I know you love perfume, or you wouldn't be reading this blog. But is there anything, well, a little off kilter that you love to smell? A smell fetish?
For instance, I adore the smell of gasoline. As a kid I would sit in the backseat of the sweltering Ford Falcon station wagon at the gas station and drink in the fumes. Divine. When I was in my teens, I admitted my fascination with the smell of gasoline to my aunt, and she fetched her purse. Inside was a handkerchief dipped in crude oil, all sealed in a plastic baggie. "I can't get enough of it," she said, a little embarrassed.
Today I spent an hour at the vintage clothing store where I used to work. Between trying on crystal necklaces and 1950s cocktail dresses, I talked to Liz, the owner, about smell fetishes. "Oh, I love gasoline, too," she said. "And the smell of a garage — the rubber, oil, metal, all of it. I love that smell. And parking garages! I love the smell of parking garages."
Anna, a burlesque dancer, stopped by to show her newly dyed black hair and look at some hats. Her smell fetishes? Her answer was quick and sure: "Matches and gasoline. And rose petals."
"But rose petals smell good!" I said. "That doesn't count as a fetish."
"Dead rose petals," she said.
"I like the smell of matches, too," Joanne said. Joanne had just come in to work the afternoon shift. As always, she'd dressed in something diaphanous with 1930s sandals, large, dangling earrings resembling Saturn in chains, and Guerlain Jicky. "I also like the smell of a freshly opened package of soap. It smells so good I want to lick it. When I do, it tastes good. Then I lick it again and it's horrible."
Another customer confessed to loving the smell of dryer sheets. I remembered a coworker who said as a girl she used to stalk Laundromats for the smell of hot fabric. We all agreed we like body odor, but only on someone in whom we have a carnal interest.
I stopped by the grocery store on the way home to pick up a few things for dinner. "What are your plans tonight?" the cashier, a professorial type, asked.
"I'm going to make dinner — " cabbage, mustard, and sausage casserole, by the way, from the new Tamasin Day-Lewis cookbook, really good "— and write something about smell fetishes. Anything in particular you like to smell?"
He put a Savoy cabbage in my bag. The question didn't faze him at all. "The smell of pitch. I love the smell of pinyon pine pitch. And wild sage just after it rains." He loaded in a jar of mustard and some sausage. "You know what my wife really loves? The smell of a two-stroke engine. It's an aphrodisiac for her."
What about you? Do you have a smell fetish? (Baby's head and kitty fur don't count, since they're universally recognized as heavenly smells.)