“When I raised my hand to brush the hair out of my eyes, I caught a whiff of their scent on my hand, and I couldn’t help but smile as I let my hand linger, to keep those memories closer…”
Hardly a novel is written where the author doesn’t evoke the olfactory experience of being close to another person. We’re barraged with thousands of choices of cologne, perfume, oils, sprays and everything in between. Fashion magazines tell you how to smell sophisticated, and everyone from pop musicians to soccer players have a “signature scent” that advertisements seem to promise will make you significantly more attract than you already are.
In a world where we’re frequently encouraged to go “scent free” at events and many gatherings, we are, at best, getting mixed messages. In addition to the scent free movement, which is greatly based on people’s sensitivities and/or allergies to chemicals, there is a growing number of events that require attendees to go with out antiperspirant or deodorants, so that everyone can smell and enjoy each other’s natural odors.
It’s a familiar conundrum, when society seems to move strongly in one direction, there is aways a backlash. (An example from history include the fantastic pornography of the very repressed Victorian Era.) Right now, when we’re encouraged to buy artificial scents for our homes, cars and ourselves we find groups committed to au natural. Recently, I found a response to counter a scent free event, two of my acquaintances decided to throw a “perfume party” as his cologne and her perfume are large parts of their experience interacting with each other and they were disposed about having to leave their usual sundries in their bottles.
How does one chose the best olfactory route for them? There is rarely just one answer to this question, as there is much to consider. Different situations call for different approaches.
For those of us who do frequent public events (be it house parties or large hotel extravaganzas) it is a good idea to have unscented versions of your favorite toiletries to use before and during the event. Some people’s sensitivities extend to things as basic as laundry detergent, and your awareness might mean that this is another event they can attend. There are of course the circles who just prefer you leave off anything beyond a good rinsing off in the shower, but they’re usually quite clear on the invitation. The advantage to remaining scent free, above and beyond being respectful to those who have a low tolerance, is that many people respond very positively to the natural scents your body already makes, not to mention the pheromones and other chemical communications that our bodies use to communicate with others. For those of us into using all of our senses, I use say that that it’s a bit off putting to be kissing or licking a playmate’s skin and get a weird (or even worse numbing) taste in your mouth.
On the other hand, having your body’s natural odor enhanced can have it’s advantages as well. I still have the bottle of (now discontinued) perfume that I used to wear during special occasions with my first lover. I stopped wearing it a long time ago, but opening the lid and inhaling brings back very strong and rather delightful emotions that nothing else can. One of my personal favorites is the scent combination that hair products (shampoo, conditioner, styling aids) and soaps make, as it’s usually subtle, very personal and tends to remain a consistent undertone, even if someone chooses to wear an eau de toilette from time to time.
Are you looking for that little something extra? First and foremost, know that quality is significantly better than quantity. Scents are not to be bathed in, the goal is not to be smelled from across the room, but when you’re sharing a close moment, such as a caress. When you invest in a quality scent, a little truly goes a long way. Perfumes and colognes are almost always sold by the milliliter, and a spritz is usually more than enough enhance your body chemistry. If you’re going the route of scented oils, a dab on the wrists and perhaps behind your ears is enough to add intrigue to any affectionate embrace. Let me say again, for this is an important thing to know, your fragrance selection should not overwhelm, it should enhance. Catching a whiff as you walk by or rolling over and finding myself smiling at the smell of your hair on the pillowcase is far superior to coughing through a cloud of scented chemicals.
That being said, how do you find a scent that will work for you? Because you have a unique body chemistry, I cannot recommend purchasing any scents that you haven’t already tried personally, as you will react uniquely to each one. If you don’t have a local perfumery, most mega-malls will have store fronts where you can interact with samples. Perfumes, colognes and many oils are blends to create a harmony of scents, the musical metaphor extending itself to notes- the top, middle, and base notes. Each has its function to give you a lasting experience that changes over time. When seeking a new bouquet to add to your wardrobe, it’s also a good idea to keep in mind the scents that you might already be wearing. The detergent used for washing your clothes, the styling products I mentioned above, and more already effect the way you smell. A floral shampoo might not pair well with a robust musk, but it might be just the thing. As with many things in life, some experimentation is in order. I particularly enjoy sample kits from places such as Black Phoenix Alchemical Laboratory as anything that doesn’t work for me makes a lovely gift or trade to someone else.
Such olfactive quandaries are worth considering for any hedonist who wishes to make their aromatic statements intentionally. Just remember to breath deeply, revel in your research, and be empowered to make a bold choice- even if it’s simply to go without.