Perfume Plight: The Science of Smelling Terrible

Summer's over, and we all know what that means! Time to throw out your whites – clothes, not people – grab your fave fashion mag and head to the nearest department store for fall fashion! On the way, be sure to flip through that book to find the latest trends. That is, if you can make it through the overwhelming sporifera of parfum idem (read: nasty dust that all smells the same), or actually locate within those hallowed pages a real article about clothing design amongst the ads. Perhaps you'll be lucky and make it to some articles, only to then realize that these, too, are trying to sell you on something. Whether it's mascara or the career of a celebrity, every weekly trend compendium out there is no more than a dealer dangling appetizing opiates over the addicted masses. And as with any other opiate, this one is not a necessary part of a balanced breakfast.
Now don't get me wrong, the women in these magazines are clearly beautiful, the photography is excellent, and the clothes themselves (if you can wade through the toxic cosmetic sludge slung by the rest of the ads) are not terrible. But all that beauty can't escape the ugly truth that trends and advertising do nothing effective apart from chaining otherwise happy people to consumerism and engineered markets. Anyone capable of love doesn't need a $1000 bottle of perfume to be happy.
According to Air Aroma, a scent company that I refused to credit for fear that I might unintentionally be advertising for them (my editor forced me to anyway): “It is the close connection of the olfactory gland, which registers smell, and the limbic system, that governs emotion and memories, that is said to be responsible for the power behind the sense of smell.” In other words, perfume isn't soft, cuddly warm fun-in-a-bottle. It's cold, hard science mixed with a bit of sly marketing all sprayed on the pages of Vanity Fair for your pleasure.
Have you ever visited your grandma's house and felt the faint odour of Virginia Slims and Chanel #5 whisk you off into some long-forgotten memory of childhood? That happens, as many fashion editors know, because scent, memory and emotion are all tied up in the same bag in your noodle. That dusty perfume stuff is in the magazines purely to get you into a trance where you will enter all incoming data into your long-term memory banks.
This is high science, the art of manipulation. Our brains are being hijacked every time we crack open one of those glorified catalogues of mayhem and destruction. That same scent company says “the nose is believed to affect 75% of our daily emotions.” When it comes to manipulating people's emotions just to get them to buy something profane like perfume, you're crossing into the territory of bad manners.
After all, we communicate naturally through our unadulterated aroma. The natural exchange of pheromones through our sweat facilitates communication and attraction between people. One well known example is oxytocin, which is a hormone and neurotransmitter connected intimately with the biological processes related to love, bonding and orgasm. It doesn't make sense that we should mask this natural attracting agent. Let alone the fact that these products are made from and tested on helpless little fuzzy animals.
Of course, perfume isn't all bad. It can help create a fantasy persona just like dressing up and wearing make-up (some of my favourite pastimes). When you want to escape from our dull reality to a world of your own creation, smells can really do the trick. But when I sit down next to a pretty girl on the train or in the theatre and her musk sends me into a seizure, I'm inclined to feel less attraction towards said girl. Is it really worth our time as a society to be investing so much research into something so useless and ultimately counterproductive?
Call me old fashioned, but I like the smell of a human being.

Sky Hester
Calendar Keeper

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: