Olfactory Awareness

11 07 2012

Photo: theperfumespot.com Image: Pi Cologne by Givenchy

Have I ever talked on here about my love/hate relationship with Pi Cologne by Givenchy??

Hmmmm… I don’t think so.

Well, it’s a story that many can relate to, I’m sure. Basically, I knew a guy who wore it for an extended period of time when he and I were together. Eventually, he started wearing a different scent. But for whatever reason, I have not been able to get the association of that scent and him out of my brain. What’s even funnier is that I know other random men who’ve worn the scent, but the connection between my brain/heart and that scent will always and forever be him (my desires be damned, clearly).

Thankfully (?), I’m not alone. On the site, How Stuff Works, they succinctly explain the connection between smell and memory for the human brain:

Because the olfactory bulb is part of the brain’s limbic system, an area so closely associated with memory and feeling it’s sometimes called the “emotional brain,” smell can call up memories and powerful responses almost instantaneously… When you first smell a new scent, you link it to an event, a person, a thing or even a moment. Your brain forges a link between the smell and a memory — associating the smell of chlorine with summers at the pool or lilies with a funeral. When you encounter the smell again, the link is already there, ready to elicit a memory or a mood.

Great. So now you have the scientific reason for my love/hate relationship with Pi cologne. The thing is, I’ve clearly known about this connection for awhile now. When I was in grad school, I’d half-joke with some of my friends about how I needed to go and get surgery to remove my smelling gland (the olfactory bulb), so that I wouldn’t think of him every time I smelled someone on the train with that scent. This probably doesn’t sound dire to you, but you’d be surprised at how many men wear that cologne. And so on random days, I would just be minding my own business – studying on the train – and be hit by a mack truck combination of that scent and those memories.

Eventually (thank goodness), those feelings began to be less and less intense when I would smell the cologne. Sure, I’d know it as soon as I smelled it. And sure, I’d picture him; but at least it wasn’t in a way that made me want to say, get surgery to take out my ability to smell for the rest of my life lol. Time went on and things continued to get better and better, mostly because I’m one of those people that can handle many things as long as I don’t feel like I’m being ambushed. And also, the fact that the desire to be with that guy had managed to become less and less intense kinda helped.

It was the ambushing of the scent (or surprise, whatever word you choose to use) that always caught me off guard, I assured myself. But since I knew what it did, I’d formed some type of olfactory awareness as far as I was concerned. I was good. I was in control. I was… fooling myself.

And I realized that when the guy who came to pick me up for our date showed up smelling like nothing but Pi. “Wait – what was this,” I thought. We’d gone on several dates at that point and at no point in time had he ever worn that cologne. I was confused. I was distracted. And I was pissed that those damn memories came flooding right back when I was on my way to a perfectly great date.

Just when I’d gotten complacent – BOOM! Something I wasn’t prepared for.

What about you all? Is there a scent or anything else that instantly reminds you of someone from your past? And if so, what do you do about it?

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