Friday, May 1, 2009


"Research indicates smell is one of the strongest triggers of memory."
I began one of my scholarship application essays with this statement when I was a high school senior. I'd learned the information in my psychology class and as an individual particularly prone to remember things, I was fascinated by the idea. So I used the slice of information to launch my essay.

After draft, draft, draft... I assembled the rest of the requisite materials and shipped them off to the school of my choice. But before the spit on the stamp {that's right, future kids, we used to lick stamps} could even dry, I caught an ad campaign for some brand of deodorant using {nay... debasing} my once-legitimately-acquired intelligence and reducing it to anti-perspirant-pushing drivel.

I imagined a panel of distinguished looking individuals - lots of mahogany and tweed - smoking their pipes and scoffing at the fact I based my lengthy dissertation on knowledge gained from an ad campaign encouraging personal hygiene.

I didn't get the scholarship. I'm fairly positive I'm in the right holding that campaign responsible.

I continue to be completely intrigued by memory in general, but especially by those memories triggered by scent. It happens every time I wash my hands with Dial soap and I'm suddenly standing on the little stool at the sink in the corner of my preschool after a chocolate pudding art project. Or whenever I smell a very specific artificial flavor of cherry and I'm drinking my Cherry Geyser on a sunny winter afternoon just before ski lessons at Snowbasin {in the upstairs part of the lodge where all us "home lunchers" had to eat - any other Ogden-area kids remember this?}. It really blew my mind the other morning when we passed someone on the subway platform and her perfume sent me reeling back to nursery at the church on Adams Avenue and set off an intense craving for Nilla Wafers.*

*I should also note, as evidenced by all three - most of my memories are also inextricably linked to food.

This fascination with smells is probably the impetus behind a real desire to have my smell.

I went through stages - but thanks to my rapid consumption rate in junior high and high school, those stages passed quickly.

My best friend Shae and I procured our first bottles of Tommy Girl for Christmas in 8th grade. A few days later, our matching bright yellow Columbia ski parkas doused in the stuff, we went out for a night on the town {i.e. met the Mount Ogden Middle School boys at the mall}. We were a veritable Tommy Girl bug bomb. Was that part of our scheme? The adolescent girl equivalent of smoking our target out? I think we sent my dad into a Hilfiger-induced asthmatic episode by the time we got out of the car.

By the time spring came around and we were wearing our tall Nike socks with Dr. Marten sandals at Lagoon - the Tommy bottle was dry and I was Happy. Clinique Happy, that is.

The schizophrenia lingered through high school until I finally landed on a scent I loved. And used in regular-human-like moderation. Ah, August by Hollister.

So you can imagine my devastation when they discontinued it two years ago. Not wanting to relapse into my smelly adolescence, I've played it cool these 24 months. Smelly primarily of Jergens or Dove deodorant (And hey! - we're back to deodorant. This post finally comes full circle.) and occasionally Bath and Body Works' Japanese Cherry Blossom when my hands are really dry.

But last night I finally took the plunge. I found a delightful scent at Urban Outfitters and I'm prepared to make it mine. I know I may regret hitching my wagon to yet another clothing store perfume line and they could pull the rug out from under me before I know it. (Why not just settle into the old lady scents NOW, Allison? They've stood the test of time. I don't think they even evaporate - the atmosphere can't break those puppies down.) But I think I like where this relationship is heading.


Maura said...

What a fun post. I agree. If I get one whiff of Curve for Men, I am sent reeling into a memory of my first year of college and dating my husband.Gotta love those scent induced memories!

4 Reale said...

I was a Hugo Boss for women in HS/Middle school. But remember the Clinque Happy phase?

Now, from Anthropology I so wear: Gin and Tonic.

allyn said...

aron is constantly smelling things to trigger his senses. he can remember every meal he ate on his mission and associate a smell with it.
i, myself, can't handle perfume. i just can't find the one that's for me, i guess. good luck with this one.

Ashley said...

Your memory is CRAZY. I think J may be the only one to rival it. I still hold strong that some of those obscure memories are actually MINE. I swear!

Robby Spratt said...

I have the same thing with smells and memory! Also, last year I was surprised to discover that my favorite cologne, Boss No. 6, which I have worn for six years now, had been discontinued. So far I have been able to postpone by search for a new scent by buying a backup bottle online. I'm nervous for when it finally runs dry.

melissa said...

Even the big guys get cancelled...I am still reeling over the loss of my Ralph Cool. Meh.

Pavlov Stowardi said...


Get yourself to ebay and i'll all but guarantee you'll find your August. My favorite fav is Lanvin by who even knows who, and when they yanked it off the shelves at Nordstrom, well, guess where I went... so try it out.

At worst, it's a couple of keystrokes and clicks and your hopes are dashed. At best, you'll be able to delay the old lady perfume until it's a little more applicable. :)