December 9, 2012

The Power of Scent

The fact is that as with all things beautiful and sensorial, I have a love affair with perfume.   Like music, fragrances transport us to the time period when we initially smelled them.  As a child, I remember my first perfumes in perfect chronological order: Tinkerbell, Love’s Baby Soft, Charlie White, and CK1.  In high school, I wore (and still wear) body spray, predominantly from The Body Shop (White Musk is still a constant standby), and then later in high school I gravitated toward deeper, sexier scents, like Calvin Klein’s Obsession and Gucci Rush.  Of all these, Gucci Rush is still one of my most favorite scents of all time. 

While I love to wear perfume and to smell good for myself – and hopefully for others – what’s most powerful is the smell of the opposite sex.  I remember going on a first date when I was 13 with an older high school boy, which was way too young to be going on a first date, let alone with an older boy, but I digress.  He drove a Jeep, smoked pot, and had curly gelled hair, and wasn’t much for words, but his smell, oh his smell.  The fact that he wasn’t my type didn’t matter, because he smelled amazing.  His signature scent was Drakkar Noir, a scent that, according to advertisers Ron Beasley and Marcel Danesi “obviously appeals to the dark, macabre, sinister side of masculine sexual fantasies.”  A few years ago, I took a whiff of the fragrance at a department store, and was surprised that it didn’t smell anything the way I remembered my date had smelled.
Since then, I’ve learned about the anatomy of a fragrance:  the top, middle, and base notes; the dry down; and sillage.  Most likely, what was so memorable to me about this my date's cologne was the dry down – the revealing of the base note – rather than the initial top note that I had smelled straight from the bottle a few years ago.  Perfumes have depth the way that people do, the top note being the initial impression; the middle note (also known as the heart) being one’s personality; and the base note being the final, long-lasting impression, the component that brings depth to the perfume or person.  My date may not have had the greatest depth of personality, but he certainly smelled like he did. 

Aside from how fragrances make us feel about ourselves or about the opposite sex, scents create mood, atmosphere, a feeling.  Growing up, Estee Lauder was my mom’s go-to cosmetic line, and she often wore Beautiful.  While I still consider it to be a lovely scent, I myself could never wear it because it is her scent, even if she no longer wears it.  Whenever she got free samples she would shell out the ones she didn’t want to me, usually peacock blue eye shadow or candy apple red lipstick, and sometimes fragrance samples, that I could only play with at home. 

White Linen was one fragrance sample that she passed along to me, and since it was too adult for me to wear at the time, I used it to create a maternal atmosphere in my playhouse (which was really just a shed with a tiny, single-paned window) by spraying clouds of it everywhere.  Every spring when I opened my miniature house, it smelled as motherly as a shed-cum-playhouse should smell: like cedar, honey, and amber, or, in my mind, like a real woman’s house.  Now that I have a big-girl house to call my own, I love to burn candles, the melted wax emitting the scent of fresh balsam or cinnamon.  I also enjoy creating an atmosphere of natural scents at home, like the savory scent of a pot roast cooking in the oven or the smell of clean clothes pulled straight from the dryer.

I think what makes life most pleasurable is exploring and experiencing our senses to the fullest – the art of smelling and listening are such beautiful gifts, especially when taken to a deeper level.  Do you enjoy fragrance?  If so, what are your favorites? 

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