Getting scentimental // Finding my perfume soul mate

"I'm getting lemons, budgies, and rubber."

In the brilliant novel Perfume by Patrick Suskind,  the main character, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a man born with the greatest sense of smell in the history of humanity, becomes so enamoured with the scent of certain individual women that he develops an obsession with finding a way to preserve it in order to create the world’s most perfect perfume. Sadly this involves murder (doesn’t it always?), but the 12 backdrop scents, combined with the 1 top note of his 13 victims creates a perfume so divine that all who smell it are overcome with love, reverence and desire.
I won’t tell you how it ends, but suffice to say there’s an orgy. Isn’t there always?

The story of Jean-Baptiste is an exploration of the relationship between scent and emotion. As an aromatherapist, this has always been a subject of great interest to me.
Science tells us that our own natural bodily scents are the most powerful tool of attraction, so why do we douse ourselves in artificial chemicals in order to attract the opposite sex?
Is it rather that the scents we wear invoke memories of times past when we were confident, comforted, maybe a different version of ourselves?
I apologise for how Sex and the City Carrie that sounded there. I couldn’t help but wonder, did that sound like Carrie from Sex and the City? Yes, now shut the fuck up.

Interested in this idea I asked Twitter, as ever a wonderful source of information in such matters.
I put the question to my friends about how their scent made them feel, and was fascinated by the different, and sometimes barmy responses I got.

“Like I’ve been locked in Tom Selleck’s cellar”
“Smells like fairies”
“Like a freshly washed and just placed in the mouth nectarine”
“Being Catholic it highlights the guilt and reminds me of it”
“Makes me feel all grown up”
“Reminds me of the ship I bought it on”
“Sits quietly, feminine familiarity, masculine mystery”
“Playful, cheeky and confident”
“Takes me back to living in the Middle East”
“Makes me feel comfortable about being near folk”
“Like a hot piece of ass”
“Reminds me of better times”
“Feminine and ladylike without smelling like my Nan’s underwear drawer”
“Fragrant ballerina”
“Nice and a bit more confident”
“Makes me feel fuckable” – there’s *always* one…yes Jon, hello 😀

I also asked if these were signature scents, in a lot of cases they were and seemed to be the scent that each person was ‘known’ for.
So like the scent evoked memories for the individual, so their scent would evoke memories of them for others. It’s just one more thing we can be remembered for when we’re gone. Well, they will be, I won’t.

Here we go, now for the reason I’ve written this piece…
I’m worried because I’m 38 and I still haven’t found a signature scent.

Laugh if you want, but I view this as serious.
I glance over to my dressing table that currently has 3 different perfumes on the go. Vivienne Westwood’s Naughty Alice, Prada Amber and Emporio Armani She.
That’s just ridiculous.
The closest I ever came to a signature scent was Angel Innocent by Thierry Mugler, I hammered that for about 2 years then inexplicably went off it.
Another I absolutely loved was Libertine, again by Vivienne Westwood, but they stopped making it and damn near broke my heart.

I’ll hold my hands up right now (well, I’ll display the inside of my wrists) and say that I’m a perfume junkie. I’m not fussy about cosmetics or skin/hair products and will use any old cheap thing, but perfume is another story entirely. It’s got to be a good one, and it’s got to trigger some kind of response in me be it happiness, a sex shudder, a sudden memory, or simply the unquantifiable feeling that it means something.

I could literally spend my life in the scent departments of the big stores. The wave of sweet, sexy perfumed ozone that hits you in the face as you walk into them is like heroin to me, the beautiful bottles full of amber promise glittering majestically in the-
…excuse me, I appear to be channelling Lord fucking Byron for no apparent reason.

Let me go back to the beginning. I started as most little girls’ start, by robbing squirts of my mother’s perfume. Miss Dior was her scent of choice, and it stirs up powerful, sometimes heart wrenching memories whenever I smell it.
I’ve been wearing perfume now for 24 years, starting at age 14, and have yet to discover the ‘one’. There now follows a brief retrospective of my scented exes, and current lovers.

Lou Lou, Anais Anais, Joy, Cabotine Du Gres, CK One, Tommy Girl, Angel, Angel Innocent, CK Be, Libertine, Tresor, Daisy, Obsession, Amber, Chanel No. 5, Maitresse, Beautiful, Amarige, She, Happy, Sunflowers, Naughty Alice, Sensuous, Boudoir…I could go on but it’s already a preposterous amount.
That’s equal to one for every year since I started, and I know that if I really thought about it, I could more than double that list. What the hell is wrong with me? Why can’t I just PICK one??

Maybe this is why I went into aromatherapy, to hone my scent skills in order to find my perfume soul mate. I qualified 12 years ago yet still have no signature scent, in fact the ability to recognise certain notes in scents has probably made me worse.
I can tell you in great detail what I was wearing at major points in my life, perfume is my ‘where were you when President Kennedy was shot?’
Leaving school (Anais Anais), first love (Lou Lou), goodbye virginity (Obsession), weird 6 month crush on 3rd cousin, twice removed (Chanel No.5), first trip on Eurostar (She)…etc.
It’s like a scented rolodex of memories. A lady walked past me the other day wearing Chanel No. 5, and I actually blushed thinking about the stupid things I got up to way back when I was wearing it. Now that’s powerful.

Think about how many times scent affects you in a single day. Think of times when the scent of something in the air has made you stop, close your eyes, and allow yourself to be transported elsewhere.
You’ll realise just how much the scent you carefully picked out for yourself, and treasure as your ‘signature’ may mean to others. They think of you when they smell it and feel something relating to you, be it sadness, a smile, or if you’re lucky, a bit horny.

As for me, I must face the harsh reality that I may die as a cacophony of scents, and that when I’m very old and forgetful, family members will have to spray different perfumes in my face if they want me to remember things.

Everything but the memory that goes along with Obsession… that stays between myself and Calvin Klein.


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