Thursday, March 18, 2010

The scent of my memories

There is a bottle of Calvin Klein's Obsession on the shelf with my other perfumes. I don't really wear it any more, but I save it. It was the first "grown up" perfume I ever bought. And for a few years, I wore it, well, obsessively. Every day, no matter the weather, the occasion, what I was wearing. It was my signature scent in my late teens.

Then I branched out and wore single note oils: vanilla, lavender, sandalwood, musc. I still wore Obsession, but more when I dressed up, when I needed confidence, when I wanted to feel elegant or desirable. 

Somewhere along the lines, I switched from being obsessed with one fragrance to obsessed with fragrance in general. I began reading perfume blogs, like Now Smell This, and books that were simply collections of fragrance reviews. I tried niche lines, ordering samples and decants. I learned to love the odd brilliance of Bulgari Black, the cold, winter earth smell of Serge Lutens' Iris Silver Mist. I fell in love with perfume houses such as CB I Hate Perfume and Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, that use fragrance to tell or interpret a story. This fall I lived in November, which smells like pumpkins and smoke and leaf mould. In the winter, I wore Sunbird, which smells like a phoenix and the desert, and more than anything else I've ever worn, caused people to follow me around and tell me I smelled delicious (mildly disturbing, when you think about the story behind the fragrance) . Today, I'm wearing Wild Pansy, because it smells like the beginning of spring.

I burn candles when I am writing, because they help me find the scent of the story. I wear perfume because of the story it creates in my head. I can tell you what I wore the first day of law school, the first time my heart was broken, when I wrote the first story that I sold. I can tell you all the perfumes that were given to me during my marriage, none of which I ever wore, because they smelled like someone else: someone quieter, pastel and subdued, someone who was retiring and appropriate. And then I can show you the fragrance I bought for myself after my marriage was over, and it smells like none of those things.

There is a shelf in my bathroom, and it holds the scents of all my memories.

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