Ode to Perfume: A Journey to Smell Like Myself, But Better

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to wear perfume. It was one of those quiet, self-conscious wishes that I didn’t talk about, or really act upon, other than maybe a preteen investment in Bath & Body Works products. But I never liked that if I wore Moonlight Path lotion then I’d smell like half the girls in the eighth grade. I wanted to smell like me, but better.

The first perfume I wore was Clinique Happy because it was a sample that came with my acne skin care regiment. I loved the fruity scent and it made me feel like I was an adult. I savored the tiny bottle, only squeezing out a drop or two for special occasions. When it ran out, I wanted to buy a whole bottle, but when I saw the price tag I quickly let go of the idea. Realizing a bottle of perfume cost the same as a trendy pair of jeans (something else I wasn’t wearing) meant it was too expensive for me, and too expensive to ask for as a gift. After that, I improvised.

I remember in college I picked up a bottle of room spray in Winnipeg that smelled like roses and thought I’d try it out as a perfume. The scent was light, delicate, and most importantly, cheap because it wasn’t meant to be a perfume. Just to be safe I did the spray-and-walk-through technique when I used it so it wouldn’t stain my clothes or make me grow a third arm from unsafe chemical exposure. One day when I ran out of deodorant, I used the room spray and crossed my fingers that no one could smell me. At an orchestra rehearsal later that afternoon my stand partner began sniffing the air until his nose led him to me.  

“You smell……you smell……mmm, like clean laundry! Oh that is the best smell. Chris, come here and take a whiff of her.” The cellist took his whiff. 

“Ah, it’s nostalgic, like something from my childhood. It smells like my Grandmother’s cookies. What is it?” Out of embarrassment I replied, “A girl’s got to have some secrets.” 

Obviously, room spray doesn’t lend itself well to being a signature scent. When the spray ran out and I couldn’t just pick up another bottle, I relied on the basics: lotion and deodorant. But I still wanted a perfume of my own that wouldn’t break the bank.

I tried making my own perfume. I’m pretty proud of the scent combinations I came up with. They had clever (or maybe not so) names like ‘Piece of Cake’, ‘Ray of Sunshine’, ‘Out Like a Lion’, ‘Walk in the Park’, ‘April Showers’ and ‘May Flowers.” But it was expensive and laborious to make my own perfume. The hobby only lasted a few years. Eventually, I wanted the same thing but was willing to support someone else to do it.

When I lived in Portland, Maine there was a beautiful perfume shop that opened in the Old Port district called 2 Note (note: they’ve since moved to New York and operate solely online). The business combined a love a music with a love of fragrance. Hence, the (actual) clever name. Lovelier still, the shop was run by two delightful musicians, Carolyn and Darcy. A triple entendre. A close friend of mine bought her perfume from them and every time my friend wore it, I thought, “I hope someday I’ll smell as much like myself as my friend does when she wears that perfume.” I decided that someday, when I was financially stable, I’d buy myself a full bottle of perfume from 2 Note.

And here I am, ten years later, and I decided it was time I had a scent to call my own. Like the drops of ‘Happy’ I rationed as a teen, I ordered three samples from 2 Note and used them for months until I found the scent that felt perfectly like me. It feels a bit poetic then, that I couldn’t narrow it down to just one scent. A metaphor for being a multifaceted, dynamic human being, I suppose. I ordered my first bottle, ‘Adagio’, slow like my perfume journey. My second: ‘Encore.’ Encore indeed.

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