Love Stinks, But In A Good Way

I know it sounds like I can't shut up about my new commute---I've only been doing it for a few weeks and I've already written about it here and here---but there's a part of it I enjoy more than any other part, and it's this: the seven seconds it takes me to walk up the stairs from the underground platform to the slightly-less-underground station. (I have vowed to always take the stairs, see, instead of the escalator. Not only does this give me a proud little knot of smugness as I gallop past the people staring numbly into middle distance as they ride to the top, but it makes me feel just the tiniest bit better about the fact that I haven't been to the gym since Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston were engaged the FIRST time around.)

Anyway, this part of my commute is my favorite part for a slightly silly reason, and you're going to have to bear with me while I explain. I like the way it smells.

Say what now? You're thinking. Oh honey, I've ridden the subway. Nobody LIKES how it smells.

But go with me on this, okay? I don't know what it is or how it happens but there's a smell---an aroma, I should say, so it sounds a little more pleasant---that accompanies thirty or forty commuters making their way out of an underground station, and it smells like coffee and still-wet hair and perfume and the cold outside, and something about it stirs in me a longing for the days I'd take the tube to university in London or the subway to my internship in Manhattan: something about that stomp stomp stomp up the platform steps, everyone hurrying and hustling, everyone going somewhere.

Smell is such a powerful sense. Sometimes I'll be walking through an airport Duty Free and I'll catch the faint, faint scent of Estee Lauder's White Linen and suddenly I'm eleven again, clutching a handkerchief to my face in a dark dormitory, missing my mother. Cigars are my dad, smoking in his study, playing his guitar late into the night.  Coppertone sunscreen is summer.  And ask anyone: Play-Doh is the olfactory equivalent of a time machine, set to anywhere from the 1950s on.

What smell makes you happy? What smell has an indelible memory attached?


Aug 22, 2010

Estee Lauder Youth Dew will ALWAYS remind me of my mother, even though she doesn't wear it anymore.

The smell of skunk (from afar) reminds me of childhood summers spent at the lake and at Girl Scout camp.

The smell of fresh tar will always bring to mind second grade. The roof of our school was being tarred then, and I will always remember sitting in Mrs. Goode's homeroom, staring out the classroom window and watching the buckets of tar being hauled up to the roof.

Aug 23, 2010

I love the smell of fresh cut lawn/grass, although I can't tell you why. Not a clue!

Aug 23, 2010

I love how smell is so bound up with memories. Issy Miyake will always remind me of my mum, talcum powder of my dad. There's a certain smell that I can't quite put my finger on - I don't know if it's a particularly fresh smelling brand of cleaner or what – but it always reminds me of my grandfather's house, and whenever I (infrequently) smell it, I'm back there, longing to go out to the pool or play with the dog. And freshly cut grass always makes me think of the end of the summer term at school.

Aug 23, 2010

I love the smell when you open a new packet of coffee. Although or maybe just because I´m cutting back on my
coffee drinking I love it even more.

Aug 23, 2010

There's this scent called Moonflower (I think) by The Body Shop that never fails to remind me of when I was 16 and dating my first boyfriend. Ralph by Ralph Lauren's another one that takes me back to high school.

Oh, and the first time I visited Werribee Park Mansion (I live in Melbourne, Australia), I kept going on about how it smells just like my grandparents' house in Malaysia. Probably not a good thing since the first thing my friend said when she walked in the mansion was "Oh GOD it smells ancient in here!"

I love how a smell, er, *aroma* can shave decades off your life. I recently caught a scent of Ralph Lauren's Polo cologne for men, worn by approximately 78% of my male high school classmates, and immediately I began to panic that I was late for Trig.

Aug 23, 2010

I'll never forget the smell of a theater dressing room from my years of ballet. It was satin and pancake makeup and hairspray and sweat and rosin and Wendy's french fries.

Aug 23, 2010

For me it's Rive Gauche by Yves St Laurent. My Mum always wore it for special occasions when we were little and even though she doesn't wear it any more, it takes me straight back to sitting on my parents bed, watching her put on a ball gown and high heels and a spritz of perfume before she left.
There is also a certain combination of cleaning products and food that takes me back to the dining room in my convent school, and always makes me think of singing the blessings before and after we ate our packed lunches.
Scent is a very powerful thing.

Aug 23, 2010

There's a mix of diesel, urine and raw meat in the heat that reminds me of kindergarten in Peru. Not that those things were at my kindergarten, but the ride there definitely took me through those places.

Aug 23, 2010

Elizabeth Arden Red Door will always remind me of my grandmother. Cat fur always smells like rain to me, which is weird?

Aug 23, 2010

For me, its the smell of lilacs in the spring. It reminds me of being in elementary school and cutting a huge bunch down in my backyard for the kitchen table every year.

Also Chanel #5 for my mom. She only wore it on very special occasions and it reminds me of watching her get ready, excitement pulsing for whichever event she was off to.

Aug 23, 2010

That smell on the first really clear fall day reminds me so much of my first year of college. When I was SO EXCITED to be away from home and yet so homesick at the same time. Powerful memories there!

I also have this with food and specifically the tap water at my mom's house. It just tastes like home. So weired, I know.

Aug 23, 2010

Mothballs remind me of my grandmother's house - that sort of old-peoply house smell, you know? And sometimes I'll be choosing deodorants and smell one that reminds me of the first one I ever wore, and I'll be right back there in my old room with my deodorant in my silly plastic Caboodles case. The smell of horses - barn and leather and muddy horsehair - definitely is nostalgic, too. And wet summer-hot pavement, and fresh-cut grass, and those roses that grow at the beach mixed with salt air -- all smells of childhood, hardcore.

kelly h.
Aug 23, 2010

Dove soap always reminds me of my grandmother and visiting her house in the summer.

The smell of cigarettes (outside) reminds me of a summer I spent in Turkey. Everyone smoked there, and the air just always smelled like it!

The scent of a particular lotion makes me think of the few days I spent in the hospital after having my son. It was an odd pineapple lotion--a travel size I had from Bath and Body Works...and they don't make it anymore. I don't even like the scent all that much, but it's what I used for those few days. Luckily, I still have the bottle and take a sniff once in a while. Is that weird? Those were some crazy-happy-tired-blissful days, and it's nice to have the memories come back w/ a little sniff!

Aug 23, 2010

My childhood family vacations ALWAYS revolved around fishing, and while the smell of dead fish still does nothing for me (other than make me gag), I do love the smell of gasoline and boats and water. I don't know how it all goes together, but it does and it's magnificent.

Also, freshly cut grass reminds me of visiting my grandma and grandpa's neighborhood, and always brings a smile to my face.

And (last one, I swear) -- Victoria's Secret Pear Glace reminds me of getting ready for school in the locker room after morning volleyball practices. I actually can't stand the smell of it now -- it's so overpowering and just too much -- but it makes me feel young. And a little sick to my stomach. But also young.

Aug 23, 2010

For me it's the smell of diesel exhaust. I spent several summers traveling with a drum and bugle corps--a full size drum corps travels with 4 coach buses, 2 semis with trailers and assorted RV's, vans and support staff. No matter where I am, if I walk past a bus or a semi and catch a whiff of exhaust, I'm instantly transported back to the parking lot of any given football stadium, surrounded by a multitude of diesel behemoths, eating hamburger helper off a plate balanced on my knee, and laughing with friends as we relax after the nightly competition.
I've always been amazed how completely a familiar scent can be tied to memory. Our minds are wonderful things!

Aug 23, 2010

Some sort of combo of molasses cookies and mothballs and cleaner - it is a very particular mix and when I smell it I am right back in my grandma's kitchen, a very happy place. In fact, one of my brothers and I were traveling several years ago, walked into a store, and looked at each at the same time and said, "it smells like Clermont here."

Aug 23, 2010

How fun to read all these olfactory memories! It *is* such a powerful sense! For me, it's the combination of cleaning products and old cigarette smoke blended in such a way to take me back to motels we stayed at during family summer road trips in the '80s. And the blending of Aramis cologne and LectricShave, along with Estee perfume by Estee Lauder, which reminds me of my parents getting ready to go out on a date night when I was kid. Then there is Draker Noir--which isn't really something you find out in the world to smell anymore, but when I's straight to my high school boyfriend.

Aug 23, 2010

It is amazing how scents can be so strongly tied to memories. For me, when I smell the scent of the cologne that my father wore, I always takes me back to when I was little when my parents would get ready to go out for the evening. When he was ready, he would always scoop me up and snuggle with me for a few minutes and I remember feeling very loved. Oddly enough, the smell of boiled hotdogs transports me back to elementary school when I was about 7 years old when we could buy hotdogs for lunch on Wednesdays and everyone looked forward to it! And finally, there was a baby lotion that I used on my son when he was born and unfortunately, it is no longer available. I still have the bottle though and when I smell it, it takes me right back to those first crazy few months of motherhood and all of the emotions involved!

Aug 23, 2010

Oh, there are so many! Slightly musty old buildings, like libraries and town halls, send me back to being a kid, exploring our town's library. The combination of perfume, cold winter air, and secondhand smoke was my mom coming in to check on me and kiss me goodnight after a night out; Clinique's Happy was my freshman year of college; Ralph Lauren Polo is my dad. Stargazer lilies are so strongly scented and ALWAYS in funeral arrangements; a mere whiff can turn my stomach. I dated a guy who always gave me those lilies, despite my many not-so-subtle hints that I loved every other flower, but no dice. I never had the heart to tell him I used to leave them on my balcony except for when he was coming over. Ah, memories...

Aug 23, 2010

Ooh, libraries and freshly-mown grass -- both good ones. Have you ever noticed how libraries ALWAYS smell the same, wherever you are in the world? Bookshops too.

Aug 23, 2010

Tuscan salumi (cured sausage from wild boar) reminds me of my honeymoon, which is kind of a wierd smell to want to have around you. But whenever we pick some up now, I feel like I'm back in our little farmhouse apartment in Chianti.

There's an old seasonal limited-edition Bath & Body Works lotion that instantly transports me to the first summer my husband and I were dating, when I'd drive 4 hours ever weekend to see him in Milwaukee where he was interning.

And then there's these awful smelling trees that were on Purdue's campus and whenever I come across the odor now I think of college.

Aug 23, 2010

This is weird, I know, but the smell of a certain brand of Loreal lipstick. It reminds me of when my mom would come kiss me good-bye before a night out with my dad. I will not deny that I have bought that lipstick just for that comforting smell.

Courtney Alt
Aug 23, 2010

I have woods behind my house and when it is damp in the morning or has rained it always smells like our vacations to Kentucky for our family reunions. I always tell my husband that it smells like Kentucky. This description is used by everyone in my family. When one of us says that a place smelled like Kentucky we all know what that smell is and we all smile and get that dreamy look on our face.

Our trips were always so much fun!

Aug 23, 2010

Crayons! I forgot they even had a smell until I bought my daughter her first box a week ago. The smell of crayons always brings back the nervousness and excitement of the first day of school.

Aug 23, 2010

Smells...ohh are a few:
-Sunscreen + slightly sweaty husband = Beach/ good times
-Crock pot full of homemade pinto beans = reminds me of my mom (hers are always better)
-There is a particular type of inscense that we burn occasionally, I think its Japanese...always reminds me of the beginning of the Serious Phase of our relationship.
-Blend of raw gasoline, jungle, rainwater and tropical fruit = The smells of Costa Rica
(Unfortunately the inside of my car reminds me of my ex-husband...ugh!)

Aug 23, 2010

Spearmint and cigar smoke always remind me of my grandfather. Newly mown grass is a specific summer day when I was playing on our swing set while my father mowed the lawn.

Aug 23, 2010

For me it isn't the sense of smell that brings me back...I don't have a good sense of smell.
Songs can drag me to a moment in an instance.
The smell of my college boyfriend still gets me does take me to the comfortable security I had at that time in my life and makes me think of a really great guy. But I honestly can't think of any others.

Aug 23, 2010

Wow, what a great topic! I used to wear Marc Jacobs perfume and everytime I smell it on someone else it brings up a lot of great memories. I recently bought some Meyer lemons and the instant I cut into one I was reminded of my mom. Made me cry a little bit! Smell is so powerful sometimes.

Aug 23, 2010

I love the smell of freshly cut grass. I wore Michael Kors perfume for a long time- so much so, that if someone else wore it, my friends would say, "She smells like you!".

Aug 23, 2010

There are TONS, of course, but one that struck me the other day: I was mopping my brand-new (to me) apartment floor with Pine-Sol, and suddenly, I was four years old at Millbrook Baptist Day Care, eating macaroni and cheese. They used a LOT of Pine-Sol at that place. And then, wham, I opened my eyes, and I'm an adult. Sheesh. That's not exactly a super-happy memory, but it was certainly vivid!

Aug 23, 2010

Post offices!

Aug 23, 2010

Cherry pipe tobacco: My dad

Autumn leaves rotting in the rain: Sometime before I existed

Paco Rabanne: College boyfriend

Salt air: My childhood

Old books/antique stores: Everything good

Aug 23, 2010

Leather and wool-the scent of the letterman's jacket worn by the boy on whom I had an enormous crush in high school.

Dove soap and peppermint-my grandma

Cottonwood trees-the Boise River, which is next to my alma mater. I spent many summer days floating down the river in the company of friends and wine coolers.

Pot roast-Sunday dinners after church

Aug 23, 2010

All theatres seem to smell the same! New, old. And the one in particular that I love is OLD (at least for Australia). That smell hits me like a tonne of bricks. It reminds me of makeup, hair gel, Pointe shoes, being freezing cold in a tutu and gaggles of little girls screaming and shrieking with excitement. God I love it.
And summer in Australia smells like dried eucalyptus. Probably because the whole country is a big mess of dried up eucalypts! I imagine southern california smells much the same.

Aug 23, 2010

For me, it's Elizabeth Taylor's "White Diamonds". Takes me back to every Christmas Eve of my youth when my mom would put it on before heading to Mass. Also, Dove soap can instantly transport me back to my Grandma's pink-tiled bathroom.

Love your blog entries, Holly!

Aug 23, 2010

Ahhh... one of my neighbours is currently wearing a perfume I used to wear in the 80s but I can't remember which one it is. Chanel's Coco? Or Arpege? (Yes, I was a very strange 20-something) So it reminds me of the me I was back then.

But absolutely nothing smells like London. Not the Tube, which has its own smell, but London itself, which has a smell I can distinguish for about the first hour that I'm there, before it goes. Wet leaves and smog? Do you know what it is?

Aug 23, 2010

I understand completely! There are certain places that just smell a certain way and I love them for it.

Aug 23, 2010

We moved my brother-in-law into his dorm this past weekend--the same dorm I lived in ten years ago. Immediately, I was transported to a world of all-nighters and campus wandering.

It was awesome.

Aug 23, 2010

There used to be this candle at Pier 1 that smelled like the first boy I ever kissed in high school. I don't know how the candle captured his scent, nor do I think he used that candle but by god, I was in Pier 1 one day with my mom and I made her buy it for me (without telling her the reason, of course.) It kind of smelled like a combination of pine trees and clean clothes and I would sometimes just sit in my room and smell it. Totally creepy but true.

Aug 23, 2010

The smell of hot paper (like fresh copies) reminds me of Berkeley. More specifically, the area just past University on Oxford, where I think the University Press is/was based. We used to walk past it a lot when I was little on the way to a restaurant or the movies. Now when I smell paper I think of the lawn there, with the trees and the students and the creek... and as you can tell, I get nostalgic.

Aug 23, 2010

There's a smell of burning that I catch once in a while that takes me immediately back to khao San road, the travelers area in Bangkok. I don't know why but it does!

Aug 23, 2010

The plain yellow listerine is my grandpa pure and simple. Faint cigarette smoke, mint and apples is my grandma. She always used this apple shampoo. Honeysuckle takes me back to when I was 5 and there was a huge honeysuckle bush behind our house...we would go and suck the nectar out of the blossoms. And cod liver oil...reminds me of the time when my sister - at about 15 was told to start dinner for my mom. She couldn't find the vegetable oil, but found a bottle of cod liver oil that my grandmother had sent...the whole house smelled like cod liver oil (which if you are a disgusting smell).

Sensibly Sassy
Aug 23, 2010

Cool Water cologne will forever remind me of the days when Jon and I first started dating.
Those sweet, anxious, early days of our 11 year whirlwind.

Aug 23, 2010

I purposely bought a perfume I'd never worn before (Amazing Grace by Philosophy) and wore it to death on my first trip to Europe last year just so I would associate all the memories with that scent. I haven't opened the bottle up since I got back but I'm hoping it will all kick in the second I do :)

Cool Water by someone starting with D reminds me of our honeymoon and the surf sand and sea that went along with it.

And every now and then I'll catch a whiff of whatever cleaner they used in our school corridors in high school, or Illusions by Impulse (body spray) that takes me back to school and Year 10 camp respectively.

I love scent associations :)

Aug 24, 2010

Orange blossom! That scent takes me straight back to the days when we lived in Bahrain and I'd be going out to school and my senses would be assaulted with the sweet aroma of orange blossom. It's an instant mood-lifter.

Also, plain old coffee grounds. It wakes me up even before I've had a sip.

Aug 24, 2010

White Linen - my mom
Calvin Klein Escape - high school
freshly cut wood - an old job that i hated
espresso - an former boss that i disliked
American CREW hair products - my college BF
Abercrombie for Men - my high school BF
Mr. Bubble - my childhood

Aug 24, 2010

Abercrombie Woods. That's the smell of my high-school boyfriend, now husband. I wanted to cry when they stopped selling it because it always made me feel like I was sixteen again and head over heels (which is good for him too, you know).

Aug 24, 2010

I love how many people wrote about how their mom smelled on a date night!

Mine is rubbing takes me back to being ten when I first got my ears pierced. I can even remember some little outfits I was wearing that summer.

Aug 24, 2010

I'm not sure how to even describe this smell, other than to say it's a type of cafeteria smell. Some sort of combination of the scent of industrial dishwasher soap, rustic wood cabin walls, and cheap cafeteria food. I've been in a variety of cafeterias but I wasn't even aware of this particular smell until I walked into the wayside at a nearby national park and it smacked me in the face. I was instantly transported back to Girl Scout camp when I was 8 or 9. Exact same smell in a totally different place.

Aug 24, 2010

The hot asphalt after a short, summer rain. Takes me immediately back to childhood summers when it seemed to storm every afternoon for just a few minutes.

Chili cooking - reminds me of watching college football games

Trapp brand air freshner - the original scent - reminds me of this boutique from home. The owner was a smoker so she sprayed that stuff constantly to cover up the smoke and it worked. My boss is from my hometown and had somethings hanging on her door from that store. I walked in her office and stopped dead in my tracks: "I smell Turner's!"

Aug 24, 2010

Polo Ralph Lauren cologne reminds me of Preppy boys I knew in high school.

(One of my current neighbors drives a Hummer, and he passes me every morning when I'm out running; he leaves behind a wafting cloud of Polo, and it makes me laugh every time, because OF COURSE those Preppy boys who wore Polo in high school grew up to drive Hummers and live in the suburbs. Of course.)

Aug 24, 2010

The smell that brings memories for me is Fruits and Passion citrus (not sure what its called?!) face spritz. I got it on the plane on my FIRST EVER trip, and I was sitting in first class heading to France(I won the trip). In Paris, La Rochelle, Les Sables D'Olonne I spritzed it on my face and now every time I pull out the empty container and sniff I'm back in France looking out my hotel window to the beach and ocean.

Aug 25, 2010

Happiness is the smell of roasted turkey.

Not just any turkey, though. It has to be my mom's special Thanksgiving turkey. She's always basted turkey with - not water, not butter, and not broth - but with sherry.

*A lot* of sherry.

It's the smell of home.

Aug 26, 2010

@ellbee - i think diesel exhaust does that to all drum corps members past and present (and maybe fans too...?)

i've never managed to convince anyone else that the hot-pavement-after-rain smell is glorious. it's wonderful and it smells like summer when we'd pull the sprinkler out on the lawn and run through it, and then draw with chalk on the driveway.

the smell of weather, too. when rain's approaching or right after a fresh snow.

shaela klindt
Aug 27, 2010

I love ur blog... its so so so true ha ha ha

Sep 07, 2010

I love the smell of pool floaties in the sunshine. There is a chemical-ish smell that they give off and it takes me right back to floating in the pool in my backyard as a kid.

Also, there is a particular building downtown that I love the scent of. I met my husband in that building (he worked there for the first six months of our relationship) and that is how he always smelled after work. :)

Sep 09, 2010

Oh, yes, the smell of Polo brings me right back to high school. I can still remember exactly how it smells if I concentrate really hard right now.

While it's interesting that the smell reminds me of high school boys, I found out from an old boyfriend that he still associated me with certain scents that I no longer use. When I saw him a few years ago (for the first time in ages), he said, "Your hair doesn't smell like peaches anymore." Although we stayed in touch when he moved out of state, I never thought to notify him when I switched to a new conditioner.

I can't stand the smell of lemon scented cleaner because it reminds me of housebreaking our dog and constantly cleaning the floor.

I love the musty smell of libraries and old bookstores. I worked in the library in college and I loved being surrounded by that smell of old paper.

I used to work in olfaction and wish that it had unlocked the secret to all my scent memories!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

Just to make sure you have a pulse
Enter the characters (without spaces) shown in the image.