Sunday, December 30, 2007

The nose as a window to the soul?

Smells have been on my mind recently. Not just the kinds of smells you can buy at any perfume counter or soap store but that basic, underlying personal smell. Even as a small child I was fascinated by it. I used to revel in telling people about their smells, I used to make character judgments based on them and I suppose I still do. I remember once trying to explain to a friend in the second grade how she had such a strong smell and I loved it and I wished that I had one when she informed me that I did, in fact, have one but she couldn't nail it down and it didn't matter anyway. I forgave her because we were only seven at the time and had not yet found the words to describe certain things. I chalked it up to a general lack of intellectual maturity. I don't have to concentrate hard to recall her smell, she and it are strong in my memory. It was clean and sweet and permeating. 

 I rarely notice personal smells anymore and I think that's because I can now pretty well put my finger on the source of a particular scent, be it soap or detergent or perfume; most of the mystery is gone. On occasion there is a scent or combination of scents that really sets a person apart in my memory and there is no replicating it. That's when the old intrigue sets in. Sometimes, as recently happened, a smell will be so overpowering as a memory in itself that one sniff alone is enough to send me crawling back to the first instance of heart break. Strangely, it is the basic feeling,  rarely the person attached to it. Sometimes I find myself wondering if my feelings would have been so strong if I had smelled that one particular scent out of a bottle instead of on a neck. Evidently I am not the only person to have this particular reaction to this particular fragrance. I was in a shop recently and the saleslady handed me a bottle that was all "him". It was the fragrance that an ex spritzed liberally. I said as much to the salelsady and she laughed saying that a customer had just been in and when she smelled it she said, "Wow, I stayed with the same woman for ten years based on how she smelled and this is it. If I knew you could get it in a bottle I would have dumped her years ago."

I also think a person's unique smell says a lot about their personality. A dear friend of mine has a smell that whispers who she is before her mouth says a word. It is a combination of the heady, classically scented candles she loves that so often bring a wrinkle to my nose just before they invite a headache to stay the night and a little vial of oil she rubs behind her ears, and on her hands in a pinch. The latter is more descriptive of her. It is soft, musky, floral, wispy and unassuming. Sometimes you can't miss it, it walks in, holding her hand and loud and clear says, "hello, here I am!" and other times you really have to take a long deep breath of her to even get a hint of it. The great thing is that this is her in a nutshell. Being that these women, their scents and personalities have had such an effect on me I have become rather keen on figuring out what my smell is and what it says to the world.

In the past I have had friends tell me that they smelled a perfume that smelled like me. Usually it's something I have never tested, much less worn. The one the is most often happens with is Marc jacobs, though any white floral evidently used to smell like me, even when I refused for years to wear perfume. A former girlfriend offered up her opinion without my having to ask. She once said, "You always smell so amazing and clean, I've never meat anyone who naturally smells like you". Another time she picked out my shampoo as the magic smell, underlined with cake. How the hell does a person smell like cake??? I haven't the faintest. 

My current girl, I flat out asked her what I smell like. She thought for a minute and said, "you always smell good, you smell like cookies and flowers and... well... every part of you smells like something different. You smell like a very expensive soap shop". When I told her of this little essay her response was, "did you mention the cigarettes and expensive lady perfume?" I'm not sure how I feel about that. She has a very sensitive sense of smell, so maybe she is able to pick out the different scents. Of course, I have been rather experimental in the fragrance department as of late, whereas with the first girl I was at my olfactorily plainest as I was traveling without perfume, scented soaps or creams. This worked out for us I think partially because her scent, like her, was overpowering, loud, at times antiseptic and grating while still somehow being mysteriously lovely. I had no room to add more to the olfactory party. Hmmm, sounds a bit like our relationship. 

I guess, for me, the nose is the window to the soul...and the future... and the past.


Madison said...

I didn't realize anyone felt as strongly as I do about scents. I have a friend who's scent is this blunt, musky, sexy smell thats half detergent and half pure mystery. And my girlfriend is home. Some scents seem to reach your heart.

Caroline said...
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