Wednesday, March 17, 2010

COLUMN: A blanket statement on marriage

It’s common knowledge that marriage is hard work. Although not my marriage, which involves round-the-clock bliss and paradise with my lovely wife, who reads this column.

But most marriages are tough, mainly because of all the things they don’t tell you before you tie the knot. Things like the fact that your spouse may be a slob, or be more interested in the football playoffs than taking care of the kids, or lack even the most basic vestiges of common sense. OK, it’s mostly the women who don’t get told things.

And apparently there’s at least one other thing nobody warns spouses about: smells. You would think that by the time you marry somebody you’d have figured out what the person smells like, but this fails to take into account that when you first date someone, you’re on your best behavior, smell-wise. Besides, smells might be one of those things that change as you get older, like hair sprouting from places you’d previously have expected only in a David Cronenberg movie. (You know who you are.)

Which brings me to Francis Bibbo, a science teacher and inventor of the “Better Marriage Blanket.” According to a press release from Bibbo, the blanket provides ammunition against “romanticus interruptus,” which I suppose would be anything that might ruin a romantic moment between husband and wife. The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen would be to take the blanket, wrap the husband in it, and throw him in the river.

But that’s probably going too far. Turns out Bibbo is speaking specifically of protecting spouses from untoward emissions that might make things unpleasant in the boudoir. He based his blanket on military chemical suits, going on the theory that members of the military very rarely complain about how each other smell when they’re under nuclear, biological or chemical attack.

But let’s face it, the Better Marriage Blanket is a daring thing for somebody to invent, because it’s hard not to assume that Bibbo’s own marriage is a regular smell factory. One pictures Mrs. Bibbo making tearful, frantic calls to her mother, a clothespin affixed tightly to her nose, as Mr. Bibbo wanders through the house emitting wavy lines that are actually visible to infrared cameras.

But it turns out that Bibbo got the idea not from his own marriage but from his trips deer hunting, when he apparently wore a military chemical suit to keep the deer from smelling him. I imagine he cut quite a profile standing there in the woods with his bow and arrow, wearing a full-body activated carbon fabric suit designed to trap in all his smells. You could spot him by looking for the deer, squirrels and other hunters backing away verrrry slooowly.

So Bibbo eventually got the idea to turn the suit into a blanket, to be used in places where people are likely to emit odors they’d rather other people didn’t smell, like TV rooms, hospitals, planes, cruise ships, dorms and senior citizen homes, where they should probably affix them to every bare surface, like smell-absorbing wallpaper. He even foresees its use in the space shuttle, where astronauts can finally stop blaming the solid rocket boosters.

But it’s primarily for couples who want to keep their smells to themselves. “If you are going to need a blanket to stay warm, you may as well have one that absorbs odors,” Bibbo points out. No word on whether the blanket will also muffle the potential noise pollution that could accompany smells and thus spoil a romantic moment, or whether you have to deal with that the old-fashioned way, by playing “Freebird” at a high volume.

No matter what, though, I’m sure Mr. Bibbo is right that his invention will improve marriages. In fact, I recommend that every husband run right out and buy the anti-smell blanket for his wife, and present it to her on their next anniversary. And let’s hope that activated carbon fabric floats long enough for the Coast Guard to pluck him out of the river.

This column appeared originally in North Shore Sunday. Peter Chianca is a managing editor for GateHouse Media New England. Follow him on Twitter at To receive At Large by e-mail, write to, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”

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