Thursday Thirteen – My Life in Scent
Isn’t it strange how scents have the ability to evoke memory in a way that nothing else can? As my first foray into Thursday Thirteen, I would like to take you on a journey back down memory lane using our sense of smell to guide us. I love perfume, but I very rarely finish a bottle. I move on to new scents, and I put the remaining perfume into a box under my bed. Today I pulled out the box and started breathing in some of the scents which have accompanied me on my life’s journey. Would you care to follow me?
- Rose Perfume – When I was around 8 years old, I went to see a troop of Bulgarian dancers at a theatre. They were beautiful, vivid blurs of energy as they moved across the stage: kicking legs, outstretched arms, twirling bodies, swirling skirts and wild hair. After this wonderful performance, the family friend, who had taken me to the theatre, asked if I would like to get some autographs for my program. She took my hand and led me backstage into the dressing room. The dancers were all crammed into one small room, and I remember that there seemed to be just as much activity and energy backstage as there was on! Clothing was being removed and discarded, hair was being brushed, red lipstick applied, and all throughout the room was the most wonderous smell of roses. One of the women, after signing my program, began to rummage through her bag until she found this small wooden minaret. She unscrewed the roof, and inside was a small vial of rose perfume. She helped me put some on and then popped the vial back into its home, screwed the top back on and pressed the minaret into my hand. A truly special perfume.
- White Musk – This scent conjures up my first trip into Edinburgh on the bus by myself. I was probably around 11 years old, although doubtless I felt considerably older! The Body Shop always had, and still does, I think, one of their signature scents as a room fragrance filling the small shop with the most wonderful smells. Back in the late 80’s early 90’s they had less signature scents than they do now, one of which was White Musk. I seem to remember that another scent they sold then was Dewberry, and at school you either fell into the Dewberry or the White Musk camp. I was most certainly in the White Musk camp! It reminds me of my first move towards independence.
- Eau de Vanille – When I was 13 my mum went to study in France for a year. I matured a lot during that year, as I began to realise how much I took my mother for granted. I had always just expected her to do everything for me, and I don’t believe I remembered to say thank you all that often! At the the end of her year away, we drove down to Provence to collect her. We spent a couple of weeks in her studio apartment, and while we were there I bought some vanilla perfume for myself. This scent recalls the welcome return of my mother, after a period in which I did a lot of (much needed!) growing up.
- Poison – At the age of 16, I discovered nightclubs. The ritual for going out had become a lot more elaborate than it had in my early teens, and could now take a few hours of primping, preening, applying, and experimenting. Dior Poison was my perfume of choice during this time; its heady scent clung to me like a second skin. Even by the end of the evening, when the smells of cigarettes, sweat and spilled alcohol were all-pervasive, Poison was still the dominant scent on my skin, in the fabric of my clothes, and in the strands of my hair.
- Jean Paul Gaultier – I went to university relatively early, at the age of 17. I remember my parents driving me to the halls of residence while I repeated the refrain “I really don’t want to be here.” My mum told me that all these strangers who I would be sharing living quarters with, were ‘all just friends I hadn’t met yet’. Her words were so true! I made so many friends that year, and when summer came around, and I said goodbye to my new-found friends, one after the other, they commented that the Gaultier perfume always reminded them of me. It was, perhaps, the first time that I realised that others associated me with the scent I chose to wear.
- CK One – During that first year at university I had a boyfriend, who I split up with on Valentine’s Day. Fortunately, we split up before I gave him the present I had bought him which was a bottle of CK One. After the university semester had finished, and summer had begun I started wearing it myself. It was at this time that I moved in with the man who was to become my husband, so it’s a scent that I associate with the beginning of the relationship of my life; the one I have with my husband.
- Poeme – On my wedding day, I wore Poeme. That morning I was so nervous! My mum took me to the hairdressers and beauty salon, where others flapped around me coiffing my hair and applying layers of make-up. We arrived home, and had some light lunch, before I went up the stairs to get ready. I remember quite clearly spraying the perfume around me like a haze, before stepping into my ivory dress. That scent still brings back all those feelings of joy, anticipation, nervousness, and excitement.
- Beautiful – Estee Lauder’s Beautiful was the perfume that I wore when I finally graduated with my undergraduate degree in English Studies. Between the time I got married to this point, I had had three children, and I had foregone the expensive perfume for the equally evocative scents of talc and milk. However, when I graduated, I wore Beautiful. I had looked forward to my graduation throughout the years it took me to complete, during which there were many times when it looked as though it were an impossible task. Beautiful, for me, represents achievement, completion and pride.
- Miracle – Upon finally attaining freedom from my degree, my husband and I were faced with many options with what to do with our lives. One of our options was to emigrate to Sweden, where my husband had been offered a job. We accepted the job offer and flew out with our youngest child to check out Stockholm, where we would be making our new home. Before we left the airport, I bought Miracle, which I wore while we explored our possible new home. It was, however, a disaster; the cost of living was too high, and the salary to low. In all honesty, it was a pretty miserable trip. I’m sure Stockholm is a wonderful city, but it just wasn’t for us at that point in our lives. As the plane came in to land in Scotland, we flew over the green rolling hills, the white sandy beaches and the square fields of ripening crops, and I knew that I was coming home.
- Noa – Before I had decided to return to university, I worked part-time at Boots. One of the areas that I worked (appropriately enough!) was the perfume counter. It was here that I got to try out all sorts of different perfumes, before finding one that I really liked. I loved Noa, and not just because of its sweet scent, but also because of its bottle. It is round with a sort of pearlescent sheen to it, and inside the perfume is a pearl. It’s beautiful simplicity appealed to me, and it reminds me of a time when I took a bit of a back seat in life. It was a time of reflection and enjoyment of the simple things.
- Haute Couture – This is the perfume that I wore during the year I studied for my masters in the Gothic Imagination. It’s heady, dark scent seemed appropriate for the subject matter! During the course of the year, I developed a much stronger sense of who I was, which I have been lucky to carry with me ever since. I learned so much that year, and my perspectives were left permanently altered – in a good way, I might add!
- Cinema – After completing my masters, I really got the research bug, so I decided to go on to do my Phd. That Christmas, my parents gave me the Cinema perfume gift set. This was the year that I started to change my style, and made a conscious effort to dress according to my own aesthetic, rather than anyone else’s. Cinema, with its vintage hollywood glamour, certainly influenced my style, and it made me dress so as to give the impression of elegance, grace and individualism. Whether I am successful in this or not, is up to others to decide, but I am happy with the way my style has developed, and this perfume marks the start of this evolution.
- Cherry Blossom – My most recent favourite! This June I went back to Provence to an international conference. I traveled with my mum, and the pair of us really enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect with each other. Our lives are so full, and have taken us in many different directions, that it had been a long time since we had a sustained catch-up. While we were in France we visited L’Occitane, which is where Mum bought me the Cherry Blossom perfume. I have been wearing it every day since, as it reminds me of that wonderful week at the start of the summer, and the time Mum and I got to know each other all over again.
What scents do you associate with the journey of your life?