My friend Sue found a new perfume. It doesn't smell like anything she's worn before. Me, I don't wear scents often, but when I do, it's back to the tried and true. There's the inexpensive cologne my mother bought for me when I was a child. There are the three perfumes everybody in my high school wore. And then there are the citrus scents that--I read somewhere, I swear--make men think the wearer is younger than she really is. I think that's only if the men are blind.
You'll notice a theme--I choose smells that bring back the good old days. There's nothing like an aroma to cause instant time travel, and I love that. It can happen with food, with furniture polish, with the exhaust from a city bus.
That's precisely the reason Sue went rogue with her new purchase. She wants to forget the past. She's in the process of shedding a lot of sorrow, letting go of things that need to be released. She's doing all the conventional things: seeing a therapist, talking to friends, keeping a journal, praying. Those are good things. But the new perfume purchase is brilliant. I'm thinking it should become the gold standard for starting over. When the past is painful, you don't want to smell anything that takes you down memory lane.
Think about it. You write down everything in the house that is scented: household cleaners, fabric softener, hair products, lotions, lipsticks. Toothpaste. Mouthwash. Deodorant. Go ahead. Make your own list. I bet it's really long.
Now. Go through the list. When did you start using Tide, or Crest? Is anything connected to an old, long-gone boyfriend? Are you still hanging on to the lip gloss recommended by the college roommate who always made you feel like the ugly duckling? Do you still buy that toilet bowl cleaner because your mom, who was always critical of your housekeeping, brought it with her once when she visited?
What would it cost to dump the whole bad lot and buy new? Maybe as much as one hour of psychotherapy. Or two. How much time would it take to find substitutes? What's not to love about a leisurely trip through Target, sniffing soaps and tanning lotions? Wouldn't it be fun to splurge on a tiny vial of some exotic perfume that says, "This is the new, improved me?" Besides, when the past is weighing you down, you've got to get out. Go to the mall. Use those little testers at Nordstrom or Dillard's. Imagine yourself swathed in something dark and smoky, or whatever is both the opposite of where you've been and pleasantly evocative of better days ahead. It's cheaper than buying a new wardrobe. It's more sensible than a radical change in one's diet. It's less drastic than cosmetic surgery. It's so much more immediate than one more self-help book.
My friend Sue is a genius. She's not through the tunnel yet, but she's throwing off, left and right, whatever takes her back to a place she doesn't want to go. Ahead is fresh air and enough light to see by. I am hopeful for her. I am damn proud of her bright idea. Think of me as her publicist.