The many scents of loneliness


This isn’t about lonely smells. I suppose one could attempt a perfume to conjure loneliness, with cold notes reminiscent of wilted beauty… or some such. I haven’t met one yet. Having read that Serge Lutens’ De Profundis was a reference to death and cemeteries, I had imagined musty stones and greenish soil, only to be quite surprised to sniff it and find a nutty (hazelnut!), warm, powdery floral. Quite pretty actually.

No. The title is simply a twist on the expression “the many faces of _____” to stay true to my current style.

Loneliness is a very real problem for many people, and it’s often invisible to others. I am glad that the UK, for example, has made it a matter of national concern, and look forward to learning the outcomes of ongoing efforts.


The first thing that usually comes to mind at the mention of loneliness is a lack of company: being alone. The typical reaction when someone is brave enough to admit out loud, “I’m lonely,” is something along the lines of: Don’t you have friends? Can’t you go somewhere to make friends?

It becomes even more puzzling when someone appears to have a flurry of social activity, is surrounded by a variety of people, and yet says they’re lonely. The puzzlement somewhat mirrors the root of this type of loneliness: not aloneness, but rather lack of relatedness.

  • It’s making the effort to be social and finding that you simply don’t share the same interests or experience things the same way. The interactions are polite but not fulfilling.
  • It’s being a supporting character in someone else’s world but not feeling supported in return. This can happen when the other person consistently has their attention and priorities elsewhere, only comes to you when they want something, forgets key details that are important to you, etc.
  • It’s taking years to get over a thing, only to be hit in the face with the thing that led to the thing.
  • It’s feeling lost, stuck, and shadowed by a mounting of nondescript panic that almost everyone around you is moving in a different direction and leaving you behind. This is usually unfounded, but that doesn’t make the effect any less real.

These and other scenarios manifest in a myriad of ways, and they’re not apparent, predictable, or logical. It gets only harder if the response is dismissive or otherwise disbelieving. A little empathy goes a long way.


Inside a perfume, several ingredients are mixed into a liquid “crowd.” Depending on what else is in there, some are more prone to being “lonely” and should be used with care (as with all aroma materials, but these have given me a more challenging time).

  • Celery seed—an oddball that just can’t seem to mingle because it takes over everything, like the loud voice of someone wearing headphones who thinks they are speaking at a normal volume
  • Ebanol—a synthetic sandalwood that’s relatively harsh and remains long after other ingredients in the mixture have evaporated
  • Fenugreek—mainly smelling like salted caramel, a “fantasy” note that I haven’t managed to get to play well with more “realistic,” earthy notes

Maybe they just need more space.






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