I was standing in line at the grocery store with my 4 month old in a front carrier when the middle aged man ahead of me swooped in with the precision of a Night Hawk and sniffed my baby. He got right in there and took a big whiff as if my son were a freshly baked cookie. Oddly I had him dressed in a onesie that said "Cookies" on it, so maybe the label was partly to blame for this odd display on the part of a complete stranger.
The man backed away after his sniff and sighed: "Ah....new baby smell" he said, the way you might comment on the clean scent of freshly washed linens or bread straight from the oven or the sharp tang of good boot leather. And that was the end of the social transaction.
I felt vaguely violated on behalf of my child who couldn't consent to being sniffed and wasn't asked anyway. I definitely would have been uncomfortable if someone had sniffed me. It has a Hannibal Lecter feel to it somehow as if the next logical step is cannabalistic consumption. But after some distance and reflection I found I couldn't blame the man too much. Babies do smell surprisingly sweet, and they're about as soft and scrumptious looking as a cinnamon bun. I doubt I'm the first to wonder why adults tend to approach babies as if they're a candy studded dessert. Everyone's first instinct is to exclaim that they want to "eat him up." Apparently the human brain is only able to cope with a finite amount of cuteness and anything that surpasses our limit (an adorable 4 month old baby for example) causes a neural overload that prompts us to desire the destruction of the cuteness that torments us. We want to incorporate that cuteness into our very being so we don't have to deal with it any more, and the deeply pleasurable act of eating seems like the best way to go. Or something like that.
There you go, that's my psychological analysis for the day. I'm going to give my baby a bath now so that he's even more sweet smelling than before. I suspect I'll be able to avoid gobbling him up, but only just barely.