Dating Episode 0 [Summer 2007]:
My Elbow Was a Delicious Cake

We went around the circle in grieving group. What happened in your life this week? I was all a-giggle. “I BOUGHT PERFUME! Here smell this!” I oozed manically, extending my cleavage to Viv.

I’d never bought a perfume before. Sure, I used to wear sandalwood or musk oil, smearing it through my hair before martial arts class. But I’d always been skeptical that the marketplace could come up with a fragrance that really suited me, me, me, and it seemed that every perfume I tried smelled like my Grandma, mostly half-rotten lilies, at least on me.

I had lost a man. I had a child, a job, and a graduate degree. Maybe I could admit I was a woman in the marketplace – the perfume market at least. I could, I thought, settle on a single product, or two or five, and let go of my artists’ dream of inventing my perfect personal fragrance (which might take till after my death). Maturity meant dealing with reality and the limits of the mere 1,000 fragrances that are manufactured commercially. Enough perfectionism, let’s dance.

I asked girlfriends how they had selected:
“My friend who picks my haircolor told me what to buy… and ze men love it.”
“I’ve always worn White Shoulders, I don’t know why.”
“I had a hip aunt who wore this and I wanted to smell like her.”
“My grandmother told me Chanel means you’re classy.”

It was not useful and I was scared of the lilies. Then one week I sat so close to a cute Jewish lesbian at church that I joked I could smell her perfume. (Yes, it was a flirt, but given my state, she would know I was not serious). She said, oh, do you like it? She schooled me about the fragrance families. Yes, of course I like vanilla, musk, woods, spices. Must be an Oriental amber.

Tried several at the MegaBeauty on the way in to work each day. They were all so powdery – it was just wrong -- I am not a dry person in any sense of the word. Sniffed around and decided Oriental Spicy for sure.

Opium smelled fantastic at first but faded to a soft smell of Gillette shaving cream, definitely not what I was after. Went through 10 more, at least, many of which completely disintegrated on my skin.

But I fell in love with my own arm the first day of Versace Crystal Noir. “Oh man,” I told Emma, “I smell like a cake, HERE” – a vanilla cake made mostly of gardenias. Gavin and I had honeymooned in Oaxaca where they sold gardenias from the zocalo for a peso, there were always some in the room. Each day I stopped at the store and respritzed; I couldn’t stop sniffing the crook of my elbow. And it got better, peppery and floral with none of that old-lady lilyness I so abhor. Faded to something that was still seductive, even to myself. While I was sniffing I noticed, hmmmm… that arm tans rather beautifully, and has a little tone left in it… and oh the other one. Quel arm! Nice.

Sixty bucks later it was mine and I was its.

I’m pretty sure that was when I started to think of myself as a single woman and not so much as a widow. All of a sudden there were men in the streets, and in cars, and even in meetings with clients. They looked at me. I looked for empty ring fingers. (How strange to be on the make after 15 years.) Friends said, “you look great, have you lost weight?” and “what a great haircut.”

It would be another 5 or 6 months before I had my hands full of flesh, but now I was moving through air that had been charged. It wasn’t just the “aerial notes” and “headspace of gardenias” (with a touch of clove and vanilla) but those were a constant subconscious reminder of where I was and where I was headed, if slowly.

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Sarah said...

(Sorry for the length, but you inspired me!)

Oooh, I remember that instance well—the first fragrance and a reawakening of the senses. I was lucky enough to create mine at a renowned apothecary in Pike Place Market in Seattle on the solo section of a trip to see my eldest aunt just a few months after Mike's death. I stood at the oils for at least twenty minutes, sniffing and inhaling each over and over. Smelling for me is a process very similar to picking out sunglasses—I can never decide after one examination.

Custom blends were the store's specialty. After having layered two oils I liked on porcelain skin less fragile than my feelings of attractiveness those days, I knew I had my perfect scent. When I asked the lovely woman behind the counter to blend them for me, her hesitation and response had me momentarily crestfallen. "Tonka Bean with Queen of the Night...are you sure?" "Yes," I responded with feigned confidence, bolstered by a growing olfactory aura. Her doubt quickly lifted when she tried it. "Oooh, that's good," she reassured me, which helped more than she realized.

That night, I walked to my hotel past fellow tourists, locals, and even a gathering of cute firefighters, wondering if I had caught their eye in the wake of my wrist or my neck or my return to vitality. It never fails that when I wear Tonka Queen, someone compliments me on my scent or something else seemingly unrelated, and I smile with a smidgen more spark.

mellehcimb said...

My late beloved and I had two Christmasses together. For the first, he gave me Givenchy Amarige, the perfume I'd been wanting to buy for years and never had the money for. (It was a set--came with bath gel and body lotion too.) The second Christmas, he gave me a Kay Jeweler's Journey necklace (the diamonds get bigger to symbolize how love grows with time). He was planning on giving me an engagement ring this Christmas, but he died last November, before he had the chance.

I've been wearing the diamond necklace obsessively since he died, but I can't bring myself to wear the perfume. I don't want men to come hither. I want my late beloved to come hither, and he won't. He can't. He's dead, he's gone, he's not coming back. I believe he's in heaven, but he's not going to smell the perfume and ravish me, which is what I want.

Am I making any sense?

I hit six months this past weekend. It was a rough weekend.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Does the orthodox faith use fragrance to call spirits? Many do. On the Days of the Dead Mexicans (and other Latin Americans) definitely pull out all the odors and eaux to call their loved ones.

Six months was hard, I only vaguely remember, searing pain and trying to do EVERYTHING.

I wonder what would happen if you pulled that stopper off. Maybe later is better though.

Hugs to you as you think of your darling. I'm very sad with you.


mellehcimb said...

Thanks, Supa. You know me from Facebook--I post there with my real name. mellehcimb is my first name backwards, with the first initial of my middle name and the first initial of my last name.

Orthodoxy does use fragrance a lot--incense. Lots of incense, every time you're at church. I've been planning to have a six-month memorial service for my late beloved, but planning things is hard for me since he died. One week ahead seems like so much!

I've been wearing the necklace becuase it reminds me of him. I think I've been afraid of the perfume because it makes me feel sensual. And that only reminds me of what I've lost. And then I feel like I'm going to spontaneously combust or something. Which I'm not, obviously...sort of wish I would...just combust and get it over with. But I just gotta slog through.

Thanks for being sad with me. It helps. And thanks for your FB page.

And thanks for this blog.

CCCCppppCCppp said...

I plan to wear the cologne Jean gave me to attract someone chemically similar. No replacement of course.

Hira Animfefte (Xera Anymphefte) said...

Wow, was that only seven months ago? How time flies.

I actually browsed a dating website the other day. Guardian.com has one. (I do love a Scottish accent. Or a British one...or Irish...) Like Match, not tight enough parameters to suit picky ol' me. But I was just browsing. It's discouraging...feels like there's nothing out there worth dating...but I felt like that up to the point I met Nelson. And then it was 'there's nothing out there BUT Nelson.' Et voila...

You'll know I'm ready to date again for serious when I renew my eHarmony membership...that's how Nelson and I started dating...search parameters, baby, search parameters.

Also...I'm intrigued by your description of your perfume. I *LOVE* gardenias. My aunt and uncle's house in California has a gardenia bush. It's pure awesomeness. I actually have a gardenia perfume I bought in Russia. Not a Russian brand. Can't remember the brand. But gardenia plus spiciness? sounds very intriguing. Not that I feel like wearing perfume right now...but give me another couple months or so...

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

I'll squirt ya the next time I see ya... that oughta get ya started...




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