“Being almost completely blind, I have always used my nose as a means to investigate and love my world, so it is no surprise that I became a perfume addict at an early age,” says Shermeen, our guest author today. She shares her experience of using her nose instead of her eyes. “Although I would have loved to have pursued a career in the fragrance industry, I enjoy indulging in it as an obsessive hobby. I studied law and live in Southern Ontario, and when I’m not using my legal background to persuade myself into buying more perfume, I enjoy reading, writing, singing, drinking loose-leaf tea, and travelling when I’m able.”
When people first learn that I’m almost completely blind (which is often instantaneously, since I’m often accompanied by a gigantic yellow dog), one of their first questions is invariably along the lines of “So are your other senses, like, heightened?”
Yes, I can hear, smell, and taste things you probably didn’t even know existed. I know you had garlic bread yesterday morning, that your kid spilled a bowl of cheerios on your pajamas last night, and I bet you can’t even hear that fire engine blasting its way down your street as you read this (how many of you looked out your window to check?)
Still, I would never say that my senses are “heightened”. I do, however, rely on them to a significant extent, which means that they’ve likely had years of training that most sighted people wouldn’t consider necessary–and fair enough, since functional eyes are all the rage these days. Through years of training and education, I travel independently with my guide dog Arden, have completed law school, and am engaged to a man who raises me up higher than I thought possible. Oh, and I’ve also developed a perfume addiction.
The benefits of being a blind perfume lover are obvious. I’m not swayed by visual advertising–the commercials are just filled with smokey-voiced people, and I have yet to encounter a bottle that has spoken to me louder than the juice. I also use perfume to replace things like photographs. For instance, when I was at guide dog school with Arden, I consistently used the same fragrance for the three weeks I was there so I could willfully “travel back there” in the future. I only need one spritz and I’m instantly back in San Rafael, perched on the edge of my bed, heart pounding against my ribs as I awaited to meet my soulmate. I know that I’m not alone in this use of perfume, and that makes me very happy.
But there are definitely downsides to being a blind perfume-lover. I can’t peruse perfume counters and sample every bottle without the help of a sales assistant, and even the kindest of them probably won’t want to spend hours showing me everything in sight. Something tells me they also wouldn’t appreciate my flailing about indiscriminately with my hands, knocking bottles this way and that just so I could find them!
You’d think the solution would be to order samples online. I’ve started doing only to discover that the sample vials come labeled in print, and while I can get a friend to read me each label, it doesn’t address the issue of distinguishing one vial from another. Now, I’ve come up with an ordering system of sorts using my computer (which is loaded with screen-reading technology), although if my samples get jostled or even slightly rearranged, there goes my system.
On that note, it can be difficult to tell how much perfume I have left in a bottle. Of course, the bottle begins to feel lighter in my hands, but I’m always just a bit eager when the juice starts getting low, as it obviously means I have to replace it with more perfume! I’ve often longed for a fellow perfume lover who’ll accompany me on a sniffathon, but have yet to meet someone with enough patience and with my level of obsession.
On a recent and much anticipated trip to Los Angeles, I went to the Scent Bar, Luckyscent’s actual store. And not only was it a perfume-lover’s heaven rendered into real life, it was a blind person’s dream come true. I didn’t have to show up armed with a list of specific fragrances I wanted to sniff (although I did that anyway), and the sales staff was content to sniff and muse with me for hours about which scents evoked which feelings or conjured up which images. Unfortunately, I’ve found that stores like scent Bar are few and far-between, and so for the majority of the time, I rely on finding a sales assistant who isn’t terribly busy and who can direct my nose. On my upcoming honeymoon, I intend on visiting a few perfume shops in London, and I’m already brimming with impatient anticipation.
Of course, if you have any questions about the life of a blind perfume lover, do feel free to ask them here! And if you’re a Londoner and have suggestions for perfume boutiques, please let me know.
Photography by Bois de Jasmin