Or, Fighting the Friday Doledrums By Olefactory Means
This piece is dedicated to Angela S. at Now Smell This! for making me the perfumista I am today.
Benjamin Franklin once famously quipped, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” This is how I feel about perfume.
When I am in the depths of my most impoverished, maudlin, lonely, and unproductive hours, I find there are a handful of things that can quiet my soul, cure my funk. Taking a drive with excellent music. Spending an afternoon in a good museum with headphones on. A perfectly made cup of coffee. Curling up with a good book. Watching a favorite old movie on DVD while I am up to my elbows in pastry dough. This list has gotten me through quite a few long, dark tea-times of my soul.
Most recently, perfume has made the list. Just sifting through my now generous sample collection, organizing and cataloging and sniffing them, can make me genuinely happy. Smelling them evokes treasured memories or favorite things from the world, or inspires future plans for shopping and travel. Perfume, in short, makes me feel happy. It makes me feel hopeful. It helps me remember good times and remember how I got through other bad times and reminds me of the ones I love and the ones who love me. It is a true and great gift, and quite honestly, discovering all there is out there to smell has changed my life.
Since I moved to California without my husband or friends or even my cats, finding things that comfort me has turned out to be more critical to my survival than I had imagined. When I started this perfumista business over a year ago, I knew I liked the world’s olfactory richness and wanted to experience more of it, and I knew that I enjoyed the astonishing clarity I experience with olfactory memory triggers. I never imagined, though, how much my love of perfume would soothe me, how I would revel in a new scent, how I would feel better just knowing all the impossible things I have already smelled and have yet to smell.
I’m sure this sounds stark raving mad to those of you who are not into perfume; I accept that this is a love affair that not everyone understands. When I revealed to my first new coworker that I collect and review perfume (after she caught me sorting through tiny vials of samples in a small tin I carry with me in my purse and jokingly asked if they were drugs—she didn’t know how right she was!), she replied, “I have never even *heard* of that before.” But if you have ever lowered your face and deeply inhaled your laundry fresh from the dryer, or stopped dead in your tracks after you caught of whiff of a passerby’s cologne and run smack into the most accurate memory of your first high school boyfriend you’ve had in a decade, or stopped before digging into your favorite dish to inhale all the savory deliciousness, you love perfume. There is a perfumista hiding within you, just waiting for someone to cover your hands and arms in six different kinds of violets and ask you to describe the differences between them. You want to know what it smells like to try to capture vodka or whiskey in a “boozy” fragrance. You want to debate the finer points of what makes a good gourmand fragrance, you want to talk trash about this week’s new celebrity scent, you want to have that epiphany moment where you suddenly sniff something new and think, “This smells like burning rubber and overcooked caramel and I LOVE IT!” You want these experiences. You just don’t know it yet.
Yes, welcome, my friend, to the show that never ends. There is more perfume in the world than you can smell in a lifetime, and every day there is more of it. It’s all here, waiting for you. Come inside, come inside, come inside.
And they came from Zimbabwe or from Soviet Georgia,
East Saint Louis, or from Paris, or they lived across the street.
But they came, and when they'd finally made it here,
it was the least that we could do to make our welcome clear.
Come on in; we haven't slept for weeks.
Drink some of this. It'll put color in your cheeks.
- "Color in Your Cheeks," The Mountain Goats