To wake up craving the dry, pungent astringency of some proper hippie-oil patchouli first thing in the morning is alarming enough to make me wonder if I’m not pregnant. I mean, I always think I’m pregnant right after things don’t work out with whatever guy, and I’m totally not actually pregnant, but the patchouli thing was weird. I’ve heard stories of the recently impregnated being tipped off to their fertilized state by olfactory hints; things like being able to smell electricity when an appliance is plugged into the wall or finding their own skin scent suddenly and completely foreign to their sense of smell. Female perfume-heads are forever relating to their own menstrual cycles through perfume: much like the taste of food, some things smell better or worse depending on whether you’re ovulating or flush in the middle of Aunt Flo’s consanguine company. It’s not that farfetched to seriously question what’s going on with your body when a perfume component you’ve never gotten along with is suddenly the only thing that makes sense.
Patchouli, in this case. I got home from work last night after thinking about it all day and I needed some right then. I wanted it pure, I wanted it as sharp and bitter and bracing as only patchouli can be. So I went to the all-night CVS and came home with a little 1.5oz bottle of the $13.95 cheapness that is Jovan Fresh Patchouli. I sprayed it on and waited for the moment of truth.
The truth is that this stuff smells a lot more like a horse stable than a head shop. This fragrance packs a blast of ephemeral, strawlike coumarin bolstered up by the peculiar good/bad/weird all-at-the-same-time underpinnings of the patchouli I’d been fiending for all day. The effect reminds me of raisins: something that once was wet is now dry. It’s the smell of a bale of hay drying out after a heavy dewfall on the farm, the smell of that dedicated hour you wake up before school starts to go brush your precious pony, Muffy.
I kind of love it. I’ve never been one of those pony club chicks, although I have been on a horse enough times to be jealous of the pony club’s thinly veiled and completely genius excuse for masturbating all the time. But Jovan Fresh Patchouli, to me, smells like a very specific type of woman that saw its apex of public popularity in the 70s. It’s Katharine Ross in The Graduate and pictures of young Jane Fonda and enjoying the freedom to be “outdoorsy” without having to stop shaving your armpits. You know, you have rich parents but you took acid that one time in Aspen and have taken great pains to discover life beyond your trust fund and the pictures of your backpacking trip through Europe to prove it. You have a bunch of fancy French perfumes that various people have bought for you over the years, but when you discovered Jovan Fresh Patchouli you were very relieved that the one thing that smelled like you in a bottle is actually dirt cheap (so none of your friends know about it).
I mean, it doesn’t smell like me in a bottle. But you know, since I enjoy pretending so much, I’ll probably still pull it out from time to time. Something about it makes me feel kinda thumpety-thumpety-thumpety, like learning how to trot. Hey…. at least it won’t get me pregnant.
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