I don't remember when I decided to stop using perfume. I still have a tiny bottle of Jolie Madame, which I can't seem to throw out–twenty, thirty years old; I can't remember. Certainly before I understood that I was old. At the same time I started using unscented everything: soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, fabric softener. I don't want to constantly smell anything.
Maybe it began with those nasty perfume samples they put in magazines and mailing pieces. I had a subscription to Bon Appetit. It came with a picture of a slice of wonderful chocolate cake on the cover, but it smelled like a perfume sample. (I don't think any perfume really smells like that–at least, I hope not.) It ruined the chocolate cake, and the magazine, for me.
I like smelling aromas that appear and then leave; a person walking past with an almost unobtrusive scent, bread baking as I walk past a pizza place or bakery, garlic from an Italian restaurant. Even the smell that clings to a person after they have a cigarette is interesting, if they quickly move away from me.
Why am I thinking about this? It's not that I've become more sensitive to smells. I'm sure there are many smells I never register. Smells seem to have become more important to my brain; every time I sense a new one I pay attention to it; play with it, almost like gently tossing a ball from one hand to the other and examining it carefully. So in my old brain, which strongly prefers handling only one thing at a time, smells become a distraction–OK when I'm out for a walk, but not OK when I'm driving, or watching a movie, or anything that requires concentration.
Even before I quit smoking, I noticed I couldn’t smell much. One day dressing for an art opening, I put a little Le Deu by Givenchy on….and couldn’t smell it. So I splashed more on. Once I became aware how extremely perfumy I smelled, I never wore any again. Now I can smell the awful things they add in the name of perfumes or “fresh scents.” No more scents in soaps, deoderants, or anything else for me or G….but there are still faint perfume smells despite the disclaimers. I find that interesting and disturbing. What are they covering up, I wonder.