"Well, you remember that whole Paleozoic-diet from a while ago?" I asked, trying my best to stifle my rampant nerves. At the therapists nod I pressed on "do you know much about it?"
"Assume I don't " she replied.
"Ok, well I didn't either, not at first, wasn't even in high school yet. I saw an article online about it. They went into detail about the research behind it, the competing theories about what the data meant, the different issues with making generalities from small data sets." I paused and looked at her and continued at her nod.
"Well I have to get some into the detail so here goes. You see they, the science guys - paleontologists, looked at everything they could find, trash pits to see what ancient men ate, wear patterns on teeth to get a indication of how much of what was eaten, petrified pollen counts from the same period for a idea of the number and type of plants available and that would also indicate the type and number of prey species available. This was all part of the science that the graduate students did regularly to get their degrees. They gradually built up this general picture of what these ancient people ate and how they ate it." I paused again and waited for her to nod me on.
"Then after years of serious debate and a lot of contentious theorizing a couple of 'schools' of thought came to be the most accepted. They did this so that they could try and answer some serious questions that might impact us today. Did man kill of the the mega fauna, or was it something else? Did diet contribute to our advancement from nomads to farmers? That kind of thing. Then someone came up with an interesting question, if ancient man evolved on a certain diet then wouldn't modern man benefit from the same type of diet?" I looked up at her before continuing.
"That's where the diet came from. Eat more nuts and seeds, no processed anything, no sugar, fruit in season, that kind of thing. Someone wrote a diet book or two, it was a fad for a moment then it faded away. " I licked my lips before proceeding. "Then things just bumped along for awhile until another weird idea that only a grad student would want to research came up."
"How bad did Paleo-man stink? Did he bathe? He did not seem to have soap so what did he do when his stink got so bad he could not stand it? So they started to study how did different peoples thru the ages kept clean. The Romans took hot baths frequently, something not done again until more modern times. What did the greeks do?, the macedonians? The nomad? Do we really need soap or is there another way?" I paused again as I approached the real crux of my problem.
"So they also went the other direction and studied the flora and fauna that lives on your skin. One guy did self experiments with not bathing with soap, only with water and using a towel. Contrary to popular thought, after his body fauna and flora adjusted to it and he developed a good routine of daily rinses and hair toweling he didn't stink. His girl friend liked it, his colleagues did not object, studies of his skin did not show nasties that would harm him. In fact the 'bad' stinky making stuff was kept in check pretty well by the other non stinky stuff so he published his findings and that was that." I looked at the therapist again and took a large breath before I continued.
"About the same time other groups, mainly funded by the cosmetics industry were looking for the elusive 'human pheromone' so that they could bottle it and make a killing. They did a study where they had random guys and girls do different activities, sports, sex, math, sleeping and then either wear a standard shirt or put it on for a set time afterwards. They put the shirts in sealed bags and then tested other people by allowing them to sniff the shirts then do different things. Look at peoples head shots and rate their attractiveness. Do math. And they got results. Not anything really sellable, but certain men's smells would alter how many women perceived attractiveness for a time, that kind of thing."
"That's were I come into the mix. I was a grad student by that time and I looked at the paleozoic-diet and the paleo-man stink data, and my advisor had worked on a few of the scent studies so on a lark I proposed to combine it all and see what comes of it. But everything is about the money so I had to get some serious grants to do it. The Paleozoic-diet takes months to settle out, the Paleo-man washing takes at least a month to stabilize, and the scent studies take thousands of random subjects to get statistically significant results. All of that takes time and money. After five years of hard work and grant applications I finally got the study done.
"I had 25 volunteers eating the paleozoic-diet for a year while also doing the Paleo-man washing thing. Then I did in depth scent studies on them. The initial results were promising. More of the test subjects reacted and more strongly than before. But in the end not enough to be economically viable for the study backers. But the research was done and I published and got my PhD." I paused to swallow and calm myself before looking back at the therapist before continuing at her nod, her gaze was at best 'professionally nice' and I started to feel that I was in trouble.
"Then nothing much happened. I got a job teaching here at the U and fell in love and got married to a micro biologist, Janet. I was comfortable and stable and we were looking toward kids and a house. Then she got sick, turned out to be cancer. She was at the apartment bored out of her mind and sick from the chemo. So of coarse she read my thesis. And her comment was that we did not correct for evolution and culture. The biology on the skin has a generation every few days on average, so has had millions of generations to get to where they are today from ancient Rome. Perhaps the biology has changed significantly over time to account for the smells of society and washing? But ... she was sick and I did not want to spend time thinking about anything except getting her well. So I didn't." I could feel my face flush and my eyes water. " and she didn't, she died four years ago."
I leaned over to get my water off the coffee table between us and took my time getting a few sips and a handle on my emotions. I studied the therapist closely and knew this would be a waste of time but I had already paid for her so I decided to push forward.
"Do you have any questions? " I inquired.
"I would like to get to the end of your tale before I ask them." she replied, her countenance calm and studied.
"OK, well, she died. And it took me six months to start to recover. By the grace of god and a great assistant I still had my job. My assistant said I needed to publish again to stay on tenure track so we cast around for something easy to do as I still did not have a great attention span. We hashed over many topics but none of them 'sparked a fire' so to speak. It was sometime later when my wife had been buried almost a year when I ran across my thesis while boxing up more of her things." I ruefully smiled