A World Without Perfume

I am a perfumer and I pay great attention to all of the smells around me. All of them. I dissect them and learn them, I file them away in my head for later use and I love my powers of smell. Not all smells are good but …I am happy that I can smell, not everyone can.

One night I went to a concert at Cincinnati’s venerable Music Hall. I walked down the aisle on my way to my seat and I was astounded by the variety of scents around me. There wasn’t much perfume to be smelled, none that I could detect actually (and I wasn’t wearing any at the time) BUT there certainly was a symphony of smells from humans: bodies which had been showered in the morning but not washed since, the smell of dentures and bridges which needed to be scrubbed, the smell of normal breath, the occasional animal scent which escapes from time to time, sulfur from gas and ammonia from living, indole from the usual source. And there was wet dirty carpet. It was a sorry cacophony of scents, my friends. I wished I had put on a drop or two of perfume to save me from the Natural Fragrance of my fellow men.

I work out every day. No one at the gym smells particularly bad (except one guy but he isn’t there all of the time). Everyone else is clean though sweaty, and started the day well groomed. However, in the middle of Zumba class there are things which go off in the back of my head which say,”Oh, you are still not so far removed from your monkey ancestors…get a load of that smell! Heh!” Uhhhh. Like I said, no one stinks but it’s there. That wet dog smell. You wrinkle your nose a bit and hope it wasn’t really there, but it was there.

Just when I was seriously considering dragging this thought up to the front of my mind a woman twirled by me leaving behind a trail of some sort of body product. It was light and “clean” smelling, not great creative perfume but just what it was. I was so very relieved. It was a great respite from the heavy wet smell of my fellow Zumba-ites. I almost shook her hand. Perfume, every once in a while perfume is JUST what you want.

Every once in a while I encounter an angry anti-perfume person. I listen to them and privately I wish their house to be surrounded by the sweet smell of honeysuckle in the summer, by the strong and beautiful scent of pine and snow in the winter, I wish for them to be enveloped in the scent of lilacs in the springtime, pumpkin pies cooking in the fall and may the rest of us never never be deprived of the pleasure of perfume.

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