Loveat first whiffisthe idea behindSmellDating, aNewYork matchmaking service that promises to help single people sniff out their perfect match by breathing in the odors from dirty T-shirts.
Artist Tega Brain, who teaches atNewYork’sSchool for Poetic Computation, and Sam Lavigne, an editor and researcher atNewYork University, createdSmellDating, which they describe as an art project.
Each of its first 100 clients received a T-shirt to wear for three days straight without bathing. The clients then mailed the T-shirts back to Brain and Lavigne’s “Sweat Shop” at NYU, where they were cut into swatches.SmellDatingthen sent batches of 10 mixed swatches back to the clients to sniff thisweek.
A match will be made if one client likes the scent of another and the olfactory attractionismutual. In other words, if “Client 55” likes “Client 69” and vice versa, put a heart around it, Brain said.
The ideaisbased on the science of pheromones, the chemical signals that creatures from gerbils to giraffes send out to entice mates.
Clients, who pay a one-time fee of $25, dive in nose-first, unaware of a potentialsmell-mate’s age, gender or sexual orientation.
“Most normaldatingservices, you rely on profile pictures, assumptions that come from visual information,” Brain said. “You either really like thesmellof someone or you don’t. It’s much more innate.”
On Wednesday, 25-year-old NYU graduate student Jesse Donaldson excitedly opened the package of white swatches in individually numbered plastic bags that had arrived at hisapartment in Brooklyn.
He said he hopedSmellDatingcould help where other popular matchmaking services had failed.
“I’m like so many other people inNewYork City, using Tinder, using OK Cupid,” Donaldson said, “and my mainissue with these thingsisyou feel like you’re shopping for somebody as opposed to making a genuine connection with another human being.”
Brain said she and Lavigne consulted “a lot ofsmellresearchers” about their art project, which explores whether a person’s body odor can trigger Cupid’s arrow.
“We wanted to see if people would be interested in meeting other people just based on thisone bit of information rather than thisavalanche of information that you usually get,” said Lavigne as he watched volunteers wearing hooded white jumpsuits and blue rubber gloves cut up the worn T-shirts at the Sweat Shop.
“Whoa! Thisoneisready to go!” said a worker, wincing as he sniffed a swatch before putting it into a plastic bag marked #34.
In Brooklyn, Donaldson tore into the first plastic bag, removed the swatch and sniffed. “Fresh-done laundry,” he said.
He opened another and inhaled. “Oh. Thatisnutty. I’m just going to seal that back up.”
Then he brought yet another swatch to hisnostrils, nodded and said, “Oh.” He savored a second whiff and added, “That’s my match.”