Perfume: a universal language


It should come as no surprise that something so visceral as smell can be understood universally, regardless of wide variations in possible interpretation. Like laughter, or crying.

Perfume, a scent carried with you on purpose, speaks directly to anyone who smells it. It’s a statement about you that does not depend on your role in a group, or a duo, or anything else. (Unless you rep a brand and you’re under contract to wear its fragrance, but that’s a different story.) Your perfume is about you as an individual.

I am perplexed—and often perturbed—by the direction of people’s curiosity about a person. It starts off ostensibly to be about the person, but inevitably turns quickly to the person’s relationships with others. Not the person’s capability or preference for relating to others in general, but specific relationships. Rarely do people seem to genuinely want to know me better in terms of my thoughts and interests; rather, they seem more satisfied to ask me a litany of questions about mundane details of my family or love life, as though that puts everything else I say or do into some context. The only logical conclusion to draw from this perception is that people are defined (almost solely) by their relationships.

Yet we live in a culture that constantly pushes self-expression, standing out, what-makes-you-different-makes-you-beautiful, etc. Those are—rightly—manifested by choices and actions. Which, in turn, are driven top-down from headquarters, aka the mind of the individual.


Perfume is a signal that cuts through the clutter of expectations and biases, that travels the path of least resistance through the other person’s nose to the brain, that asserts, “This is who I am, in this moment. Hello.






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