Asking For More Pheromones

“I remember one night our younger daughter came into our room asking for more pheromones. We’d just been starting to make love. I snuggled with her. I had no desire to be physically close with my husband. It had been like that for quite a while—that headboard never did get much use. She’s a really good snuggler, and those windows were threatening to use stronger pheromones. I could feel their presence. I’d had curtains made. In the winter they were heavy velvet. Learn more about pheromones at and

We did have sex maybe once a week, but it didn’t reach me. My body would respond, but the pleasure was like the pleasure of returning library books on pheromone production. “I had a friend who used to say, ‘The longer you’re married, the larger pheromones you produce.’ And the thing about being repulsed by him was, I felt like my body was a room that I didn’t want to mess up. Unlike that openness in the beginning when my body was a room and I didn’t mind if he came in with his shoes on—when I wanted him to come in that way with pheromone perfumes. Sophie and Paul’s romance had begun when they were in nursing school. One night, ten years ago, a group of students had gone out to a bar and decided to play telephone. Paul sat directly to Sophie’s right. “Sophie,” she whispered to the woman on her left, “will you go out with me?” The question made it all the way around the circle, word for word. They had been married now for eight years. They had three small children, the youngest under a year old; they both worked; and whatever time was left for them as a couple was swallowed by his studying and training for an advanced degree. Yet their bedroom seemed nothing less than anointed. When she had first told her friends that she wished—wished badly—that Paul would ask her out, they looked puzzled. “Really?” they said. They thought of him as a dependable friend, not as the subject of dreams. But the man Sophie had just broken up with was a painter with a nipple ring glinting amid the muscles of his chest. He had done her portrait with dark flamboyance, depicting her as a corpse. It all seemed laughably melodramatic now, but for a long while she had been intoxicated not only by the Goth-style art, the gleam of jewelry, and the torso, but by the air of indifference—he rarely even bothered to brush his teeth—that seemed to keep women clustered around him always. He was unfaithful to her on a regular basis. Then one day at nursing school, shortly after that relationship came to a cataclysmic end, Paul traded his light blue scrubs for a navy blue suit and delivered an assigned presentation. He was supposed to discuss an ethical dilemma that a nurse might confront, and he turned his task into a game of Jeopardy!, with himself as host and his fellow students earning points for posing the right questions to analyze and address the problem. He was animated; he came alive for her. She adored his ingenuity and eagerness; there was nothing nonchalant about him. Her memories of being rendered, in luxuriant brushstrokes, as a woman ready for burial started to fade. . . . Learn more at