|I smelled like this...|
The moment I knew I had crossed the rubicon from someone who appreciates perfume into a true, diehard, lifelong perfume maniac came in one hard, somewhat hilarious slap to my fragile perfume ego.
I still remember it clearly. I woke up one morning, got dressed, carefully applied my make-up, and then completed my morning ritual the way I always do: I stand in front of a large cabinet of scents, trying to decide what I wanted to smell like for the day. Do I want to wear something only I can smell and enjoy, or do I want a scent someone else might notice? Do I want to wear the perfume or do I feel up to the challenge of trying out a perfume that will more or less wear me? Do I want to find comfort in a tried and true favorite, or boldly go where few olfactory explorers, including myself, have gone before? What do I want to say to the world today, or to myself?
On this particular occasion, I was feel daring. I would try something new, an impulse purchase from an indie perfumer I liked who was discontinuing a number of her scents and had offered them at essentially bargain basement prices. I'd tried the scent a little when I'd gotten it, but this would be my first full fledged wearing of the scent. I pulled a small one third ounce roller out and applied it amply – my wrists, my neck, the backs of my knees, even the dip of my cleavage. I smelled earthy with a hint of old, slightly mouldering moss that was covered in aged leather and coated in heaping dose of patchouli and civet. It was a powerful, rich, sexy perfume and I smelled wonderful.
The women, who had been chatting quietly between themselves, became silent almost as soon as the doors closed. It seemed abrupt, but sometimes that happens in elevators, so I didn't think a lot of it. One of them started coughing, and I backed away a little, trying to avoid getting sick for the umpteeth time that year. The elevator pinged, the doors opened, and I exited quickly trying to outrun the germs and headed for a long day's slough in my cube.
I settled in and got to work, focused on the day's tasks. Occasionally, I would get a whiff of my lovely, sexy perfume, and I would give a small inward sigh of satisfaction. I loved it. I felt like I was some sort of woodland nymph, or like my Greek goddess namesake, Artemis, hunting through the woods with her bow and arrow.
About an hour after I arrived, the coworker who shared my cube wall abruptly stood up and headed for the kitchen, carrying his full trashcan in hand. “Great,” I thought. “That dude is finally emptying his trash.” A few minutes later he returned, and sat down. I could hear him banging agitatedly on his keyboard, but I tried to ignore it. After about ten minutes, he stood up again and began prowling around, openly sniffing at different people. Finally, and without any further introduction, he demanded, “Okay, who here smells like death?”
Dear reader, the death smeller was – you guessed it – me.
|Titan Arum in close up.|
Now let me be clear: the perfume did not smell like death. It never did. But there was something about the combination of my own body chemistry that day and the somewhat inaccessible scent that made my coworker think that of rotting flesh and uncleaned litter boxes. And he was not nice about it, reader. He was on a mission to remove the death stink from his area. I snuck off to the bathroom and tried to scrub away the olfactory evidence with a wad of paper towels, then dabbed over it with an inoffensive aquatic sample I thought smelled like dish soap. When I returned to my desk, he was quiet, but it didn't matter. I was the death smeller, and everyone knew it.
|Corpse Flower in bloom.|
The truth is that the world is as full of smells as it is sights and sounds and tastes and touches. Like all those other senses, scent is evocative. Scent is illuminating. Scent is revolutionary. And that requires all kinds of scents and scent experiences, even challenging ones. We need to have our preconceptions of what someone should look like or sound like or, yes, even smell like, challenged. We need to be open to the possibility of something new, something different, and yes, even something 'bad.' And if that makes me a woman that smells like a Corpse Flower on occasion, then so be it. Let the zombie decay comparisons begin.
And for the record? I love my dirty perfume. I still have it. And my partner doesn't seem to think it smells like death at all.
License for Titan Arum in close up - some rights reserved by massmarrier
License for Corpse Flower in Bloom - some rights reserved by ingridtaylar.