I love perfume. That comes as no big surprise I bet, considering this is a perfume blog.
But why? Why is it that I (and all of you, I dare say) love perfume so much. So much so that we dedicate a significant portion of our time and efforts into reading, writing, sniffing, buying, swapping, selling, decanting, twittering and God knows what else concerning perfume. Why do we do it? What makes us keep on doing it? This is an explanation I tried to give myself.
Of all our senses smell is the one that – in our stage of evolution – is the least important for survival. It had its heyday long ago, when smelling the enemy, smelling whether food was still fit for consumption, sniffing out danger or possible partners was important for everyday survival.
Nowadays, with all that taken care of by civilisation and socialisation, smell is almost an extra, still highly functional, but to be used for pure pleasure.
And that is what I do.
Perfume is pleasure. But not only that. Perfume is a way to express or relieve feelings, to circumvent the brain and all its ifs and buts and get right to the point, whatever that point may be at the time.
We react strongly to scents. There is emotion involved right from the start. It is hard if not impossible to leave out emotions when smelling a perfume. (Persolaise wrote a good article about objectivity here.) That may be problematic for some “professional” sniffers, who try to think of themselves as objective and unbiased, judging only rationally.
It is not problematic for me, in fact it is the whole point why I love perfume. I enjoy the freedom to feel (and write) about perfume whatever I please. Perfume reaches out to my personal stash of memories and feelings, it evokes my history. If I find similarities in how others feel, all the better, that is the beauty of community, of humanity really, to find similarities and accept our differences in perception as well as expression.
I love perfume, because however great the chaos surrounding me, however distraught, sad, angry or happy I am, I can find solace in smelling my wrist. It may sound stupid, but – and I am certain all of you know exactly what I mean – that smelling of my wrist is my private act of defence against whatever onslaught tries to bring me down or, on the positive, it brightenes every moment of laughter and happiness further if I can smell something I love. Perfume is my way of reconnecting with myself. If I am overwhelmed, I just need to catch a whiff of something I love to smell and I can focus again. And what is better than having such a mobile solution at hand (pun intended) whenever the need arises. It works everywhere, anytime (quite unlike my internet service provider, despite similar claims ;)).
I love perfume because it never judges me. No matter whether I feel old or young, beautiful or having a very bad hair day, whether I have five pounds more or less around the hips, perfume smells always good. The fact that smelling is removed from the sense of sight, which is so often used as an instrument of judgment, makes it perfectly impartial. It still manages to lift my spirits when a look in the mirror spells doom.
I love perfume because it provides a sheer endless variety. There is a scent for every occasion, every mood, every feeling, even the weather can find its equivalent in a perfume. Standing before my collection in the morning matching a perfume to my needs is one of the most enjoyable things in my day.
I love perfume because there is always something new. Something to explore, try, test, fall in love with or dismiss. Once it gains entry to my personal stash of olfactory outfits, I can be sure there is always an occasion to wear it again, to reach for it, or even frenziedly searching for it, when the time comes, even if there are equally many moments where I scratch my head and ask myself why the heck I ever wanted or liked THAT one. (This last insight didn´t come easy and was not reached before several back and forth transactions involving eBay buying AND selling adventures have taken place.)
I love perfume because I am glad that I no longer undervalue the power and importance of my sense of smell. I used to almost ignore the fact that I had a nose that has a function surpassing the merely ornamental.
I have woken up to my nose´s possibilities and what I have discovered is a big part of my life now, for it was also the entrance into a community of people with the same love, passion and interest.
I never want to miss that again.
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I think you covered all points and I couldn’t agree more.
One thing I realized is, you cannot really explain to other people why perfumes do for us what they do, they either realize it themselves, or they don’t. LIke you said, it’s one of the things that circumvents our conscious mind and brings happiness with the intake of a breath. 🙂
So true, Ines, they either get it or they don’t. No expanation will convey the feeling you describe so beautifully as “happiness with the intake of a breath”. Thank you!
B, what a wonderfully insightful and thoughtful article. Like Ines says, I think you’ve covered all the reasons we love fragrance so much. For me it is largely about pleasure, distraction, comfort, expression and now – thanks to lovely people like yourself – it’s also about a sense of community.
BTW Katie Puckrik calls it “nose consciousness” – when the whole world of smell opens up to you – which I think is quite apt.
Thank you very much, Tara! “Nose conciousness” is a perfect way to put it, for it is another, richer world indeed.
Thank you for the beautiful post, you listed so well exactly what perfume means to me, and the joy that the process of collecting it and writing about it has brought to my life. It’s mostly a personal pleasure for me, but just this morning someone complimented my perfume and that was nice too!
A compliment now and then is great, even if we wear perfume for ourselves.
Thank you for reading, Krista!
B., I think that you should re-title this post as “The Perfumista’s Manifesto”!
Anthropologically our sense of smell was of vital importance, as you explained so well, and it saddens me that so many have let this wonderful capacity stagnate. Smell (and taste) bring me so much pleasure, I can’t imagine ignoring or neglecting either.
Thank you for the beautiful essay! 🙂
Yes, as you say so many neglect it. I know someone who loves to cook and yet astoundingly she can’t taste or smell very well, we always wonder how the heck she does it. 🙂
The Manifesto, sounds good! 😉
Beautiful post! You’ve captured so well the reasons that we love perfume so much. Also, I agree with Ines, it is quite difficult to explain to others why it is such a fascinating field. 🙂
Thank you for this lovely reading on my cold, cold afternoon.
Thank you, V, your compliment means a lot to me. I wish you a cashmere blanket, a great book, a favorite perfume and a few hours in front of a warming fire to get rid of the cold! 🙂
For me Parfum is art – just like a painting, music, or literaure…
Absolutely. Most mainstream perfumes are more elevator muzak though 😉
Oh yes, there are lots of bad paintings, books, whatever, out there, which claim to be art – so there is place for a Britney Spears celebrity parfum as well. I’m loath to enjoy them the same way …
Me too 🙂
I forgot to mention, I love that you chose a Pino!
Thank you for pointing me to his wonderful oeuvre! I love his style!
What a fantastic review!
The whole hymn to parfum-word as a category of life, I enjoyed reading it.
For me too, perfumes express my way to feel, to sense, to see the day, to memorize my emotions & to evoke my memories…
Marina, thank you for the link at FB
Hello Evgeniya, I am glad you enjoyed the post! Thank you for reading 🙂
This is so lovely! I could say many things on why I love perfume so much and yet I would never end. I feel very much what you say. It is great. xx
It is so nice to see so many of us feel the same towards perfume – but first and foremost it makes us happy!
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i love perfume,when i was a child my mother wore Nº5 now when i smell it ,it brings back so many memories!beatiful article too i might say
thank you! Perfume is so powerful in bringing back memories. Imm glad you have lovely ones associated with No5.