“Long Covid” is a thing. I’m getting better, just more slowly than I thought. It’s been 10 months, now. (The guy hasn’t got his taste back properly, and says the sky looks pinker than it should.) The waves of exhaustion come and go, with joint pain popping up in odd places–a ghost in the machine–and shrouding sensations that make me doubt my nose and my playlists.
Sometimes my most beloved songs seem flat, the blues going gray.
I took a break from the sniff tests for a few months, nervous that my receptors were too scarred to function properly. I’ve found comfort in my old favorites–Tank Battle has been a constant through this two-steps-forward-one-step-back recovery–spraying more, pressing my nose deeper into my skin, rejoicing at the familiar notes in the muted performance. Not all have stayed the same, though.
Poe’s Tobacco–which used to be an autumn go-to, with apples and amber and tea–now seems more summery, orchard blossoms and sun in trees, and maybe some jasmine I wasn’t aware of before. The tobac still gives it depth, but the woods lean more floral now, and less toward books in shadowy corners. I’m sad about it, that the niche-but-accessible cleverness has worn off.
A nice, easy to find vintage–but not quite as offbeat and fun as I remember. I hope it’s just me.
So the COVID anosmia thing seems to be ebbing, but it has a tide. I’ve felt better and better these past weeks, but then this weekend I felt kinda lousy, and my tea tasted like it was made from a twice-soaked bag and sizzling bacon smelled like a distant campfire. But today I woke up feeling great, and had a very fragrant Darjeeling and a tasty biscuit, so I reached for an old favorite that I know well–
Tokyomilk 61 Petit Parfum Solide–Sugar Plum–came out at least fifteen years ago, an early one from Margot Elena offering peach, candied mango, white tea, persimmon and “deep cassis.”
–and all that comes through. Creamy sweet summer fruit, cool wet mango and cheeky black currants, just like I remember, and I don’t have to shove it up my nostrils to find them. Interestingly, the guy doesn’t smell the sugary fruity notes, he only gets the ammonia end of the cassis. He’s been laying on the hot sauce pretty hard too–so we’re guessing he’s maybe two weeks behind me in the C-19 recovery. (Or maybe he’s sailing on a lower tide.)
I grabbed this one this morning, a test to see how much I’ve recovered–and I definitely pass! Maybe not with the highest marks–I had to douse myself in it to get everything I know is there–but my schnozz is working, and sniffing this one is like hugging an old friend.
The top notes all come through, a gorgeous thirty-minute-long opening: sweet anise and violet powder blast, with a bit of cool green ivy to keep it wild and fey. Then the middle blooms, a foot off the skin for three hours: licorice candy, dessert cherries in almond amaretto, dusted with iris flour so everything stays light. Settles soft, to clothes and hair until the wash: vanilla ice cream, the almond end of tonka, and sugar musk, a brush of vetiver to keep it dry.
Delicious, iconic. The lighthearted gourmand that exchanged Angel‘s chocolate edible underwear for lace fairy wings, and made fantasy haute couture affordable. I wore it for a decade.
Lavender is distinct and multi faceted–a good one for testing the post-Covid nose.
The guy likes the soothing aspects–I put a drop of oil on his dryer sheets sometimes–to him it’s relaxing and clean. I find it invigorating and spicy, a refreshing addition to lemon cookies and roasted potatoes.
First out in 1929, unisex Lavenda Alpina opens sharp, soapy with a vodka note, floral herbs with camphor, some alpine fir aromatics. I get all this, thank goodness, and from the source, too, when I rub the plant leaves. The eau settles down quickly to the skin–but my sense of smell is definitely on the fritz, because I know this has better projection than what I’m getting right now–with sugary citrus and licorice feels. This is my favorite part of lavender fragrances, the bright sweet-savory-spicy heart, almost gourmand-ish. (What Would Love Do? by LUSH captures this gorgeously.) Sadly, I get almost nothing of the base notes. There should be a bit of moss roughing up the bottom, and the soft woods–a bit resinous, like sweet balsam–that dried lavender flowers hold for years, are just not coming to me yet.
I’ll keep at it.
I love this little-known Kinks tune, a bonus track on an album remaster.
Losing my sense of smell has been the worst part of this plague, for which I am very grateful. I got over the debilitating symptoms quickly–and I’m sure being vaxxed had a lot to do with that–but now I feel like the world is somehow flatter.
Luckily, there’s a lot of info about how to recover the sense of smell after COVID-19. (This bit from npr is a good listen, and here’s a read from BBCnews.) Most medical experts suggest sniffing four distinct strong scents daily, several times, to retrain the nose-to-brain relationships–a citrus, a floral, a spice and a menthol.
So I’ve been at that this week, with what I can rustle up from my garden and kitchen cupboards, and also adding three iconic fragrances with very different profiles–an aldehydic (Chanel No. 5), a vanilla gourmand (Hypnotic Poison), and a synthetic aromatic (Cool Water).
This morning I definitely got some of the cool camphor from the mint. Now whether it’s my diligent sniff therapy, or the massive dose of decongestant I swallowed this morning–who knows? But I’ll take it.
Chanel No. 5 is the most famous fragrance of the world, and for good reason. No other perfume manages to be such a combination of opposites–clean yet filthy, powdery but also syrupy, delicate and heavy, soothing yet provocative, mature but gamine–all at the same time.
The 80’s eau de parfum splashes on with soapy peaches, juicy but aldehydic, and starchy boned lingerie falling to the floor, in a release of structure giving way to voluptuousness. The flowers in the middle blend to effervescent floral cordial, chased by a Southern Comfort base–smooth woody whisky sweetened by vanilla.
I love it, but I’m no Marilyn Monroe, and this one takes a hefty pair to pull off. (I was 16 when it came out, and Lady Stetson was a bit more my speed.) Wear with a corset and no shame.
Edit – 7/9/21.
Perfume in time of COVID-19: Out of curiosity, I sniffed my mini bottle yesterday, and it smelled like mustard. Today it smells like nothing at all.
The guy asked, “What texture should we have for dinner tonight?” (Flavorless potato chips are very strange!) I’m sure I’ll be okay–I’ve been double vaxxed–so hopefully this will pass soon.
This song also came out in 1986. Madonna was our Marilyn back then.