You don't need me to tell you that scent is a powerful memory trigger. You've probably experienced a fragrance flashback pretty recently.
It happened to me just yesterday. I went to Brooklyn Flea, and when I got home and took the vintage dress and t-shirts I purchased out of my bag, I was hit with a wave of their collective scent--laundry detergent failing to fully expel mustiness--and it momentarily took me back to high school when I insisted on wearing only thrift-store-bought, at-least-50%-polyester shirts.
That whole olfactive deja vu thing that happens when you encounter an emotionally familiar scent was dubbed the “Proustian Phenomenon” by a fancy literate person who read Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past--specifically the chapter called "The Cookie," in which the character is instantly enveloped in feelings from childhood upon dipping his cookie into a cup of tea. (Not a double entendre.)
That kind of nostalgic jolt is often provoked by the scents of food, fabrics, pets and plants, among other things, but it sure seems like perfumes and colognes cause those freaky moments of involuntary time-travel more than anything else--emphasis on involuntary.
Seriously, how many times have you walked into a meeting at work or sat next to a stranger on a train and got instantly assaulted by the unwelcome recollection of an ex or a dead family member? NOT COOL, OLFACTORY BULBS.
So I've decided to try to force my brain into associating a specific smell with a specific place.
The XO offices are a couple blocks away from Madison Square Park, so it will be indelibly linked with my fond memories of this job when I'm 95 and telling someone else's grandchildren's holograms about the good old days before we could manipulate our facial blood flow to cause different lip colors. All I needed was a fragrance to associate with it, so my future self will be transported back to the Flatiron district whenever I happen to smell it.
Well, it just so happens that Bond No. 9, the fragrance house that names its perfumes after different New York City neighborhoods, has a Madison Square Park eau de parfum; and luckily, it doesn't smell like a combination of dog park, fearless squirrels, and Shake Shack.
Instead, the notes are that of grape hyacinth, huckleberry, prairie dropseed grass, red leaf rose, red hunter tulips, and teakwood. I don't even know what the hell some of those things are, but they smell totally lovely together.
The scent is bright and playful, just like the bottle, which is neon pink and green. Also bright and playful: a humongous installation in the park by artist Orly Genger, featuring over a million feet of colorfully painted ropes surrounding Madison Square Park's lawns. (It'll be there until September, so definitely check it out if you're in the area. It's awesome.)
I've decided to make Madison Square Park my spring and summer scent for this year, and hopefully that link will be enough to make any future whiffs of it (or something similar) a powerful enough evoker to always remind me of this so-far-so-kickass year in my life.
What scents are the biggest memory triggers for you? Have you ever tried to force a fragrance to be memorable?