Pam’s Pictorama Post: Some Pictorama readers know that I was among the folks who lost my sense of smell when I got Covid a few months back. It slowly returned, patchy at first, as did my coordinating sense of taste which had disappeared with it. Over time I could suddenly smell the river again during my run and found that I wasn’t just guessing when I salted the soup I was making as I habitually taste tested it.
As foretold, as it returned I found that smell in particular, was a bit more messy than taste. Some smells seemed to break apart somehow. Perfumes in particular would sock my nose with overwhelming notes of alcohol or something chemical after an initial whiff of something more pleasant. I favored strong musky scents briefly, probably because they were strongest for my limited ability. I routinely sniffed the kitchen herbs as I cooked. Whiffs of dill, oregano, basil, but also spice like cumin, coriander, red pepper, ginger and mace daily.
Citrus was the last scent to come back, as well as taste. (Frustratingly though the taste of summer corn and tomatoes also lagged!) I made a practice of smelling citrus in all forms whenever I could and testing different kinds. It remained flatly unavailable to me.
As it happens the perfume I have worn for many years is a citrus scent that crosses grapefruit with something like an etrog. If you are unfamiliar with etrogs, they are a lumpy looking lemon-esque citrus fruit which is perhaps best known for being part of the observance of the Jewish autumn holiday Sukkot. While not familiar with them or the holiday first hand, I am told that my perfume is reminiscent of it with a strong lemony citrus note.
Somehow during the course of the pandemic I ignored the fact that I was almost out of perfume (sitting home didn’t require much) and even more notably, I missed the fact that it was suddenly hard to find and purchase. So, I have been looking around and sampling citrus smells.
I tried a pricey Tom Ford which I liked until I actually put it on me. There is something very disconcerting about not smelling like yourself and scents, those I could in fact smell over time, had an odd way of changing with my body chemistry. I frequently thought I liked something and wanted to take a shower an hour later to thoroughly get it off me.
I revisited a few scents from when I was younger and was amazed at how much I disliked them, while finding them hauntingly familiar. Jasmine is one and while I still love to smell the actual plant I disliked every perfume version I tried. I wore Chanel for a period in my 20’s and early 30’s and I find it overwhelming now, although their Chance eau Fraiche was a citrus contender, but again there was something sort of heavy about it over time.
My grandmother wore a carnation oriented Chanel I believe, a pleasantly spiky scent that I have not been able to replicate, at least on me. (My very no nonsense mother tells a story of one day many years ago when I was still very little. She was taking the garbage out and suddenly she was surrounded by my grandmother’s scent. It was my father’s mother with whom she was close and she said she found it very comforting.) My sister wore Chanel too, No. 19 I think, but I don’t associate it with her. My mother has never worn perfume, but my father would bring it back for me and Loren from duty-free work related flights.
I find something I think I like but then I find myself asking, do I want to smell like this all the time after an hour or so. Kim was brought into a judgement call occasionally. He had a really bad reaction to one of the early musky scents I tried. The good news was that over time I was able to smell much better again.
I was on the verge of settling for a perfume by Diptyque (citrus but woody), when I tried looking for my Bulgari scent one more time and there it was! My beloved Au the Vert (Green Tea) unisex spray is available once again.