I have, as mentioned, acquired a perfume habit.
There's a lot of reasons for this: one is the looming deadline and exam term, though that's clearly not the whole story, because I've also acquired an Indigo Girls habit.
But... it's not, actually, just about procrastination. It's about a lot of things.
It's about giving myself another reason to get out of bed, and to wash, and to get dressed. It's about sensory reassurance: about carrying something with me, throughout the day, that is familiar and comforting and evocative; through which I can close my eyes and be on empty moors, or by a fire, or in an old and dusty library, or in the dappled shade of trees, or walking across fresh-tilled fields in autumn.
It's also - and this isn't as paradoxical as it might appear - about grounding myself in my body, and about claiming it as my own. I've talked before about dysphoria - about how confused I am by the existence of some parts of my body, and about how alien they feel - and I've been talking a lot, recently, about other people's projections onto my body: about assessments and assumptions, about rewriting my self to fit their worlds. (There is a poem about this; I've been thinking about it a lot, too.) Scent marking
- I am here; I was here; this is mine - has a long and, uh, illustrious history among mammals; I don't think what I'm doing here is really much different. A familiar scent gives me something to come home to; and it tells other people that this is mine, that I actively claim it.
So it also feeds in to taking up space: reminding myself that it's okay to speak without first apologising; that it's permitted to square my shoulders and occupy centre stage, rather than folding in on myself in a corner lest I get in the way (and trodden underfoot; and so on). This does, obviously, have its drawbacks: I need to think very carefully about the fact that I'm allergic to many common scent compounds, and to remember that just because a scent is fine for me
doesn't mean it will be for everyone I interact with. This goes both ways: it reminds me to be respectful and compassionate towards others and
And it changes my self-perception, or is possible because my self-perception is changing: because one of the threads running through my life at the moment - thanks be to the Fates - is, yes, reclamation
. Reclamation of my body. Reclamation of my gender. Reclamation of space: to inhabit, in both literal and metaphorical terms. I am thinking a lot about the spaces available to us in terms of masculinities, femininities and androgynities - there's an essay in the works on the topic - and perfumes seem to me to be an excellent field in which to start.
Some people have expressed surprise when I've mentioned perfume: but perfume's feminine, they say, floral, not very... you
. Is it?
If the assumptions were true, the premise would hold. But... they're not.
One of the things that surprises me, over and over again, is that the houses I'm buying from don't, by and large, gender: yes, where they mention it it's binary, but they take great care to say "for men and
women", rather than "this is a MANLY MAN MAN MAN MAN MALE scent" and "~this is delicate and floral for the laydeez~". And the BPAL forums, similarly: people might say they consider a scent masculine or feminine, but you'll have different people saying both, and "neutral", for every scent reviewed. In person and online, people are willing to experiment: "this wasn't good on me, but was delicious
on my SO," or vice versa. In the world of perfume I'm occupying
, oppositional sexism
seems to be well and truly dead: gender categories aren't rigidly defined as opposites, and movement between them is not only permitted but encouraged.
This is the work I want to do - to make it possible for people to make those journeys. And, for the first time outside explicitly social justice-conscious spaces - for the first time, in a space that's dominated by cis het people - I've come across somewhere that does that, automatically, without thinking.in the land outside this social scene/the streets are filled with the gender police
, say Jesus and His Judgmental Father
- and it lifts my heart to find another social scene where that is not
is why I have fallen so hard for this hobby.