Senses - Lois Greene Stone

            What if a skunk didn’t smell? Would we regard it as cute? Is a house pet an animal small enough for human hands to touch or cuddle? Why does a child’s fish tank generally contain one goldfish or possibly a colorful betta fish?
            Odors, size, even association with childhood affect us. For some Covid disease cases, losing the ability to taste/smell can be life-changing since scents familiar and linked to memories might be delightful, and the tongue’s recognition of sweet/spicy adds to the pleasure of eating.
            We’ve said deer are beautiful, vultures ugly, elephants substantial, apes playful in zoos, waddling penguins and ducks make us smile, zebra’s white vs black unsolvable, swans graceful, Canadian geese messy. There presently is a cow-cuddling place in Watkins Glen, NY, where, for a fee, one may snuggle a cow for fifteen minutes at a time. Seems to be a need to relate whether with our eyes, ears, fingers, nose. But how do we ‘relate’ to words and symbols that keep changing with the decades?
            Medical forms allow us to select the gender we ‘feel’ and not the obvious seen at birth. Male/female have different reproduction organs, different hormones that engage at puberty. Remember the single-cell amoeba from your first biology course… an organism that reproduces itself asexually? As a joke, would you put that down on paper? White or black stripes on a zebra: that’s more of a puzzle than how one appears unclothed in a physician’s office.
            Social changes call for celebrations when we’re interested in a person of the same sex, or both, and the negative term ‘queer’ is not demeaning anymore. Harvard University no longer looks at GPA and extra-curricular activities for enrollment but, as other universities that don’t make headlines currently, selects for ‘diversity’. It does not see that as a form of discrimination in itself. But Harvard is the elegant deer; had a college that we reference as a skunk done the same thing, would this have been noticed.
            Old television scripts dealt with an idolized version of family life where “Father Knows Best” or “Happy Days”; just the titles seem like the goldfish bowl containing a tiny, shiny swimmer. Somehow my tiny, girlhood fish managed to jump out and die on the kitchen floor, and its ability to exit both baffled and upset me. Had I overfed, underfed, not touched the transparent container enough or too much? A possible drab little turtle was not a pleasure to observe.
            “Everybody Loves Raymond” has changed to titles today as “Lucifer”, “Who Killed Sara?”, “Criminal Minds”, “The Walking Dead”. Disclaimers, in small print, note ‘brutal violence, nudity’ as our eyes more-quickly scan the cast of characters or mini synopsis of expected viewing; it seems socially correct to include either two women kissing or two men doing that to prove the production is with-the-times. Have producers considered we might rather see proverbial penguins rather than laughing hyenas for two hours before bedtime? Dialogue must contain a four-letter word, once considered offensive, and constantly repeated just in case the audience didn’t see how progressive the program actually is. It doesn’t seem to matter that overuse might be the messy geese and diminish the character’s credibility; what network wants to be the ‘rare bird’?
            If we desensitize our smell enough, would a skunk have an odor?

Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard and softcover anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian.