A few days ago, I got the loveliest email from a complete stranger. Someone who reads this blog saw that I was having a hard time and reached out to me, just to say, "You don't know me, but I see you. I'm here. I care. You matter."
I cannot tell you, dear reader, how much it meant to me, how much you mean to me. Life is so hard sometimes, so fragile and unclear and confusing, and self-doubt has got to be one of the most opportunistic predators ever conceived. But there is so much to love about life, any life, even my currently dissatisfying life, that I have to tell you how much I appreciate that you all come back here and read me.
I know a lot of dark things happen in the recessed corners of this series of tubes, but good, glorious things happen there, too. Years ago, when I was back on livejournal, I read and was read by a lovely woman who lived somewhere among the Atlantic states. She was a librarian, and though I never saw a photo of her, she remains a truly beautiful woman in my mind. Through a strange series of events, she gave me a few things -- among them a powder blue ultra suede trench coat and The Magnetic Fields box set, 69 Love Songs. She will never know how much of an influence she had on me, but I can tell you that one of the happiest, best photos from my honeymoon features that coat, and a song from the box set was the song my husband and I danced to at our wedding. This beautiful, wonderful stranger gave these gifts, and I cherished them and wove them into the very fabric of my life. She will always be there, a bright mysterious thread glowing in the pattern of that time, one that reappears each time I think of those days and cherish them anew.
Perfume has been like that, too. I know that I do not have the most exacting nose or most in depth knowledge of perfumery's history. I cannot speak French, and I fundamentally do not get chemistry. All I have to offer you is one woman's impressions of the things she smells, sometimes without a lot of skill.
I cannot tell you how much I love having this place to tell you about perfume and my relationship with scent, about all the ways I weird other people out by sniffing at myself or following women who don't speak to me around the office, trying to identify their perfume like a crazy scent stalker. I have been reading Alyssa Harad's Coming to My Senses, and tonight I was reading a section where Alyssa talks about winning a Perfume Posse drawing and getting a package from March at Perfume Posse. She described the feeling as though she'd gotten a package from a movie star. And it reminded me how, when I had only just started buying samples and trying to learn perfume, I won a drawing on Perfume Posse.
Now I am not a winner often in life; anyone who knows me will tell you that. But I won big time, to the tune of a 1ml sample of the top twenty-five perfumes of 2008 as voted by Perfume Posse readers. I was so broke back then, just a poor little 2L with a fifteen-hour-a-week job. Twenty-five samples? A fortune! That they represented the collective wisdom of the Posse tribe? Unspeakably cool. It was like someone giving me not only a treasure map, but the actual treasure besides. I remember the day the package came, sitting on the couch in our old apartment, holding the small vials in my fingers with tears in my eyes thinking how immeasurably lucky I was.
And last week, when I got an email from one of you, I felt that way again.
I love doing drawings here, for a lot of reasons. I don't have the giant collection a lot of other people do, don't have the vintage scents or classics or rares, but one of the things that makes me happiest is making the mixes and decanting samples and sending them out to you. If anything, I feel like I'm doing my small part to pass along the kindness the Posse once showed me, and that I have received over and over again from other bloggers who also do drawings. When I won the bottle of ALoF's What We Do In Paris Is Secret from Now Smell This!, I felt that gratitude and wonder all over again.
One of my more embarrassing moments in college involves me being very late to a final presentation in a course, so late that I had missed my allotted presentation slot. This was roughly the equivalent of missing the final, as the presentation was twenty percent of my grade. I was slated first and a full fifteen minutes late when I finally sprinted into the building and down the stairs, taking them three at a time. My professor was standing the hall outside the classroom, and my first thought when I saw him from the stairs was, "Oh my gods, he's waiting for me. He is so irate he is actually standing out there waiting for me."
Then he looked up and I realized from the curious expression on his face that he was pacing out of boredom. In a series of seconds that felt, then and now, like hours, I realized he was killing time because the class was doing their end of course evaluations, and he wasn't allowed to be in the room. When I realized I hadn't missed my spot because he'd decided to do the evals at the beginning of class, my relief was so great that I burst out, completely out of context: "I love you! I love you! I love you!" To this day, I can still picture the bewildered look on his face as I ran beet-faced past him into the room.
I know this man fairly well now; we go out to dinner once or twice a year to catch up. We've never spoken about that day. Whether he had planned to do the evals at the beginning of class all along, or whether he did it to buy me additional time, I suppose I'll never know. Perhaps he doesn't even remember it. But I do. And not just because it was embarrassing. (So embarrassing!) I'll remember because it was one of those moments when a random act of kindness seemed so unexpectedly necessary and perfect that all I could think was "I love you." What I meant was, "Thank you. I am struggling so much right now, and I desperately needed someone to see that and help me, just a little. Thank you for your sensitivity, your kindness, your willingness to be a person and acknowledge my frailty and not make a thing of it, but to accommodate me all the same. I see the goodness in you, and I love that you acted from that best place in yourself."
I wasn't going to write to you tonight, dear reader. I have a migraine so bad my teeth are throbbing, but when I read that part of Alyssa's book about the drawing, it triggered this flood in me. I thought of March and Patty and that first drawing, of the delighted grateful email I got today from someone who had received their package from me, of all the tiny vials of scent in carefully curated packages we all send each other every day, U.S. postal restrictions be damned, and I could see in my mind this swirling mass of colorful goodwill flowing between us, tying us all together, and I couldn't help myself. I had to sit down and write to you, right now, to say this:
I love you, each and every one of you lovely, lovely people, all out there living your perfumed lives. I may never meet you or know you, but you matter to me. I am grateful for every poorly spelled, typo riddled post you've sloughed through, every comment you've left, every scent you've recommended, or post you've written yourself somewhere for me to find and read and relish. You restore my faith in people, my hope for the future, my confidence in my own life. In a world with more than its share of the rotten, you are the good eggs and you smell as sweet and lovely as your open hearts.
I love you. I love you. I love you.