Perfume for applause

Last week, I went back to the office—not for the first time, but for the first time to join a large, in-person meeting. It was good timing, as I was just starting to get tired of being a barely 2-square-inch thumbnail among others on Zoom calls. However, I was so anxious in the morning that I had gotten fully dressed and was about to run out the door when I realized I’d forgotten to put on perfume! Looking around frantically at my several choices, I grabbed my trusty Parfum d’Empire Osmanthus Interdite, sprayed, and ran out the door.

What I realized that day was that, besides handshakes (which I avoided) and real eye contact, one of the things that slipped away from us as we adapted to a virtual existence was: applause. Hand clapping in response to people talking. Even with great news being shared, the reactions on Zoom are generally subdued, and clicking on a clapping emoji doesn’t require the same muscles as lifting one’s arms to put one’s hands together.

I’d never applauded so much in one sitting in over a year and a half.

Which got me thinking about all the perfume that must get wafted every time someone who is wearing perfume claps. (Unless you wear perfume only behind your knees, and you remain sitting… although it might still work if your body heat rises with the motion.)

Funnily, the thought had never occurred to me before, even after I became perfume obsessed. It came only because, not too long ago, I had read an article about how dogs wag their tails to spread their scent and assert dominance. This imagery came to mind as soon as I started following the crowd in clapping, and every time after that… as you might imagine, rounds of applause were overdue for many, many individuals and teams for all they had accomplished in the last year. It was a jovial gathering (with chairs spaced 6 feet apart).

Osmanthus Interdite, still my favorite osmanthus perfume with apricot and tea notes perfectly balanced in richness and lightness, did not let me down.

I became curious as to whether applause in the form of clapping is an innate or learned behavior. To my surprise, I couldn’t find a scientific publication that had the answer, but the consensus seems to be that it’s learned. Also, only humans are known to clap to show approval rather than to get attention.

It’s a good thing applause doesn’t come with the expectation of each person applying the same rhythm, because as this study found, when groups were instructed to clap in unison, they ended up clapping faster by the time they established synchrony than when they started—because people tended to match their own speed to those who were faster than them rather than to those who were slower.

Back to dogs for a moment. Did you know that the direction of their tail wag differs according to their mood? Apparently, they wag toward their right when they want to approach something, and toward their left when they want to back away. They are also more relaxed when they see another dog wagging toward its right and stressed when the other dog wags toward its left.

I wonder if the scents they emit differ according to the wag, too?

5 thoughts on “Perfume for applause

  1. As I started reading your post, I couldn’t pinpoint first why I felt so anxious. And then I realized that the image you used and your story about the meeting were making me nervous: I think I became slightly agoraphobic and recluse after the last year and half of working from home.

    Interesting tidbit about dogs’ tail wagging!

    My own experiments with the speed of clapping proved to me that in a group it is possible to change the rhythm of clapping to a slower one: I purposefully did it many times – just to confirm that it worked.


    1. Crowds make me anxious, too, even since before the pandemic! Also, it’s a bad picture, but I didn’t have any good ones of masses applauding. Right now, the “hybrid” arrangement seems to be an even trickier adjustment than working from home.

      I’m glad your experiments proved you right!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What an interesting thought! I think some clapping is innate to at least some primates; the zoo near us has baby gorillas, and there are some adorable videos of them clapping as part of their play. Re perfume and clapping: I recently read some advice by a perfumer to apply perfume to the top of one’s wrist, by the back of one’s hand, as the hair on that part of one’s arm will hold onto fragrance longer than the bare skin on the inside of the wrist. I wonder if that would enhance “wafting while clapping”!

    Liked by 1 person

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