Tracy Wan in "The Secrets of Secretions" for Adult
Most people who know me permanently know that I am fascinated by perfumes, by bodily odors and the ability to mask or transform them in general.
When I was in 6th grade, I hated my body so much that I avoided showering as much as possible. Daily and intimate proximity to my naked limbs made me uncomfortable and angry. There were other things wrong as well, but like most people, I took it out on myself by refusing to acknowledge what was there.
It was not until an old friend and classmate refused to sit next to me on the last day of school because “of my weird stench” that I finally recognized what was happening. I had lost a lot of friends and grew a lot of inches. I was 11 years old and nearly the same height and size I am now. I was womanly when I didn’t want to be and was angry that the world saw me as that when I so desperately wanted to feel like any other kid around me.
The top drawer of my sister’s underwear drawer was filled with all of the lotions and body sprays from Bath and Body Works and Victoria’s Secret she purchased on shopping trips with friends. Because she was in high school, she left for school at 7:30 and I had an hour alone in our house before my classes began. I used to test every scent on my skin, sometimes testing them twice in one morning: before a shower and after. I was obsessed with the differences from a clean body and a settled one.
Other girls were obsessed with clothes. I was obsessed with scents. In my mind, I could transform myself into someone else, someone better, with a spritz. This was also something I could control. I never wore makeup because my skin was so bad and I loathed clothes shopping because my tall, muscular limbs couldn’t fit into the teen girl sizes of my peers. But scents were mine to own and control, even if they weren’t technically mine at all.
My first perfume was Burberry Touch purchased in a Marshall’s in North Riverside. It was my sophomore year of high school. My sister started college and took with her the myriad of scents she liked to hoard but rarely used. I had to define myself all over again and I liked the strange pungency of the scent, despite it’s potent mix of florals and fruits.
Most girls wore Dream Angels Heavenly by Victoria’s Secret. But Touch was an act of rebellion on my part, perhaps my first ever. As I began to own my scents, I began to own other parts of myself that felt out of grasp: my style, my hair, and most importantly, my body itself.
Later in high school and college, I stood firm with one scent. If this was my time of self-discovery then I needed a singular scent to define it. My vanity now is covered in bottles little and small. Perfume and scents have moved from definition to playfulness, to mood, to curiosity.
Bvlgari’s Jasmine Noir is a tried and true standby. I wore it a lot at 23 when I first moved into my apartment alone. Now I keep it there just in case. I also love Dior’s Addict and Addict 2 Life. See by Chloe makes the winters bearable. Elizabeth and James’ Nirvana White is just a touch too strong for the day time, which is why I wear it every day. I’m enjoying pushing little boundaries.
I own thirteen different scents now. They are not impulse purchases. I think a lot of scent and what it means and how it changes and compliments who we are. I wrap myself in scents as I do clothes and as I do feelings. They can at times feel like the only tried and true lover, one that knows just how to kiss the skin. I don’t want it to let go.