I began intensely craving the smell of foam last year, out of nowhere. Not just any kind of foam either, but a very specific sort of packing foam I had encountered at some point in my youth. I looked everywhere to fulfill this confounding need. Thoughts of foam occupied my mind; I talked about it every chance I got.
I’m no stranger to food cravings, but this was different. I was comforted by the fantasy of a room, covered floor to ceiling in plush, rubbery foam. I would lie there, inhaling, sinking my toes into the soft, forgiving sponge floor. I fell asleep at night, this tranquilizing image plastered in my mind.
I asked around — had anyone felt anything like this? Was it some kind of sickness — a brain tumor? Would it last forever? One friend mentioned her fondness for the smell of gasoline. She said when it got particularly intense, she would follow cars around on her bike, inhaling their exhaust. Still, her condition seemed more common. Hazardous, but common.
While predominant, the smell craving was not entirely limited to foam. Around the same time I became hooked on the smell of a particular train station, going out of my way, stopping every time I passed to take a deep huff. The mechanical, industrial aroma my boyfriend described as “boiled cabbage cleaning product” was intoxicating. Soon, to my disappointment, a meatball cart was placed in front of the station.
I researched my strange preoccupation. I found no indication anyone else had ever “craved” foam. Vitamin deficiencies reportedly can cause odd cravings, as can pregnancy. To my knowledge, neither of these applied to me. Gasoline and cleaning products are among the most popular smell cravings. Few others have been reported.
Once, while discussing my fixation with a friend, she presented a possibility. “Maybe,” she said, “something good once happened to you, as a child, around this foam.” Memory and smell are, after all, strongly and inextricably linked. Still, it seemed a little hippy-dippy psychoanalytic a notion to entertain.
The mixed resolution involved my discovery of a worthwhile substitute in the form of a rubbery yoga mat. After an extensive search, I realized it was almost exactly the foam smell I had been craving. Unfortunately, inhaling it was simply not enough. I had no idea how to interact with this object and my want for it. There was no epiphanic moment. Try as I did, it was impossible to entirely satisfy my craving.
Slowly, with time, the cravings went away, but not the mystery behind them and how unexplainably, freakily strange our bodies can be.
Have you ever had a weird craving? Did changing your diet or lifestyle help mitigate the problem?