I have a difficult time with perfumes. I go crazy at concerts if anyone is wearing a scent, and you can bet that so many in the audience are. When I’m in the pit I can smell the scents of the first few rows. Some of those people must have no sense of smell at all, because they bathe in the stuff.

At the same time, I love certain smells. Like the smell of rain on hot pavement. Yum! Great smell. And wet dirt … oh … I guess that’s called mud, eh? Lovely. I even like the smell of tar. Really. When I was anemic, the smell of rubber was fabulous. Sadly that went away when the anemia left. I miss it.

Yeah, I’m weird.

And then there’s this guy:

I have a strong sensitivity to certain aromachemicals, like musk,” says Christopher Brosius. “The aldehydes in Chanel No. 5 make me puke.” And that is unfortunate, he continues, because the Polish ladies here in Williamsburg wear so much of it.
Christopher is the perfumer behind CB I Hate Perfume Gallery, a small shop on a street that runs parallel to New York’s East River. I’ve visited often in the years since I first wandered in and overheard the owner describing his philosophy: that great fragrances are unimposing and genderless, and they should harmonise with a person’s natural odour. Christopher (“Never call him ‘Chris'”, his assistant once whispered) is a theatrical presence, possessing a wry wit and a spring-loaded arch to his brow. He speaks to me between sips from a container labelled Muscle Milk, as Zephyr, his mastiff, rests his enormous head on my knee.
The shop’s exposed wooden beams and minimalist decor give it the air of an austere cabin. Three hundred miniature laboratory vials populate white shelves. Inside the bottles are accords, the aromatic building-blocks with which one can–for $125 to upwards of $1,200–collaborate with Christopher to construct one’s own custom scent. The vials of single notes, which can be had individually for around $25, carry hand-scrawled names like “Rhubarb Leaf”, “Papaya Seed”, “Celo Tape” and “Crayon”.

I wonder if the smell of cane would be good, or if it would drive me nuts. Probably just make me feel guilty. Might it spur me on to work on reed? One can hope!

So what scent would I choose? You?


  1. I’ve gotten more sensitive to fragrances in recent years. It’s especially bad in the pit, when audience members bathe in perfume or cologne only a few feet away.

    I would imagine that some symphony and show contracts ban the excessive use of fragrances. We had such a clause in the AFM “Pamphlet B” touring contract.

    Speaking of the pit, there were many times when people in the front row stuck their feet underneath the divider, almost in the musicians’ faces (at least, the players situated closest to the audience).
    Occasionally an open-toed sandal would offer an almost irresistible urge to do something prankish!

  2. I know in SSV and OSJ we are supposed to be fragrance free. I’m not sure if it’s in our contracts or not, but we are occasionally reminded of the rule.

    Sometimes I still smell scents, but I suspect it’s shampoo. I’m just so sensitive to anything these days. Funny how some of us get more sensitive, while others seem to lose their sense of smell entirely.

    I remember playing in an ACT production when two guys sitting in the front row took off their shoes and put their feet up on the railing or divider or whatever it’s called. Sigh.

    But yes, there IS an urge to do something prankish sometimes, isn’t there? When they hang their coats over I think we should be able to go through pockets and take a few bucks. 😉

  3. Well, you know, sensitivity to smells can be related to increased levels of toxicity in a person’s body. As one is exposed to more and more environmental toxins, the body’s ability to filter these things out decreases and one of the results can be this smell sensitivity. Conversely, a loss of the sense of smell can be related to a zinc deficiency, though this may be further on the continuum of the body’s inability to handle environmental toxins.

  4. My increased sense (and enjoyment) seemed to be linked to my iron deficiency. The link to perfumes … I suspect part of it is that I no longer wear any perfume at all. Ever. I think that makes us more aware of the scents that others wear.