My ideal . . . perfume
I was in my bedroom the other day, wondering what people really think of me. I was doing well until I came to the man who reads my electricity meter. I always seem to be in my pyjamas (Aikido pants, Bruce Springsteen T-shirt) and slippers (high-heeled, feather-toed) on the afternoons he calls. He is elderly and dignified. Once I saw a small comb in his pocket. Words like “slovenly” and “ill” started to bubble up. I grew despondent and decided instead to imagine my ideal perfume.
When it comes to smells, I am quite traditional. I like my men to smell of fresh air and education. I like my old ladies to smell of mints and starch and I like my babies to smell of Christina Aguilera’s Red Sin. Well, either Red Sin or else just smell like babies. Babies smell terrific. Somehow, getting sick on themselves and sleeping all day works out great for them .That is just one reason I’m jealous of them. Others include their extreme youth and the fact that they get so much attention from my sisters. Please don’t tell the babies I said all this stuff about them, I beg you. They stare at me enough as it is, their little mouths clamped shut in silent, relentless judgement.
In Al Pacino’s wonderful biopic Scent of a Woman, I learned that the celebrated actor is also a retired army colonel. He is visually impaired so his nose steps in and sees things for him. In a particularly riveting scene, he breaks women down into our various physical parts and explains to his carer, a young Chris O’ Donnell lookalike, how nice we smell. It seems like maybe he’s objectifying us and that doesn’t feel great, but sometimes you just have to say to yourself “give the guy a break, he’s just an old, blind actor who [spoiler alert] wants to kill himself.”
I bought perfume last year and wore it for weeks before realising it was my mother’s signature scent. Initially, I panicked about what that meant for me, psychologically, but then I turned it around and used it to my advantage. I sat with my siblings in darkened rooms and they opened up to me like never before. In the same way a farmer tricks a lamb by covering a ewe with another’s musky pelt, they thought I was their beloved mamma. Then I switched on the lamps and laughed long and hard at their little concerns and big plans.
My dream fragrance will not disguise me – it will reveal my essence, my core, it will uncover something more private even than my browsing history. (Codeine. Jake Gyllenhaal no T-shirt. What is codeine in? Get codeine Dublin night time. Jake Gyllenhaal no jumper.) I will spray that hope-filled bouquet before me in an ivory bedroom, then sail through it like a mighty ship, out the front door – stopping only to dab a little on my cold sore, for luck.