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Friday, 7 October 2011

A vagrant thought entered my head a minute ago

The first scent I ever remember wearing was Evening in Paris.  It belonged to my mother, and came in a cobalt blue bottle.  She kept the bottle on a shelf in the bathroom, and I couldn't resist trying it; then I couldn't resist showing her I had dabbed it behind my ears, and it became less available.  I thought the name was very evocative, even though I knew nothing about  how Paris smelled in the evening.

When I was 14 or so, someone gave me Chantilly, which put me off scent for a while because it was so spicy-girly.  A woman who aspired to spend time with Albert Schweitzer really needed something more subtle, but it wasn't until I started working at the local drug store that I had any leads as to what might be compatible with my aspirations.

I went  through every brand, every label and every strength of scent while I worked there.  I sold scent by the ton.  People would always look at my white jacket and assume I knew what I was talking about, and because I read all the promotional material in the same way that I read the backs of cereal boxes, I appeared to know my stuff.  Although I had access to the tester for Chanel No. 5, I chose Woodhue, which I'm sure couldn't be found now.  It had, surprisingly, a woodsy scent that I thought would appeal to the more manly of the men I was interested in.  The only effect I can remember it having is that it made my dad sneeze.

You might think that I would have lost faith in the ability of scent to attract; I know I could never find myself in the "Which Scent is for You?" articles in Seventeen magazine.  They of course tended to be girlish and subdued, which I didn't really feel was the real me.

I kept experimenting; I used scent, I read about scent, and people gifted me with it, but I can't remember anything that was important to me in my 20's; in my early 30's I was all about patchouli, which was infinitely better than the natural body odour being chosen by some of my friends, and by the time I was 33, I had fortuitously found a scent that worked really well for me. 

It was an inexpensive line by Revlon called Ciara, and I wore it for years.  I didn't just wear it actually, it sort of floated around me in a little cloud that my friends and family could always identify as "me".  I loved it that people claimed they knew how long I had been out of the office by the intensity of my scent left behind.   I used all the versions of Ciara:   the soap, the bath foam, the talc, the cologne, the perfume, and no one, NO ONE, ever said anything disparaging about it or about me that I ever knew.

However, I worked in Human Resources jobs, and we were sensitive people.  We realized that there were some people whose sensitivity to scent (or its chemical compounds) made them miserable, so I stopped wearing scent to work.  After a particularly jarring episode at the theatre where my seat mate complained about "the poison in the air" and reached over to silence my bracelets while I was clapping, I kind of eased off the scent---the bracelets stayed. 

By then, every doctor's office had signs requesting you to be scent-free, the busses had little discreet signs about respecting others nearby, and I had resorted to rubbing coconut body balm behind my ears when I went out to do something social.

Then, the other day, Google News or one of the news services had an article about Ciara Somebody---a crunk singer whose body makes you forget you hate crunk, and whoosh!!! I remembered how good I used to smell.  How I would squirt Ciara into the air in front of me and walk through it, then do it again and walk backwards, and it didn't smell like Ciara, it smelled like me.  And how I loved it, and how I loved that my kids could find me either by the bracelets or the scent, and that Dave took my scented handkerchief when he went on a trip and I really, really miss it.


  1. I have never been able to wear an cologne or perfume. I am barely able to use scented Baby Pdr without a asthma attack. My best friend uses some ungodly perfume that I have to hold my breath in long stretches until the scent fades when I am with her.

  2. Sadly, strong scents make me sneeze and give me a headache. I like scents but they do not like me.

  3. There must still be occasions when you could wear it.

  4. Evening in Paris was my first scent too. Went through various ones, white shoulders when my kids were growing up. I adored aramis and tweed on men. Because I have allergies in late life I rarely wear perfume but love Michael Kors. I actually start coughing when scent is really strong. So sad.