First off — the winner of the small bottle of Alora Festa is Shiva Woman. Shoot me an email and I’ll send it to you.
It’s been four months since I misplaced my sense of smell as it relates to perfume. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been avoiding perfume and diverting my attention elsewhere, while waiting patiently for my synapses to get their act together.
Then a couple of weeks ago I was poking around the internet and stumbled across an article about a waitress who decided, apropos of pretty much nothing, to see if she could pass the master sommelier exam, which is akin to me deciding out of the blue to run a marathon. Anyway, she spent a year working at places where she could sample high-end wines; she took courses; she worked hard at it. And she did it; she passed.
And then I read an article about a study involving brain scans of perfumers showing that, over time, their readings changed. The more they worked on perfumery, the less the scans lit up – the conclusion being that their brains had to put less effort into registering scent nuances.
I sat there in my bedroom chair, next to my perfume bookshelf, and pondered. My bedroom stash is a capsule collection of, oh, a hundred perfumes, more or less — probably more. They tend to be some of my heaviest hitters, though – vintage Poison and Paris and whatnot. If that bookshelf ever topples over, we’ll have to move. Anyway, I got up and smelled three random gardenias, because coming to work that morning I’d stopped a woman wearing something fresh and green-white and lovely (Pacifica Gardenia, as it turns out) and it’s been awhile since I’ve had that random pleasure.
I couldn’t smell them. I couldn’t smell Strange Invisible Perfumes’ Cruel Gardenia or Lady Day – yeah, ponder that for a moment. Those things are not to be trifled with. It’s all …. vaguely like sniffing one of those plastic Easter eggs? And everything’s overwhelmed by my constant frenemy, the phantom smell of meat-sweat (for lack of a better descriptor). I spent a month post-surgery thinking that smell was me, which was horrifying, but it’s some kind of white noise my brain is inventing, maybe for lack of other options?
In a last-ditch effort I smelled Annick Goutal’s Gardenia Passion – and that I could smell (the gardenia, not the Passion part). Success! I mean, at least something. I googled some more and there are articles for scent noobs about trying different scents to improve your discernment…. huh. I thought, maybe I’m going about this all wrong. Maybe I’m going to need nose exercise — rather than rest — to improve this situation.
Fast forward to today. This morning I sniffed Lady Day for the fifth time and I could smell it. Gardenia Passion seems rounder, fuller. I’ve got various essential oils (ginger, clementine, cinnamon, eucalyptus) in wee dram bottles and I work out with those as well. I think my perception of them is improving.
Yesterday, a completely crap day weather-wise (cold and rainy), I gave an experimental sniff to a much-missed rainy-day comfort scent – Guerlain Encens Mythique. It’s like a mohair sweater, surrounding me with its evanescent beauty. And I could smell it. I might have cried a little. It’s not completely there – more like smelling it on an old scarf – but it’s definitely perceptible. And now, even at work, every time I feel that sweat-smell looming I pull some perfume vial out of my desk or handbag, and sniff it. My coworkers probably think I’m nuts. I mean, I don’t tell anyone there about my situation. They’d react as if I was bitching about a hangnail when to me it’s a huge, huge loss emotionally.
So there you have it. One by one, I’m regaining perfume scents. I’m working on incense now (why, hello, there, Passage d’Enfer!). I still don’t know whether I’ll get my original sense of smell back, but there’s been a significant improvement and it’s not all a big, sad void anymore. I’m thrilled.