every time I hit somebody doing news I don't hear the creepy tail end of a report about some giant thing from space and the possible destruction of mankind. And then they cut over to Jillian with the Surf Report and Steve with a close-up of one of Monica Lewinsky's gym socks.

Whoa, hold on--what was that thing you were talking about, that thing from space that might kill us? Can you get back to that for a second? I came in late because my soy patty didn't cook up right away. It was like one of those horror movies where some poor guy glimpses a news report about the zombies just before they rip down his door and eat his brains. When suddenly a passing cloud blocked the sunlight coming through my window, just for that moment I started to wonder if this was The End. Well, as you know, NASA rechecked the numbers and decided that Asteroid VH-1 or whatever it's called isn't going to kill us after all. (Besides, that honor is reserved for the Cassini Space Probe.) But what if it was?

We were all just kind of lucky there, if you think about it. The chance that something like that will happen in our lifetimes is astronomically small--literally--but there is that teeny chance.

So how would we react, if suddenly we woke up one morning and we had only about 30 years left? Would there be riots and carnage and Carrot Top movies? Maybe. But I think a lot of us would start doing things we always wanted to do and calling up people we love and saying those words and trying to put ourselves right with the universe.

It may not be a giant asteroid that kills us. It might even be soy patties and cable TV.

But--this just in--we're all on the clock already.

It probably won't kill us to act like it.

I SMELL PRETTY . . . oh, so pretty . . . I smell pretty and witty and bright . . ." You've probably had this experience: You meet someone and instantly feel an amazingly intense attraction that you can't explain rationally. If you're lucky, it's mutual, and the two of you soon explore the frontiers of yoga while finding furniture uses that Bob Vila never imagined. If you're unlucky--one of you is spoken for, or maybe you work in the Oval Office--you have to either struggle to forget it or risk being scorned by millions via satellite by Geraldo.

Writers have called this attraction "chemistry" ever since King John codified standard English clichés in the 1624 Banalbook of Midbrow-on-Hackney. And apparently King John's term is accurate. As scientists have long suspected might occur, last week some University of Chicago guys finally proved the existence and power of human pheromones, the odorless chemicals that influence our mating habits. Now let's not get carried away here. Smell isn't the only factor in attraction, although if you've spent much time on public transportation, you know it can be the sole cause of repulsion. There are other factors at work, too, most of which are primarily visual. When I was 14, I didn't put that Farrah poster up because I liked the way the paper smelled.

But assuming that your potential partner is anatomically correct and generally free of obvious personality defects--which can be a tall order--the subtle smells of love can be the deciding factor determining whether the two of you kiss each other good night or good morning. In fact, some research indicates nature knows what it's doing: The exact composition of your pheromones may be a subtle message containing information about your health, genetic makeup, and immune system, and so the mutual yee-hah of love may just be nature's way of encouraging us to select partners whose contrasting makeup gives us the best chance to create healthy offspring.

So if you're talking with someone you're interested in, and suddenly it feels like there's something in the air--there probably is. In fact, deep breathing at that point might just lead to, uh, more deep breathing.

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From the March 26-April 1, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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