Scent of a Man

The intoxicating smell of love.

The first time I got a good whiff of my boyfriend, James, I knew it was true pheromone love. He was so intoxicating, I could hardly contain myself. In fact, I inappropriately sniffed him up at a cocktail party after one too many glasses of wine. He laughed it off, but I followed him around like a giddy school girl the entire night. It wasn’t just his cologne; it was something stronger, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on — or, in this case, my nose.

Months would pass before we saw each other again, and when we finally did, we were both going through rough break-ups. I can’t speak for James, but the guy I was dating at the time had unceremoniously dumped me for being “too successful” and making him feel like “less of a man.” Strangely, I never liked the way he smelled anyway, which was a mix of pastrami, onions and dirty mop water. I know, I know…

So why was I dating him in the first place? Well, after two failed marriages and a string of sucky boyfriends, I let someone at work (who happens to be editing this blog) talk me into taking a chance on someone I wouldn’t normally date. I was game. I mean, why not? Growing up, my mom always used to say: “The face of love will surprise you.”

I don’t think she meant FORCE YOURSELF TO LIKE SOMEONE, but I was desperate and slightly immature. It’s not that I didn’t like him; it just never really clicked. He knew it, and I knew it. So he put “US” out of our misery. I took it pretty hard, but honestly, it was about more than just the break-up, it was ALL of it.

I thought I’d never find true love or any love, for that matter. I was so good at making bad decisions, I made Flava Flav’s obnoxious dating show “Flavor of Love” look like a romantic Hollywood classic.

Anyhow, a few days after we parted ways, I became extremely depressed and despondent. I spent hours over-analyzing my life, drinking too much and drunk texting another ex-boyfriend. My inadequate feelings led to a brief reunion. Boy, oh boy, was THAT a mistake. As if he wasn’t crazy enough the first time, on our second go around he gave Charles Manson a run for his money. He didn’t murder anyone, but he was a spitting image of the serial killer and did I mention crazy? #WeAllMakeMistakes #SometimesTwice 🤪

After that, I gave up on men altogether and did something out of the ordinary. I followed my nose…

When I first called James, it was purely innocent. I had no idea he was going through a break-up and/or how he’d respond to me ringing him up out of the blue asking for relationship advice. He was cordial and generous with his time and told me if any man felt threatened by my success that was on them and had nothing to do with me.

Our conversations spilled into emails and then text messages and eventually into a few get-togethers with mutual friends. Along the way, I noticed that James did things that no other man in my life had ever done. He called when he said he would, he texted without fail, he didn’t play games and he never, ever magically fell off the face of the earth. My ex-husband was astonishingly good at that last one.

James was stable, reliable and acted like he genuinely wanted to be around me, but what about taking it to the next level? Was I misreading him? I didn’t have the confidence to ask him in person, so I decided to text him instead…

Me: You know I really like you, right?
James: I like you, too.
Me: No, I mean I like you, LIKE you.
Me: I want to be more than just friends.
James: I feel the same.

Those four little words would change my life BIG time. After that text exchange, James has never stopped loving me (through the good and the bad.) During our first few months together as a couple, I stumbled around in a haze of love. I was completely ridiculous, ask me if I cared? NOPE.

When James left for work, I’d sniff the pillows he slept on or the shirts he left behind. When he’d go out of town, I’d wear his clothes around the house and squirt myself with his cologne. Eventually, I confessed my “Scent of a Man” obsession to which James replied: “I kind of figured that out the night of the cocktail party.” Was I embarrassed? NOPE.

That’s the thing about the right kind of love: it gives you the confidence to be yourself. In my other relationships, I was always jockeying for position; trying to figure out exactly what was happening and where I stood. Not with James, though: it’s clear, straightforward, undeniable love and attention. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy, but it means it’s ALL worth it.

Four years later and I’m still sniffing my way around the relationship. The only difference now is James and I have a life together, we have history and a more mature love – still – whether I’m smelling his shirt, pillows or his delicious neck: “Scent of a Man” will always be one of my Favorite Things. Happy Valentines Day!

IG: @ShireenSandoval
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Don’t have someone to sniff? Create your own “Scent of a Man” look with a shirt like this:

“The best smell in the world is the man that you love.” — Jennifer Aniston

James Woodley Photography
Shirt: @Forever21
Hair & Make-up: Odett Hernandez
Digital Editor: Jessie Neft-Swinger
Editor: Matthew “I’m No Matchmaker” Auerbach

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