The Sweet Smell

A Blog by Gail Cushman


This week my email brought me a posting from a group associated with a college I attended. I usually click through it quickly and ignore the multiple advertisements, pleas for money, and postings about success/failure stories, but this one caught my attention. It was a posting with only, five words, “Name a really good perfume,” and, good grief, nearly 200 people responded. Curious person that I am, I scrolled through the answers and in seconds I was engulfed by a whole new world of which I know nothing.

My career choices didn’t really lead to a scented atmosphere, as first I was a Marine, then a teacher, then a principal, then I worked at the Department of Correction, where the most common fragrance was Stink, Blink, and Behave. I didn’t really know there were so many types of perfume and I marveled at the names. I only knew of Chanel Number 5, a long-standing favorite of many, including my grandmother, but that was when she was ninety years old, and I am not sure who she was intent on attracting. This list had hundreds, possibly thousands of scents I had never heard of including Lady Million, Princess, Flower Bomb, and Queens & Monsters, all of which made me think that I had missed my calling because I could have launched a lucrative career as someone who names perfumes. I can think of a few names I would have advocated, but I don’t know if they are already taken. Mean Girls, Udder Delight, Swamp Fever, or Lose Your Clothes, Babe.

The evolution of perfume, as I am sure you know, was due to the French royalty’s need to duck and cover their human odors, because they lacked the luxury and necessity of bathrooms and thought that covering the smell solved the problems. Of course, the English disagreed, and an innovative Englishman, John Crapper, invented the toilet eliminating the need for perfumes. Could this dichotomy have started the 100 Years War or was it the War of Roses? I forget.


But now that I see the vast listing of perfumes available to those people willing to drop a small fortune to be an odorific standout, I am overwhelmed with curiosity. Why do we complain about the cost of gasoline, which runs two cents an ounce, and willingly pay up to three hundred dollars an ounce to cover up our own body odors?

I can’t say that I would enjoy smelling like ethyl gasoline, but it’s an option, especially if I am drooling over a mechanic who probably loves the smell of gasoline in the morning.


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