At birth, we inhale for the first time; at death, we exhale for the last. Everything in between is a long series of breaths. Two seconds to inhale, three seconds to exhale. Each breath brings a smell. That’s our life – a countless succession of five-second whiffs.

Smell does not emerge as the most vital of our senses. Yet, if you cover your eyes - you will stop seeing, if you cover your ears - you will stop hearing, but if you cover your nose and try to stop smelling - you will die.

We often use ‘smell’ to describe the mysterious sixth sense: I smell danger, I smell success, I smell disaster, I smell love… Is it because the smell brings more emotions than information?  Our aromatic memories hold our entire life. The smell of the Christmas tree makes you feel like a child, the smell of a particular sun lotion lets you hear the ocean, see crowded beaches and feel sand in your shoes; the smell that resembles your lost lover, brings you more than visual memory or the sensation of touch – it returns that lost feeling, no other sense can describe. The Nose is our emotional time machine, which we don’t appreciate enough.

In our evolution we lost a lot of the smelling power, leaving it to the brain to make obscure decisions where a simple sniff could be enough. The animals are much nosier than we are. Unlike us, they can actually smell the danger, or the way to survival, or the successful relationship. While our brain makes continuous mistakes identifying our perfect mate, animals’ noses are hardly ever wrong. The four-legged creatures rely on the stench more then on the looks. They prefer to sniff each other’s private parts to reveal if it is a boy or a girl, while they are close enough to see those classifying parts. Smelling is safer, and it also gives the pure idea of which marriage will produce the best offspring.

When humans decided to walk on two limbs instead of four, they first placed their noses too far from the smelliest areas of the mates’ bodies. Then they created their mindful society, and the society demanded to mask the natural stink with more pleasant odors. Now we use all our intelligence and the sixth sense to find a perfect mate, and we are so wrong so often.

Why are we camouflaging our unique natural smell, which is a part of our being? We stink, therefore we are. But if we are not happy with our personal aroma, we prefer to ‘improve’ it to fit in. We become Chanels, Diors, Ambrosial Shampoos, Apple Illusion soaps, Axe deodorants and breath mints.

We are born perfect. There is nothing better than this flawless fresh smell of the top of an infant’s head, unpolluted by life and diet! Then life happens, and we develop a unique aromatic bouquet. Our smelling personality reflects the entire world inside and outside of us. It’s everything that we put in our mouth: what we eat, what we drink, what we smoke and whom we kiss. It’s everything around – what we touch, what we do and where we live.

Smell becomes our fingerprints, allowing others to guess our diet, occupation and even neighborhood. People from New-York are expected to smell like coffee, from Phoenix – like eucalyptus, from San Diego – suntan lotion, from Houston – barbeque, from Minneapolis – cut grass. Pickle-makers, fishermen and bakers smell their jobs, office workers are occupationally odorless. Smokers, drinkers and garlic-eaters are often not welcome for tête-à-têtes.

We may be very pleased with our bodily scent, and we can find it not particularly enticing. We never know how the others will like our odor. Everyone has his own preferences. One man's rose is another man's feces; and beauty is in the nose of the beholder.

How we decide that the smell is bad? Is it a born reflex or an acquired knowledge? Children like most smells until they are old enough to be taught differently. Babies don’t mind playing with their poop until the parents see it, scream “Yak!” and gag. However babies of Masai tribe will never learn this “Yak!” response from their parents who dress the hair with cow dung and love its orangey-brown glow and a powerful odor. And, by the way, while concentrated fecal odor is truly repulsive in our culture, it becomes pretty fabulous when diluted. Added in small doses, it converts perfume into an aphrodisiac.

Each of us is raised in a particular culture and controlled by a local society. We want to be accepted and we try to smell pretty. So we add ‘appropriate’ fragrances to our natural stench. We also use it to cheat and to disguise our true identity. Only the most sensitive sniffers are able to recognize the smell of our personal bacteria, sticking out through the cloud of artificial fragrance. They sense our poor hygiene through the wall of Shalimar, extensive sweating mixed with L’Air Du Temps, and Gonorrhea covered with Old Spice.

The smell is not entirely in our nose, a lot of it is in the brain. As the odor imprints in our memory, we are able to dream in smells. We even have some nasal hallucinations, like the smell of liqueurs or scent of a loved one moist with sweat.

Unlike other senses, odor memory is usually based on the first impression. You will probably remember your latest phone number better than all the previous. With smells, it is the other way around. The first odor association is the strongest. If you doubt the love with first sight, love with first whiff is scientifically proven.

We inhale a smell, we cook the air in our body, and produce new aroma. This is life.

Our life is a continual succession of smells. Sometimes it stinks. But we keep breathing. We hope that the next inhale will smell prettier.