May 31, 2012
Take A Whiff…Do My Armpits Smell Old?
Michael Harper for RedOrbit.com
More news was made this week in the ongoing struggle between the classes. No, not the wealth classes or the classes of status: The classes of age.
Then there´s the class of the elderly – let´s say ages 75 to 95 – who don´t have the time to be bothered by young people´s hopes, dreams, ambitions or by the youth walking across their lawns.
Since wisdom comes with age, the geriatric set (Gerrys) decided they could outsmart the youngsters as they played a prank this week under the guise of “scientific study.” Knowing how anxious young people are to learn more about their evolving world and growing their developing minds, the Gerrys' knew they had them where they wanted them. The study? Sniff my pits and tell me how old I am.
It´s quite cunning, actually. Not only were the Gerrys able to persuade these young people to put their faces nose-deep in special pads that had, until recently, been placed underneath their old, wrinkled arm pits, but they are now planning to up the ante by extracting their scent for other purposes.
The study "shows that there's yet another signal hidden in the body odor that we are somehow able to extract and make use of," said study co-author Johan Lundstrom, an assistant professor at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, who declined to give his age in the name of neutrality.
Lundstrom was also instructed to tell the younger people – commonly referred to as Randys by the elderly pranksters – that the purpose of the study was to “better understand” the chemical signals found in body odor and whether we could identify a relative simply by scent. Much to the enjoyment of the Gerrys, the Randys bought this explanation hook line and sinker.
To conduct the study, 56 people – 20 young (or Randys), 20 middle agers (a largely neutral party, as they can´t decide whether to respect their elders or protect their offspring), and 16 Gerrys (the other 4 had appointments) - wore under arm pads to absorb their own special scents. The next morning, the Gerry set was able to lure an additional 41 Randys to their offices with the promise of Graphic Design jobs and a chance to take part in a social experiment. After telling each one that the Design job had been filled, they then asked them to sniff the pads and guess what age group it belonged to.
Professor Lundstrom said the participants were able to distinguish which pads belonged to which age group with some accuracy, but no better than if they had just been guessing, which is largely what the Randys were doing. After all, they were having pretty crummy days, what with not getting the Graphic Design jobs and all.
However, the Randy set were incredibly accurate when it came to pinpointing the scent of the elderly.
“The old-age body odor sticks out," Lundstrom said in his most neutral tone.
The Randys, suspicious that something was up, were able to get in a few laughs of their own, albeit in that smug, “ironic” sense of humor so synonymous with young age.
Trying to casually play off the fact that they just had their nose in a pit pad, the young people reported that the old men smelled like old women. Lundstrom – quick to reconcile this study and pull something resembling scientific data from these two battling factions – said this is likely because the men have lost their testosterone.
When asked if the “old person smell” was offensive to them, the Randys replied “Oh, no! In fact, we think it´s rather pleasant!”
As they were getting close to nap time, the Gerrys completely missed the sarcasm as they gave one another their special sign –a slight wink whilst touching their forefinger to their nose – and decided to take their afternoon naps, leaving Lundstrom to dispose of the pit pads and lead the young people to their bicycles.