Trading Senses

Can poor eyesight be compensated by a sharp sense of smell? Our guest writer Jillie shares her story of struggling with poor vision and falling in love with perfume.

Sometimes I believe that when I was born the Bad Fairy cursed me with bad sight, while the Good Fairy gave me a keen nose. I know that it sounds fanciful, but I am convinced that my poor vision is compensated for by a sharp sense of smell. Perhaps, if I hadn’t suffered with severe myopia, I may never have developed into the scent obsessive that I am now.

laimantimpervu

I was nine when I realized that I couldn’t see as well as other children, but by then my nose had already been working as hard as Samantha’s in Bewitched. As a toddler, it would lead me around the garden and I would plunge into banks of honey-scented alyssum, drifts of lavender and into the lush red roses climbing up the wall.

Good smells were usually associated with food in my early years , especially my mum’s apple and blackberry pie and my dad’s roast dinners. Christmas would be a feast of aromas: the sunny citrus tang of tangerine peel (a fruit we only saw in the holiday season), the creaminess of chocolate buttons, the licorice darkness of the Christmas pudding, the delicate bitterness of marzipan, the vanilla sweetness of my grand-dad’s pipe tobacco and the boozy tang of port and whisky, which were only ever drunk on special occasions. Add a note of fir tree, and you have my ultimate festive perfume. (I’ll skip the ever present funk of cigarette smoke, one of my least favorite smells.)

An aroma that conjures up my early childhood is Johnson’s Baby Powder, because my grandmother wore it. If my parents went away, she would come to look after my sister and me. She would have her bath, which was her special treat as she only had a tin tub at home, using the soap and powder, and I would snuggle up to her afterwards and be comforted by that soft powdery fragrance. She would tell me stories of her childhood. I remember most vividly the one in which she wore her only good boots in the rain and put them in the oven to dry, only to discover them shriveled beyond repair.

I began appreciating actual perfume at a tender age, mostly because I refused to let anyone know that I couldn’t see. For some reason I felt ashamed of this “weakness”. My joy was not in normal childhood activities (I couldn’t see the ball!) or dolls but in collecting little bottles of cheap perfume from Woolworth’s, bought with my pocket money and kept in a shoe box. When I got home from school I would sniff each one and imagine fantasy worlds of my own.

Carole-Bouquet-Chanel-N-5

Not a day went by that I didn’t notice perfume around me. My grand-aunt’s dressing-table was a treasure trove—graceful rows of bottles glittering in the sunlight. When my parents went out in the evening my mother would be wearing one of the dresses she had made herself, and of course, a dab of perfume. I remember one slinky gold sheath in which she looked like a brunette Marilyn Monroe. Swathed in her mink coat, she’d lean over to kiss me goodnight, and I could smell the rose in her lipstick, the violet of her face powder and her perfume. Usually, it was Chanel No. 5 but sometimes Ecusson, another glamorous fragrance.

After I left primary school, I attended an old grammar school where beeswax on the wooden paneling permeated the air with honey and perfume. It was a girls’ school, and the girls were wearing loads of fragrance. If I got a whiff of a scent I liked on another girl, I had no hesitation in asking her what it was and then added it to my slowly growing wishlist. In this manner, I found Helena Rubinstein’s Apple Blossom, all pink, frilly innocence, and then developed a taste for her more grown-up, powdery sister, Heaven Scent.

When I was 12, I had to admit I couldn’t see as well as others, Even though I was in the front row in class, the blackboard was just a blur, and at last, I got (very unflattering) glasses. But although my sight improved, I did not lose my love of smells, and my interest in perfume grew stronger. I wore Max Factor’s sunny Jonquil, Coty’s rose-laden L’Aimant, raunchy Imprevu, and romantic Masumi.

aqua-manda

As I got older, my father gave me Lancôme Magie for Christmas, and its jasmine and amber trail followed me around for years. Guerlain’s Chant d’Arômes, Goya’s Aqua Manda, and Chanel No. 5 became my other new discoveries, and today, I’d be hard-pressed to list everything I love. Although sometimes I wish for perfect 20/20 eyesight, my scented journey has been so exciting that I don’t regret trading senses and I thank the Good Fairy for her gift.

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80 Comments

  • Michaela: Thank you for this story, it’s so… alive :)
    No doubt Good Fairy loves you, she gave you some other valuable gifts: a big heart, the sense of humor, the gift of writing and probably more. Scented memories are so vivid. You can recall them from your childhood, and, as I read your story, I remember similar scents coming from my own childhood, as it were yesterday.
    I loved ‘best shoes in the oven’ story, it’s simply delicious!
    I’m sorry for your eyesight, and I’m sorry there was a time when you felt ashamed of your glasses. But I am happy for you that you are so good in smelling and deep in love with wonderful perfumes. I wish you health and many more nice fragrant experiences :) May 9, 2014 at 7:49am Reply

    • Jillie: Thank you, Michaela, for your very kind comments. Glasses then were purely functional, but now there are wonderful designs – I know people who do not really need them wearing them to look attractive! I do count myself very fortunate in being part of the amazing world pf perfume. May 9, 2014 at 8:57am Reply

  • Sandra: Great article!
    I am sorry you didn’t embrace your glasses and were embarrassed by your eye sight, you obviously have many many gifts and talents that you are blessed with.
    I was also a bit obsessed with perfume when I was younger. My first was obsession by Calcin Klein, totally opposite of what young girls my age were wearing.
    Your grandmother sounds like a hoot , boots in the oven!
    Thanks for posting this! Looking forward to more May 9, 2014 at 7:59am Reply

    • Jillie: Sandra, thank you very much. My grandma was unique. Wow, Obsession … you were obviously a perfumista from an early age; I bet you smelt good. I can’t help thinking of Daphne in Frasier as her character wore Obsession, and Niles was always trying to sniff her hair! May 9, 2014 at 9:01am Reply

  • rosarita: This is a delightful and insightful read :-) thanks so much. May 9, 2014 at 8:35am Reply

    • Jillie: InSIGHTful … good word! Thank you too, Rosarita. May 9, 2014 at 9:03am Reply

  • Andy: What fantastic stories! By the time I got to the end of the article, I was so absorbed that I was wishing there was more to read :)

    The question is interesting, does a shortcoming of one of the senses get compensated for by an extra sensitivity in another? I think it could, but it’s definitely something intriguing to think about. May 9, 2014 at 8:44am Reply

    • Jillie: Andy, thanks! Certainly it has long been said that people who have lost their sight or are born blind have keener hearing; whether that’s because they just have to concentrate harder or whether that sense naturally becomes physically heightened it is hard to say. I’ve read about a blind boy who has learnt to echo-locate just like dolphins, sending out clicks to his surroundings, and I would be interested to know if sighted people could become as adept. May 9, 2014 at 9:09am Reply

  • Zazie: Jillie, thank you so much for sharing such a touching piece!
    You clearly are a very gifted writer, besides being endowed with a sharp nose! ;)
    Like you, my fascination with perfume started early on, and I would imagine worlds and stories unfold from my samples and minis as I ran through each of them with my nose and fingers.
    The best daydreams were conjured by jardin de bagatelles!
    Chanel n°5 is really the epitome of perfume (I love it in the extrait concentration), and I find chant d’aromes so lovely. It’s on my buy list!!!!
    Can’t wait to read more from you (and learn about your other perfume favorites and new discoveries)! May 9, 2014 at 9:10am Reply

    • Jillie: You’re very kind, Zazie – I have to say I have a lovely editor!

      Ah, Jardin de Bagatelles, such a gorgeous abundance of white flowers and sadly neglected when people rave about tuberose. I think we must have similar taste. I wish you could have smelt Chant d’Aromes in extrait, but even though the modern eau de toilette is weak, it is still beautiful and classy (I think!), and I hope you get to try it soon. May 9, 2014 at 9:18am Reply

  • Brainfodder: Hello Jillie

    A lovely post, and one which is very reminiscent of my own childhood in the 1970’s, in the north of England – pipe tobacco, tangerines, chocolate buttons, puddings, marzipan, port, Christmas trees – fantastic!

    My mum has never worn perfume, and wears very little make-up, but she would smother us in Johnson’s products when we were young. The associations with that smell are all so comforting and good!

    My Nana was glamorous – extremely well presented at all times, even when cooking and cleaning. I smelt Guerlain’s Vol de Nuit last year, and was instantly transported to her! My dad has no idea what fragrances she wore, but I’d hedge a bet that Vol de Nuit was part of her arsenal.

    I’m curious to know what some of your current favourite fragrances are…

    I’m short-sighted, but as you say, buying and wearing glasses is now so much fun – I wish I had a greater budget… a glasses wardrobe would be fabulous!

    Best wishes and thanks for the lovely post. May 9, 2014 at 9:22am Reply

    • Jillie: Hello Brainfodder! So your memories of childhood are similar to mine, except that my granny was not at all glamorous – her favourite perfume was Yardley’s Lavender – I suspect that this was because she didn’t have much money; who knows what she would have worn if she hadn’t been poor.

      Wouldn’t it be fun to have as much money as Elton John and have a glasses wardrobe like his? And no doubt a perfurm wardrobe too!

      My current favourites are Balenciaga’s Le Dix (always and forever), Diorissimo, Mito and PdN’s L’Eau a la Folie. May 9, 2014 at 10:52am Reply

      • Brainfodder: Thanks for sharing those Jillie,

        Le Dix sounds wonderful – I remember reading one of Victoria’s reviews where she talks about Le Dix – a No. 5 with violets and a Bois des Iles drydown – oh yes please! How do you find it?

        I’m enjoying Baghari today – another play on the No 5 idea, but sifted through with a luxurious softness. I’m a happy lady – it really seems to work for me.

        I was very excited to try Mito, but somehow my sample reminds me of lemon ice-lollies and then cake – no green at all, I was so surprised at the sweetness. I wondered if maybe it was mis-labelled… you know, I think I should just order a new sample :) How would you describe it?

        Have you tried Vero Kern’s Rubj Extrait (parfum) – it’s intoxicating!

        Thanks again May 9, 2014 at 11:50am Reply

        • Jillie: Le Dix is very special. Sadly I think that you can only find it now on internet auction sites as it was discontinued some time ago. It seems to be fetching high prices too – obviously it has other devoted fans.

          Do try to get another sample of Mito because there is just no way in which I find it sweet. I think Victoria mentioned its similarities to Cristalle – it has that intense green with an almost piercing note (probably unpleasant to some people!), and is citrussy and mossy. Juices can and do get into the wrong bottle …

          I haven’t yet tried Rubj, but on this morning I was thinking that it was about time I did! May 9, 2014 at 12:07pm Reply

          • Brainfodder: Certainly sounds like it’s time for a new sample of Mito! Thanks for the feedback. May 9, 2014 at 12:27pm Reply

            • Jillie: You’re welcome. Good luck. May 9, 2014 at 5:05pm Reply

          • Cornelia Blimber: How capricious the fate of a perfume can be! I bought Le Dix in a sale, some years ago. It was so cheap that I could easely buy 2 bottles. Now I could( maybe )make money with them, but I would not sell them for diamonds. May 10, 2014 at 4:42am Reply

            • Jillie: Nobody could make me part with my beloved bottles! May 10, 2014 at 8:16am Reply

  • Ariadne: Jillie, you MADE my Friday! It is a dreary, rainy one here. I enjoy your writing and had not heard of some of your collection and am going to especially investigate your mother’s Ecusson.
    I too wore eyeglasses from a very early age and always remember being disqualified from earning a life guard’s certificate because without my glasses I could not see an object I was to retrieve from the bottom of the pool. The official was sorry to tell me I failed despite the fact that I could hold my breath for quite a long time during my search. Nowadays I love that the alluring librarian look is a classic fashion statement. ;+)
    Anyway, I also chime in that my auditory sensitivity is quite acute and I believe in compensation for my visual one. My family is astounded at the things I hear and they don’t. I ply them with lovely aromas and mouthfuls of treats in the kitchen too.
    Happy sniffing to all! May 9, 2014 at 9:28am Reply

    • Jillie: Gosh, thank you so much Ariadne!

      It seems to me that you have been rewarded with super hearing AND smelling abilities as compensation, with your excellent cooking skills a result of your good nose. So sad that you could not qualify as a life guard though, but you are obviously a great swimmer.

      Ecusson was rather beatiful – the perfume came in adorable little frosted engraved phials and the box looked like white and orange tapestry. It smelt not unlike Chanel No 5, but deeper. I hope you find some! May 9, 2014 at 10:59am Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Ecusson was a perfume of the brand Orlane (they sold skin care, make up, and Ecusson).
        Orlane is discontinued, but maybe you can still find the perfume. May 9, 2014 at 11:33am Reply

        • silverdust: Maybe this will help: http://bit.ly/1l8NoRo May 9, 2014 at 3:09pm Reply

          • Cornelia Blimber: Yes, this is that Ecusson. Jean d’Albret was from the brand Orlane. So it still exists…maybe reformulated. May 9, 2014 at 5:32pm Reply

      • Ariadne: I found 111 Ecusson items on eBay which was like jumping down the rabbit’s hole of antique perfumes….oy…..a whole ‘nother universe and a VERY VERY expensive trip at that.
        In the advertising Ecusson items the perfume is touted to have been formulated in the 16th century for the Queen of Navarre by an alchemist. There are some tapestry boxes and on the whole all Ecusson packaging is quite beguiling by itself! A lot of fun to window shop. May 13, 2014 at 5:49pm Reply

        • Jillie: So glad you found the Ecusson trip interesting, Ariadne – yes, best stick to window shopping unless you have lots of money! To my nose Ecusson was quite similar to Chanel No 5, with plenty of aldehydes but a little sweeter and certainly more spicy. A classy fragrance. May 14, 2014 at 3:03am Reply

  • solanace: This is a beautiful post. And you raise an interesting point. It does seem likely that the brain would compensate and get more input from another source.
    I used to collect cheap perfumes as a child, too! In my local pharmacy, they came with a matching scented candle, and the scents were dedicated to Candomblé deities! May 9, 2014 at 9:30am Reply

    • Jillie: Solanace, you have taught me something! I hadn’t heard of Candomble before, and am fascinated by what I learnt – do you live in Brazil? I’d have loved to smell those candles.

      I know that research is continuing with re-educating neural pathways in the damaged brains of stroke and accident victims as there has been considerable success in this field. But there is still so much to learn. The brain is an amazing organ. May 9, 2014 at 11:09am Reply

      • solanace: Yes, I do. It is amazing how much this culture is still present in people´s lives. It is common to spot offers to Pomba Gira, consisting of perfume, lipstick, sparkling wine, red lingerie and cigars, among red candles and maybe some other stuff on crossroads, specially when we are hiking. I am particularly fond of Yemanja myself, and have an image of her in my vanity, side by side with Shalimar. :) May 9, 2014 at 11:33am Reply

        • Jillie: Wow! I have just looked at some pictures of Yemanja and she’s the perfect Shalimar deity.

          From my very, very brief research it looks like a pretty all-purpose religion with gods for every occasion and need – very comforting, especially when you are down-trodden and poor. May 9, 2014 at 11:43am Reply

          • solanace: Yeah, and no guilt, wich is the best part! May 9, 2014 at 4:52pm Reply

            • solanace: And, by the way, Afro-American traditions are like beer and coca cola: they cross through social classes, from the guy at the favela to the Leblon wealthy woman. :) May 9, 2014 at 4:54pm Reply

              • Jillie: Absolutely! May 9, 2014 at 5:07pm Reply

  • Tara: Wow, Jillie what a post. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Having a visual impairment and being a perfume fiend myself, so much of what you write chimed with me. Being obsessed with the scent of flowers in the garden, not being able to read the blackboard, feeling inferior etc. I’m glad glasses were able to improve things for you somewhat, though.

    I loved hearing about your scent memories too. Beautifully written.

    Personally I believe that my hearing and sense of smell aren’t any better because of my lack of sight but they are more attuned, shall we say, because I rely/focus on them so much.

    Like Sandra, I was obsessed with Obsession as a teen, which seems pretty appalling now! May 9, 2014 at 10:01am Reply

    • Jillie: No, no, no, Tara, your Obsession obsession wasn’t appalling! In fact, I feel an urge to smell it again coming on…

      Thank you for your comments. I think you are right, we have to be more attuned to the world around us when we can’t see too well – it’s a primitive instinct for survival I guess. May 9, 2014 at 11:12am Reply

  • Lucas: Thank you so much Jillie for sharing this beautiful story with Bois de Jasmin readers! May 9, 2014 at 10:01am Reply

    • Jillie: Thank you, dear Lucas, you are very welcome! May 9, 2014 at 11:13am Reply

  • Susan Minnicks: Such a lovely post! Thank you. As I read I was thinking of sharing it with my middle school students as a great memoir..and I might. But kids don’t know Woolworths!
    I have happy memories, thought, and of going to the pharmacy with my sister and sniffing.
    And my mother’s coat, redolent of Chanel 5, after they’s spent a night in the city.
    Right now I’m mesmerized by a sample of Mario Badescu’s Seaweed Cleansing Lotion. It smells just like…the seashore
    Coppertone maybe? Anyone know? Such memories of summers at the Jersey shore! May 9, 2014 at 10:15am Reply

    • Jillie: Thank you, Susan! Poor old departed Woolworths – although it was a very different shop in its last few decades than that in which I used to spend my pocket money.

      Smell is so evocative isn’t it? Calvin Klein’s Escape used to take me back to the Kent coast beach strewn with pebbles and seaweed – it was the essence of the sea itself. Is that what you can smell in your cleansing lotion? May 9, 2014 at 11:22am Reply

  • Heather H: Hi Jillie,

    I love your name. Jillie is the name of my sister, but she goes by Jill–only family call her Jillie. So whenever I hear the name “Jillie”, I immediately smile. Thank you for sharing your lovely story. I have poor eyesight too. Thank goodness for contacts, glasses and perfume!

    Heather May 9, 2014 at 10:34am Reply

    • Jillie: Thank you, Heather. I am a Jill too; my familhy and friends call me Jillie, which I like best, but I was Gillian when i was naughty!

      Yes indeed, contacts, glasses and perfume are wonderful May 9, 2014 at 11:26am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Hi Jillie! What a pleasure to meet you here again, as a gifted writer! I hope you will give us more articles in the future.
    Your story is very moving and so vividly told! I had also weak eyes, wearing glasses as a young child already. It was okay with me: perfect excuse to avoid the terrible ball games at school (they called it gym lessons).
    Johnsons baby talc and -soap, I wish I could find it again here in Amsterdam. I used it together with Shalimar.
    And Apple Blossoms was one of my favourites. May 9, 2014 at 10:39am Reply

    • Jillie: Hello again, Cornelia! Thank you. Games – especially the ones in the freezing weather – were not my favourite, and I much preferred to read, with my nose quite literally in a book.

      Johnson’s baby talc would be a simply wonderful layer under Shalimar. Could you order some on the internet from the UK? It is very inexpensive. You would probably pay more for the postage!

      How’s the lovely Oscar? May 9, 2014 at 11:31am Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: I know, but I never buy on Internet: I simply don’t dare it (fear of the fishing thieves). Silly,but not a big problem!

        Oscar is doing well. It is wonderful to see how he is reviving. In the beginning he was shy (he comes from a home for lost animals) but now he is catching mice and he starts playing. I took him a year to achieve this. He is not so quiet as I thought!
        He greets your beautiful cat (sorry, I forgot the name, was it Leah? but not the face). May 9, 2014 at 11:50am Reply

        • Jillie: Yes, Cornelia, there are a lot of rogues out there. But there might be some pharmacies in Amsterdam that sell British/American products, perhaps?

          Symba sends his regards to Oscar (as does his brother Casper). May 9, 2014 at 12:09pm Reply

  • allgirlmafia: Lovely story. this made me smile. : ) May 9, 2014 at 10:48am Reply

    • Jillie: Thank you, Allgirlmafia, that’s so sweet! May 9, 2014 at 11:32am Reply

  • zari: My sense of smell is MUCH stronger than sight as well. I sometimes say I sniff things out like a hunting dog – scents usually are perceptible to me before others around me. I also used to, as a child, hang out among the rose bushes and sometimes actually eat the petals (they smelled so good I guess!). A good story, thanks for sharing!

    Also, I found published words of Gogol online for free, so I’m excited to read. Any recommendations on what to start with first? May 9, 2014 at 11:13am Reply

    • Jillie: Zari, my comment to you is below! May 9, 2014 at 11:45am Reply

  • Jillie: Hi there, fellow hound! Actually I love eating and drinking anything that’s rose flavoured, so your petal munching sounds good to me. Excellent taste.

    Victoria is the Gogol expert, and I am sure she will happily make recommendations. May 9, 2014 at 11:35am Reply

    • zari: Hi Jillie! I realized after that you posted this one, and not Victoria. Sorry about that :). That’s what I get for sneaking in Bois de Jasmin at work! May 9, 2014 at 12:16pm Reply

  • maja: Being short-sighted since early childhood, too, I totally get how you felt at the time. But could not have written it so wonderfully as you did. :) Lovely, lovely writing!
    I am not sure I could remember all of my childhood scents apart from the ones during the mornings at my grandma’s house – coffee, fresh milk, wooden oven and my grandpa’s honey. Since nobody wore much perfume (except maybe some old Lentheric cheapies) my memories are mostly related to food and nature (linden blossom, roses, thyme). But my first adult perfume was Magie Noir Huile Parfum given to me by my aunt. I was both a refugee and a poor student at the time and wearing a drop of such an expensive perfume would clash with my reality but make me feel like I could survive after all. :) May 9, 2014 at 12:20pm Reply

    • Jillie: Hello and thank you Maja. You have a great treasure trove of olfactory memories. I remember some lovely Lentherics, and in fact nowadays I reckon they could hold their own with some of the niche lines! I was fond of Miss Lentheric, which was quite “pink”.

      What a good aunt you had. She gave you such a precious present, much like a magic suit of armour to protect you. May 9, 2014 at 5:22pm Reply

  • Annette Reynolds: Lovely, lovely essay, Jillie. Like you, I grew up near-sighted. I didn’t know anything was wrong until my mother took me to the circus, and she noticed I was squinting even though we sat in the second row. I believe I was 6 or 7. After that it was the dreadful cat’s eye glasses until I was able to wear contacts in my teens. And then in my 30’s my eyes decided “no more of that” and it was back to glasses… Sigh.
    But, also like you, my sense of smell has always been fairly keen. And I’m always searching for fragrances from my youth…never to be found again.
    Do you remember what Yardley lipsticks and colognes smelled like in the Mod 60’s? And how about Prince Matchabelli’s “Sun Shower” cologne? Does anyone remember that one? I’d give my right nostril to have that fragrance again…
    Thanks for the memories, Jillie. Just a wonderfully evocative piece. May 9, 2014 at 12:46pm Reply

    • Jillie: Oh, Annette, that’s awful. Having to give up contacts is almost like having your sight whisked away because it’s not just how you look to other people, but the fact that your vision is so much better with contacts than with spectacles.

      How wonderful to recall the old fragrances and yes, those Yardley lipsticks smelt great, even if they had the strangest pigment. Did you wear their Red Roses? I loved that!

      I don’t remember Matchiabelli’s Sun Shower, but was Cachet from that company? That was quite a popular fragrance at the time. And the Mary Quant perfumes – AM and PM, with the daisy logo. Along with yellow eye shadow ….. And Biba cologne in the smart black bottles. What memories! May 9, 2014 at 5:35pm Reply

  • Alessandra: Such an adorable, vivid, well-written story! You seem to have been a really special kid :)

    I, too, have always been mostly obsessed with smells since a very tender age May 9, 2014 at 12:48pm Reply

    • Jillie: Thanks, Alessandra, for the compliment but I don’t think I was at all special, just short-sighted! But it is a magnificent obsession to have, isn’t it?! May 9, 2014 at 5:38pm Reply

  • Ann: Thank you for such a lovely story this morning! May 9, 2014 at 1:39pm Reply

    • Jillie: Ann, that’s so kind of you! May 9, 2014 at 5:38pm Reply

  • Tora: This story cheered me today. Much needed, by the way. I have been wearing glasses since 2nd grade, legally blind. The first perfume I owned was a huge fake turquoise ring filled with Heaven Scent. I adored that gift. And, I have a nose like a dog. I can smell things way before anyone else can.

    It was nice to hear your story. I feel a bit of kinship. Thank you. May 9, 2014 at 2:40pm Reply

    • Jillie: I am so glad, Tora, if I cheered you up a little. I find that the people of the perfume community and their blogs are always very uplifting and interesting – after all, they are all about our favourite subject!

      That ring sounds absolutely gorgeous, like something out of a fairy tale and obviously such a joyful thing. And filled with Heaven Scent …. heaven indeed! May 9, 2014 at 5:45pm Reply

  • Katrin: Thank you Jillie. How thought-provoking. I also have very bad eye-sight and a keen nose. While I love smelling perfumes and the like, I sometimes wonder if an excellent sense of smell has the flip side of also being a curse. The world can be a smelly place, can’t it?! May 9, 2014 at 4:27pm Reply

    • Jillie: Katrin, you are absolutely right! I said the very same thing to a friend today – a keen sense of smell is a blessing as well as a curse. Beautiful fragrances, lovely flowers etc are wonderful things, but bad smells (like other people who don’t wash) are simply horrid. Good noses are great for detecting gas leaks before anyone else, but nobody understands when you feel ill because you are aware of an odour they can’t smell! May 9, 2014 at 5:52pm Reply

  • Adriana Galani: Hey there Jillie, Am happy and greatful to Victoria for publishing this treasure of an article. Lovely writer You are!
    Yes, people do assume when one misses the eyesight the smell sense is sharper. I personally was born without being able to see and now with 36 I feel I do not miss much except that one time I would have loved to see myself in a mirror (sure thing before I got into thyroid issues which made me look…. roundish). :-) But all for good, who knows, what if I got disappointed? :-)
    Perfumes, God this is a real subject. Hiding in gardens, behind rose booshes, sitting by the window to smell the lilac or linden in blossom, stopping every now and then to a flower shop and paying a symbolic amount for a little tuberose which would fill my room with its magnifisant scent, taking time to grow and take care of gardenias enjoying in anticipation the time they’d bless me with scented flowers. Then the smell of my mom’s hands, my dad’s arms which even today has a strong calming effect on me, the smells of my dear ones…. then, teenage times, scents of all sort, my first fragrances, cheap as they were, Avon, Yves Rocher, OriFlame and what not. Laying in garden on the grass and trying to pick up the smells the wind usually brought with, heavenly times they were! Thank You for waking up again this memories of mine I am really worshipping whenever I come close to.
    We do have a similar one for sure as common taste, Magie Noire, it is a high beloved of mine, together with Opium, Miss Dior, Diorissimo, Samsara, Shalimar, Infusion D’Iris, D’une and the list can go on and on, from summer ones to fall and winter.
    Once again, lovely to have read You and once again thanks to Victoria for this wonderful opportunity! May 9, 2014 at 6:12pm Reply

    • Jillie: Thank you so much Adriana, and it’s great to read your perfume memories. You made me smile at the thought that you might be disappointed in your reflection – I think that is what a lot of us feel most of the time when we look in the mirror!

      Memories, whether of perfume or other kinds, are so important, even more so as we get older. They are tied up with what made us the people we are now and provide a reference point and a guide. They are also such a comfot and a stimulus for imagination. And here we are now, all joining in a conversation about them! May 9, 2014 at 6:47pm Reply

  • Adriana Galani: Yes, bad smells are a real trouble. Well, me being a vegetarian, I can smell even if in a restaurant my vegs have been cut with a knife which previously was used on meet or fish, or a spoon which has been touched by something containing eggs, let alone when they fry my french fries in an oil previously used for frying some nonveg stuff. I am a nightmare of a customer for any cook who is not knowing what clean vegetarian cooking means. And I don’t wish anyone a customer as picky as I am. :-) May 9, 2014 at 6:18pm Reply

    • Jillie: I am so pernickity, Adriana – I can’t eat a yoghurt if it comes in a cardboard pot because I can taste that more than the yoghurt. You are not the nightmare, it is the chef who doesn’t understand the principles of vegetarianism! May 9, 2014 at 6:50pm Reply

  • MontrealGirl: Jillie,

    What a marvellous, thought-provoking and cheery essay! Thank you for sharing it with us.

    First of all I went and pulled out the Johnson’s Baby Powder that was hidden away and smelled it. Funny how I’ve been looking for a perfume that was powdery and soft and never clued in to using Johnson’s powder which is bang on.

    As for how adaptable the brain is, yes it is a marvel. I read a wonderful book a couple of years ago on how the brain is ‘elastic’ and can change, even later in life. It is a very positive and re-assuring thought. The book is called “The Brain that Changes Itself” and is authored by Norman Doidge, MD. It has some wonderful stories in it.

    Last but not least you mentioned your Grandmother and your memories of smell in association to her. Mine wore Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps and then Chanel No 5. She is 90 now and still amazing but the one thing that has been VERY sad for her is the loss of her smell. She says that no matter how hard she tries she cannot smell perfume, cooking or other things. Something could be burning on the stove and she won’t notice. But here’s the odd bit, she can, for example, taste Saffron in food. This stumped me as I thought Saffron was only a ‘smell’ and not a taste (i.e. salt, sweet, sour, …). Have you ever noticed a difference between the way you smell with your nose and the way you ‘smell’ food in your mouth? Any thoughts? May 9, 2014 at 6:28pm Reply

  • Jillie: Thank you, Montrealgirl, I’m really pleased you liked it.

    I have made a note about Norman Doidge’s book as that sounds fascinating.

    The subject of taste v smell is thought-provoking. I am thinking of how the most repellent smelling cheeses (like Epoisses or Stinking Bishop) can taste divine – why should that be? What a shame for your poor grandmother as she must have lost all her joy in eating. I’m not surprised about the saffron, though, as I’ve discovered that it can taste so bitter if I have used too much. Perhaps it’s this bitterness she can relate to? May 9, 2014 at 6:58pm Reply

  • Ashley Anstaett: Wow, Jillie, this was such a wonderful read; thanks so much for sharing your story. I am glad that glasses are considered stylish now too, because they are rockin’! May 10, 2014 at 2:18am Reply

    • Jillie: You’re welcome, Ashley! I suppose the other reason I hated glasses so much was the fact that the lenses were so thick and heavy, with the appearance of rings – milk bottle bottoms we used to call them. But now technology has created such thin plastic lenses they are so much nicer to look at (and through). May 10, 2014 at 2:32am Reply

  • Austenfan: Lovely lovely post. I got my first pair of spectacles when I was 9 years old, tried contacts for a while, but they didn’t work for me at all.
    I don’t know if this prompted me to be more interested in the fragrant world, but something surely did. May 10, 2014 at 4:02am Reply

    • Jillie: Hi, Austenfan! Whatever is the trigger, it’s a lovely world, isn’t it? May 10, 2014 at 8:18am Reply

  • Anka: Thank you for a touching and interesting post, Jillie! I sometimes have the feeling that since I went down the rabbit hole and have increased my awareness for scents, my eyesight has gotten worse (but that could well be a simple ageing process…I have glasses since my childhood but don’t wear them regularly because people look much better without them!). May 10, 2014 at 9:47am Reply

    • Jillie: Hello and thank you Anka. It’s hard to say sometimes, isn’t it – which came first, chicken or egg? I suspect that the beauty of perfumes attracted you and then became addictive! May 10, 2014 at 10:10am Reply

  • Alice: Gosh, I think Aqua Manda was my first perfume (as a teenager). I loved it! I’d love to smell it again, I really can’t remember what it was like.

    BTW I also have terrible eyesight, wore glasses since I was about 6. May 11, 2014 at 11:42am Reply

    • Jillie: Hi there, fellow glasses wearer Alice! The most striking note of Aqua Manda was the orange (well, I suppose that’s obvious!), but what I liked was its green herbiness and then the spice from coriander. I think it dried down to an oriental base. I would love to know how the newly released version compares to the original. May 12, 2014 at 1:28am Reply

  • iodine: Thanks Jillie for your story, and thanks for having evoked HR Apple Blossoms! I had a baroque bath ritual when I was 10 or 11, involving the complete range, that ended with generous dusting with the luscious body powder!! May 11, 2014 at 12:21pm Reply

    • Jillie: Iodine, you were obviously born a perfumista and you smelt really good! I think it’s lovely that you had your ritual – it’s hard to get some little girls of that age anywhere near a bath, let alone enjoy a full glamorous pampering session. Apple Blossom was so good …. sigh. May 12, 2014 at 1:34am Reply

  • Amer: Great story! Thanks for sharing with us!
    Also, the noir ad copy of Imprevu is AMAZING! And the motto, very direct and sexy. Love it! May 16, 2014 at 2:22pm Reply

    • jillie: Thank you, Amer! The ad is certainly representative of Imprevu – far too risque for a 12 year-old! May 17, 2014 at 2:32am Reply

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