Here are my answers to these provocative questions, most answered off the top of my head (with the exception of a couple literary quotes, which took me forever to track down). If you have a blog, why not post your answers, with a link back to GPS? Or, if you like, leave your thoughts in the comments section if you feel like sharing. Have fun with these! I did...
Q: What does your sense of smell mean to you?
A: Although everything we apprehend is subjective, my sense of smell seems most peculiar and irreducible to me. Yes, what I like or rebel against may be culturally constructed, but my sense of smell (along with taste) seems most subjective and real. No one can talk me out of what I like…
Scent is the invisible veil over the world. There's something both ghostly and tangible about it. But Proust laid out its paradoxes better than anyone:
"When from a long-distant past nothing subsists after people are dead, after things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection."
Q: What are some of your strongest scent memories?
A: The intense tropical scents of pikake and other Hawaiian flowers from souvenir perfumes my father gave me when I was three. A lemon-scented perfume I associate with a girl who kissed me in the 5th grade. The smell of the Datura flower that reminds me of San Francisco and whose heady, narcotic scent seems strongest at night. (That's a Datura up there to your right.)
Q: What are some of your favorite smells (things in nature, cooking &/or your environment?)
A: The smell from the fur of cats I’m fond of who’ve been lying in the sun.The smell of burning leaves that seems to accompany New Orleans streetcars on the move. Fresh guava and grapefruit. The scent of someone’s shirt with whom I’m in love/lust.The smell of lipstick. The smell of Bonne Bell Dr. Pepper-flavored Lip Smackers. (The taste isn’t bad, either.) The smell of dirty hair (again, from someone I’m into!). Clean laundry. (See — not everything I like is dirty!)
Q: Do you have any favorite smells that are considered strange?
A: Body odor. Jack fruit. Flowers on the verge of going bad. Dirt. Some sweat. The inside of my purse. The smell of suede, leather, tobacco, civet, castoreum, Costus root. Etat Libre d'Orange's Secretions Magnifique and CB I Hate Perfume's Old Fur Coat.
Q: Describe one or more of your favorite cooking smells.
A: I love the scent of a cheese/potato gratin baking in the oven. Chocolate cake. Vanilla bean boiling in milk. Steak. Smoke from a barbeque.
Q: What smells do you most dislike?
A: I dislike extremely chemical-smelling perfumes (i.e. most of the ones you can buy at drugstores). Bad breath. That sour smell from feet that have been in shoes without socks. Hospital smells. The smell of baby aspirin (and the taste, ugh!) or Robitussin.
Q: What smell did you first dislike, but learned to love?
A: Civet. Patchouli. Body odor.
Q: What mundane smells inspire you?
A: Coffee. Baking bread and pastries. Shampoo and soap. Eucalyptus trees. Mojitos — love the lime and mint combo. I also love the smell of Meyer lemons.
A: Any perfume I associate with youth, with someone I love, and/or love affairs: Lauren, Poison, Musc Ravageur, Angel, Jean Naté, Charlie, Aveda Perfume Brilliant hair pomade, Love’s Baby Soft, Charlie, Magie Noire, Paloma Picasso, Rive Gauche (on the perfume side). Prell, Finesse, Herbal Essences (the old school stuff), Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific (on the shampoo side). Mr. Bubble bubble bath! Also, the scent of these lip glosses I used to practically eat (I’m not kidding). On the side of the bottles, there were scratch and sniff stickers with an image (an ice cream sundae, a strawberry) or whatever the gloss was supposed to smell/taste like. And last but not least: the bubblegum-scented eraser that used to be on Hello Kitty pencils. Yum.
Q: What scents do you associate with memories of loved ones?
A: Magie Noire, Femme, Aveda Perfume Brilliant hair pomade, CK One, men’s deodorant mixed with B.O.
Q: What fragrances remind you of growing up?
A: Love’s Baby Soft, Noxema, Herbal Essences, Mr. Bubble bubble bath, the smell of Cover Girl blush.
Q: What fragrances remind you of the places you visited on vacation?
A: Spices in Morocco. The smell of burning leaves when the New Orleans streetcar moves. Market smells (raw meat and fish, spices, food, etc.) in Vietnam.
A: It’s not often that women’s bodies are described in both explicit and yet still respectful terms. The following is pornographic, erotic, poetic, tender — and rhapsodically beautiful. From Jeannette Winterson’s Written on the Body:
“She smells of the sea. She smells of rockpools when I was a child. She keeps a starfish in there. I crouch down to taste the salt, to run my fingers around the rim. She opens and shuts like a sea anemone. She’s refilled each day with fresh tides of longing.”
Want to know what scent means to other perfume-lovers? I'll add links to folks who answered the same questions as they send 'em to me: