I am woman, smell me roar
Years and years ago I dated this Russian guy; we’ll call him Boris. He wondered why I never wore perfume. I didn’t really have an answer. He said that women were supposed to wear perfume, so that when a dude smelled it on something somewhere, it would make him think of her. I thought that was sweet, but kind of pooh-poohed the idea for myself because perfume made me think of old ladies and how it kind of annoyed me if I was in the grocery store or at a movie or something and had to constantly smell them.
I had a string of jobs where my supervisors were way into smelly candles and aromatherapy and things of that nature. I remember one job where the denizen of office to the left of me liked “energizing lemon” and the office on the right of me’s occupant constantly had a “calming lavender” thing going. I joked that my left half was wide awake while my right half was falling asleep. Altogether I felt like my personal airspace was being violated by other peoples’ scents. The scent I enjoyed most was nothing. I didn’t think it was fair that someone else’s particles of smelly shit should be able to attack my nostrils without my consent. It was like olfactory rape. Why couldn’t they make air fresheners that destroyed all smells and made the air smell completely blank? That’s what *I* wanted.
However, I kept the idea of the perfume in the back of my head. I experimented with essential oils, because I liked the smell of flowers. Not the flowery perfumey scents; the smell of actual flowers, and essential oils were the closest thing I could find. I liked jasmine a lot, but got accused of smelling like a hippie, so I switched to roses. That, of course, prompted people to think I smelled like their grandmother’s bathroom soap, so I eventually gave it up altogether.
Enter Klaus, my current beau. He is very scent-oriented, he says. While he doesn’t burn aromatherapy candles, thank goodness, he does like a good perfume. In fact, it was at his suggestion (bordering on insistence) that we go to The Mall and check out a department store perfume counter. The last time I had gone to a department store perfume counter, I was probably about 7 and was with my grandmother, who instructed the counter lady to spray me with something (probably “Charlie,” she always wore perfume called Charlie). I remember smelling like perfume all day and being slightly annoyed, but it also sort of made me feel vaguely like a grown-up.
Anyway, it must have been quite the sight at Macy’s in the Burlington Mall yesterday– Klaus was the one taking the lead on the perfume. Since this was Klaus’s project (and he was paying), I was totally fine with it all. He kept describing what he was smelling to the old ladies, who eventually drifted away to help other customers. “I smell grass… with some musk.” It turns out he likes super duper flowery things that are a little too sickeningly sweet for me. I like citrusy things, which make him think of being in the produce aisle. He doesn’t want “food smells,” as he put it. At one point the old lady who was showing us the perfumes said, somewhat sarcastically, “is SHE gonna be wearing this, or YOU?”
If, at age 22 when I was way into being an independent non-girly woman, you had told me that in nearly 20 years I would be at a Macy’s perfume counter with a dude who was going to buy expensive perfume for me, I would have scoffed. Why should I let some dude dictate what I smell like? Yet, here I was. After huffing like 20 different kinds of perfume, we finally settled on Chanel No. 5. Yes, we sniffed all these different things, only to come back to a perfume that has been around 95 years; that generations of women have worn. I smell like legions of dead flappers and grannies… and I kinda like it!
I am wearing it now, and it’s really weird– it doesn’t smell like me. I keep thinking there’s someone behind me that I’m smelling. I like how it smells a lot, but since I have spent a lot of my life thinking that the best smells are the absence of perfumes, I gotta get used to it!
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