As Johnny Cash famously sang at Folsom Prison, I'm busted. At the end of the month, my hours at work will be cut back a third, leaving me to scramble for freelance work to make up the gap. And I'm one of the lucky ones. Some of my coworkers have been laid off. Many of you are undoubtedly feeling the recession's pinch, too. We're eating beans and rice, turning down invitations to go out, and forgoing two-ply toilet paper for whatever's on sale. I can pass up a new pair of shoes without missing a beat, and although I enjoy eating out, I'm happy to cook at home. What really gets me down is knowing that, for now anyway, new perfume is out of the question.
Right now, I'm longing for a bottle of Hermès Bel Ami. Plus, I just know that an earthy, dry jasmine fragrance (any suggestions?) would change my life. A non-perfume lover who stumbled on this post might say, "Boo hoo, no perfume. Well, I can't pay my mortgage." I can't argue with that. But I do live an unusually thrifty life compared to that of most Americans: no cable, no cell phone, no gym membership, and my car has been paid off since 1986. (Yes, you read that right.) Nearly all my wardrobe is culled from thrift shops and vintage clothing stores, I bicycle whenever I can, and even my cat came from the Humane Society with a 30 percent discount. Perfume is my great extravagance.
And yet what a rich life I — and probably you, perfume lover — live. I've learned that it's much more rewarding to have fewer and more satisfying things. One good farm egg is worth three factory-produced eggs. My walls are lined with art that friends have made, every book on my shelves means something to me, and my bedsheets are lined-dried, thick cotton muslin. My nightly bath in the clawfoot tub that used to be a planter in my neighbor's yard is more relaxing than all the facials fancy spas around town might offer.
Many of the Now Smell This readers that I've met have rich lives, too, that have little to do with spending a lot of money. One reader makes a luxurious shea butter cream that could sell in a fancy boutique, but she gives it to friends. Another reader has a startling sense of color and beauty and creates stunning knitted wire jewelry. She also makes delicious Indian food. Yet another reader I was lucky to meet in New York has an enviable knowledge of the city. Every corner seemed to hold stories for her.
Perfume can teach us to focus, to appreciate, if we let it. In relaxing into a spritz of Christian Dior Miss Dior or Guerlain L'Heure Bleue we learn to pay attention to what is in front of us rather than flit off to the next sensation. Loving perfume has tempted me to gather as many scents as I can to enjoy. But it's also taught me to concentrate on the beauty and full development of one fragrance at a time. Or one pleasure at a time.
My perfume cabinet holds more perfume than I'll ever be able to use. It's challenging times like these that remind me to slow down and appreciate what I already have. Bel Ami isn't going away any time soon. Meanwhile, it's time to revisit those Jean Patous.