Tomorrow we´re off to Siem Reap for the rest of the week. I am ecstatic. I have wanted to see Angkor Wat for as long as I can remember. Armed with my Rough Guide to Cambodia, suggestions from Noy, the company of Diva and Enigma, and my stash of American greenbacks, I feel more than ready. I can´t believe it. I can´t believe I´m finally going.
Anyway, I wanted to share an important discovery with you, because as it turns out, you (and I) are like Thai people in a way I only learned recently, when I learned about the homm. Noy first told me about homm (Thai kissing) and I´ve done a bit of online research. Here, in this interesting summation from thailandvoice.com:
“As I was growing up, the only kind of “kiss” I know is what Thai people called “Homm”. Homm literally means a pleasant smell. As a verb, it means to put your nose to the other person’s skin and inhale quickly, as if to take in the scent of the person, creating a brief vacuum on the skin, and let go.” (Read the article for more fun facts, including the scandal created by the first on-the-mouth-kiss on Thai TV in the 90s.)
To homm someone is an intimate act to take in their smell. Grandmothers homm their grandchildren. Couples on the beach homm one another. How great is that? All of you perfumistas reading this – hommies? hommslices? – know you do this. You breathe in and catalog the scents of those you love. And now you know the word for it.
I can call up, with no effort, the smell of those I love most closely – the Big Cheese, my children, my father. You could blindfold me and hold me close to the heads of my children and I could identify each of them instantly. There is Diva´s musky scent, Hecate´s almost peppery smell. There is Buckethead´s sweaty boy-smell, reminiscent of his father but still somehow babyish. And, most secret … there is Enigma´s smell. She knows my secret, and I am sharing it with you. Enigma has held onto her baby-head smell for ten years, and any of you with children know that the baby-head smell is the most addictive of all perfumes. I homm them all regularly, the twins without reservation or concealment, the older ones with more stealth, never in public. I inhale their warm perfume, the most beautiful on earth. Late at night, if I am lonely, or sad, it is most often to Enigma´s bedroom that I go. Her perfume is irresistible for me, blooming like night jasmine. She is my most private child, the sum of all her complicated feelings, and yet it is her smell that gives me extraordinary peace. She knows I homm her. She lets me do it, I suppose, because she loves me.
Close your eyes. Conjure, in your memory, the smell of those you love the most. If you have time, while they are still here on earth with you, lean in close and drink in their elixir.
No wonder some of the fragrances we lust after have the smell of something human. There’s the delicate perspiration of Worth Courtesan. The surreal milk-hairspray-skin of Gucci Rush. The glorious, gamey flop-sweat of Le Labo Vetiver. The strange, sweet funk of CB I Hate Perfume Musk Reinvention. I’m not sure why I don’t love the sweat-smell of cedar more — even the sublime Shiseido Feminite du Bois is almost too much for me — but perhaps it’s only a matter of time.
In Thai, a kiss on the mouth is a joop. So far as I can tell, Thai people don´t joop in public. I don´t know and can´t find out whether they joop in private. It seems like such a loaded question I can´t figure out the right way to ask. For all I know, it´s like asking about some intimate (or even deviant) sexual act. But I feel oddly comforted knowing my relentless sniffing of my nearest and dearest isn´t as oddball as it seems. And it´s nice to finally have a name for it.
PS: it occurs to me: is Joop! (the fragrance) named for kissing? I wonder. Also, by the time many of you read this I´ll be in bed, and we´re leaving for Siem Reap at 5 a.m. Tuesday, so I may not respond to comments right away.
image: Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat, abiyoyo.com