Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Perfume is not frivolous

Earlier this week I asked myself "What if they handed out some good perfume in psych wards?" Not that this is ever going to happen, but I think it's a wonderful idea.

Most people think perfume is frivolous, at best. I had thought that until I discovered how remarkable (and even thought provoking) many perfumes are. I have always appreciated scent, whether it is the smell of the woods after a rainstorm, an apple pie in the oven, a wood fire, or (well, the list could go on for days). Now I appreciate perfume, too, and am grateful for that.

Some friends and family have thought this a crazy new hobby. Why collect samples of perfumes? How different could they be? Very! More than I would have ever guessed myself.

And so, when I break open my box of sample vials for others, who have never sniffed a good perfume, every single person (so far) has wound up with a huge smile on their face, saying something like "Who knew?!" There's something terribly fun about sitting around with others, sniffing scents. It's a bit like a game - Name That Smell!

Perfume has enormous power. Though one thinks of perfume as a bit of flirtation, the high sillage perfumes of the 80's pretty much said "Keep your distance. I'm a power woman!" Now, I find, because I have a large selection to pick from, that perfume can and does serve many needs. A desire for a warm and cozy feeling? Serge Luten's Un Bois Vanille does nicely. To feel elegant in spite of sitting about in the regular blue jeans and sweatshirt? Again, another Lutens: Chergui. To brighten up a dark and cold day: Chanel Les Exclusifs eau de Cologne, or any of the Hermes Jardins series does the job quite nicely. These are but a few examples.

So, back to the psych ward: I can imagine a group of patients sitting around smelling vials of perfume and completely forgetting their troubles for a half an hour or so. Sniffing really does take over ones' mind. Scent is such a primal thing - it's almost impossible not to respond to it. But this scenario will never be played out, though it's certainly a grand idea. Maybe in France (where, for all I know, they already employ perfume therapy). Luca Turin stated that aromatherapy was a hoax (or something to that effect). I agree with him on this point, that scent probably can't cure illness, but I disagree with him about its therapeutic nature. Anything that can lift ones' spirits or take ones mind off suffering, even for a few moments, is good medicine.

Painting note: Claude Monet The Luncheon 1873
Imagine for a moment, being there, in Argenteuil, France on such a beautiful day. One can almost smell the tea that sits upon the table, the scent of flowers and of dirt on a warm day.

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