For most of her life, Joy Milne had a superpower that she was totally oblivious to. She simply had no idea she possessed an utterly amazing, slightly terrifying biological gift that scientists would itch to study.
In fact, Joy probably would have stayed oblivious if it hadn’t been for her husband, Les Milne.
The two met in high school. Les was a 17-year-old swimmer and Joy was 16, a new transfer. She remembers dancing with him at a party and being struck by his wonderful smell. “He had a lovely male musk smell. He really did,” she recalls.
Everything about Les appealed to Joy. He was very thoughtful and generally quiet but had a wicked sense of humor.
After college, they got married and set off on happily-ever-after. Les became a doctor, Joy became a nurse, and they had three boys. Joy says that as a couple they were so easy together — they rarely fought: “We disagreed about things now and again, but we didn’t fight, fight.”
Life with “her Les,” as she calls him, was everything Joy had hoped.
But then one day, about 10 years into the marriage, when Les was 31, he came home, and strangely, Joy says, he smelled different. “His lovely male musk smell had got this overpowering sort of nasty yeast smell,” she says.
At first Joy thought it must be something from the hospital where he worked and told him to shower, but that didn’t help, and over the weeks and months that followed the smell just seemed to grow stronger.
So Joy started nagging: “[I] kept saying to him … ‘Look, you know, you’re not washing enough.’ “But the smell wouldn’t yield, and eventually Les got mad whenever Joy told him to shower. He couldn’t smell it, he grumbled, and neither could anyone else. “He just would stomp off in a huff and say, ‘Oh, stop going on about that!’ I had to just let it go and put up with it,” she recalls.