Scents and Sensibilities

This was going to be a very different post. I was just going to write about how certain smells and fragrances are so powerful they can even take you back to forgotten memories from your childhood. I was only going to write about things like a certain perfume my mom has had as long as I can remember and how everytime I smell it I am reminded of this one hotel and restaurant we used to frequent when I was very, very young…maybe 5, maybe younger. I am reminded of one night in particular when it was pouring cats and dogs, our car stopped and when I opened my door for some reason I saw that the road was flooded with water and looked like a little river.

Then this morning I couldn’t find the face cream I usually use in the winter so, being in a hurry, I reached for another one. I dipped a careful finger into the little pot of cream and was instantly taken back to…something. It was an uncomfortable memory, one I couldn’t quite put my finger on. As I massaged the cream into my skin it suddenly came to me: I had been using that cream this past summer and it was reminding me of this guy I was seeing then. I was being reminded of the mornings I would go for a run before work, of the evenings that we met for dinners and drinks, of weekends spent walking around the city…and then of how four months of all that amounted to nothing.

Yes, I hate my olfactory system. I hate that I can’t use The Body Shop’s Shea Butter Lip Balm without being reminded of summer trips with my ex-boyfriend. I hate that I can’t use a certain perfume that a friend gave me on one birthday without thinking of that winter and the misery associated with it. I hate that showering with The Body Shop’s Japanese Cherry Blossom body wash reminds me of the apartment I shared with my ex, of the life we lived together, of the love we shared and how it all turned sour. Such a simple thing and so many memories. The smell of cigarette smoke reminds me of him too. But I think it’s only a specific brand of cigarettes because it doesn’t work with just any kind. So, sometimes, I also hate smokers. I completely understand why Ashley Judd’s character in the movie Someone Like You goes to a doctor and asks to have her ability to smell inhibited.

It isn’t possible to tell when it starts but it never stops. There are new memories being associated with new smells all the time. I was at the local Starbucks when, out of the blue, I was reminded of the gym. I couldn’t figure out why until I realized that someone around me was wearing the same perfume as my personal trainer. When my summer-whatever wears his signature fragrance, I feel an attraction towards him similar to what I felt then. I wonder sometimes: Does that mean if someone were to start wearing perfumes my ex-es have used I would be inexplicably drawn to him? In the summer I had to specifically ask that guy to stop wearing Nautica because it reminded me too much of my ex. The smell of DKNY’s Be Delicious reminds me of my best friend who is now in India. I can never wear it, I never would and it’s almost intolerable when I smell it on someone else too! I don’t think it’s possible to rid your mind of these associations, no matter how much you want to.

I was in Sobey’s one day. I was walking towards the fruit aisle when I whipped my head around, my eyes scanning the crowd, searching. I am not quite sure if I was expecting to see a familiar face. Some clearly clueless person had somehow decided to wear a perfume similar to the one the last guy I was seeing wore. I was annoyed. Annoyed that I must deal with memories I have pushed away into the attic to be dealt with much, much later, if at all. While grocery shopping, no less! All of it came flooding back. I was forced to deal with it. It’s frustrating sometimes, but then again, it’s almost cathartic to feel every emotion you felt with that person that is now associated with that smell. After a few times of such cleansing, you’d think you’d feel no more. You’d think you’ve been through the purge often enough and now those thoughts, those feelings, those emotions are out of your system. You’d think smells, aromas, fragrances from long, long ago wouldn’t bother you anymore. You’d be wrong, you know.



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