A charming memoir about how a woman’s “torrid affair” with perfume changed her life.
Harad was a “serious, Birkenstock-wearing feminist” in her mid 30s when she fell helplessly in love with perfume. Her passion manifested after a personal rebellion against the “busyness” she had created for herself in lieu of an academic career she didn't want. Online perfume blogs became her gateway to an exciting and seductively alien world. Embarrassed by the apparent frivolity of her interests, Harad hid a growing collection of perfume samples in her closet. But the more deeply she became involved with her “secret lovers,” the more she began to open up to life. It began with her nose: She refined her sense of smell to the point where she developed a “private internal vocabulary of smell,” which derived from her own storehouse of half-forgotten memories. As she learned to put perfume scents into words and understand the complex ways in which perfumes unfold upon the skin, her desire to experience other scents grew. She sought out other scent-lovers, a journey that led her first to a fragrance laboratory in Austin, Texas, and then to exclusive perfume showrooms in New York. But most surprisingly of all, Harad found herself reclaiming a femininity that she had disowned and wanting to be a bride. All her reasons—“some political and idealistic, others personal and idiosyncratic”—for not wanting to marry her partner of 10 years fell by the wayside. Like a good perfume, this book is slow to unfold, but the author’s account of her experiences is well worth the wait.
A quiet delight.