A Self Portrait in Scents

by Liz

Today I read a slightly mocking article on Yahoo News about weird perfumes like char-broiled burger and new laptop. I ended up at the Demeter Perfume website, a magical fairyland I had not visited for a very long time. Demeter Perfumes specializes in unusual scents. Yahoo picked Play Doh as Demeter’s weirdest, but there are quite a few stranger than that– celery, clean windows, wine dregs and earthworm among them– that are more like a Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans challenge than what most would consider fine perfumes. They have some “normal” scents, too, like lavender and many different flowers, but it’s the strange scents that get the most attention…and entertaining reviews (for example Jess from Western MA who said “cannabis flower” smelled too much like flowers and not enough like pot).

I love smelling things; just ask anyone who’s ever gotten within a foot of me and they’ll tell you. When I meet someone, I lean in an give ’em a sniff because you can tell a lot about someone just by smell. Do they smell like bleach with a hint of citrus and soap? They are cleanly folks who like order. Do they smell like band-aids and grass. Soccer player. Every. Time. Do they stink like a wildebeest wallowing in musty brine? They don’t shower and probably couldn’t care less what you think of them or they just came from the gym and care way too much about what you think of them. All of that’s usually natural body odor or environmental leftovers. Humans use perfumes to change or mask those odors.

You can tell a lot about a person by the perfumes they choose. We expect bubbly blonds to like “girly” fruity and sugary smells, men to like “masculine” leather and musk, and old ladies to dab on enough florals to gag a bee. But what if you had every scent in the world available to you and you could bottle your memories, dreams, likes and dislikes? Demeter Perfumes is working on doing just that.

So I pulled a Severus Snape, distilling my personality into a series of essences that, unlike most art media, you can’t see, touch, or hear. It’s a self portrait in scents! If you could smell my soul it might smell like this:

A storm on the move over the mountains, clever puns, old silver, nights outside, inked paper and books, leather and whoop-ass, quiet thoughts alone, and (most importantly) tea in dainty china or unbelievably huge plastic cups.

Our brains record smell memories faster than almost any other. Have you ever walked by someone or something in the grocery store and suddenly had déjà vu, but you couldn’t pin down why? It’s probably because your nose picked up on a smell from long ago and it triggered a recall response, but since smells have no visual clues and humans are rather dependent on visuals for comprehension, you couldn’t “see” the memory in your head. It was just a scent on the air, a little puff of Febreeze at the back of your mind. Sometimes it is the small of red Kool Aid from a 4th birthday party or the detergent an old lover used to use. I had a friend who smelled her gramma’s chocolate chip pancakes everywhere she went. If smells affect our minds so powerfully, shouldn’t everyone strive to make sure it’s their true selves everyone is remembering and not some fake cologne we sprayed on because it’s “cool?”

(Axe, I’m looking at you. you make men smell gross. Stop it!)