As you might know, I recently started to understand perfume as an art (you can read about the beginning of my perfume journey here). To help me understand it better, I went to the best place I could to do research on this new-found love - the internet.
Now, I have been part of forums before. Yes, you become a part of a community, have awesome conversations, and make good friends. But I have found that there is an inherent human need to belong, and the most tight-knit forum communities (in my opinion) thrive solely due to this. Never, however, have I experienced the feeling of truly belonging, as I have with the members of the online perfume community I have encountered.
First, let me give you a quick brief on my background, so you understand where I am coming from - I am the result of the perfect formula for an outcast (please note: I use that word with pride).
I was raised mostly by my mother, as my father had to be abroad for his work. I am an only child, and never had much contact with either parent's side of the family, as we lived far from them. I am mixed race, but never really immersed myself in either culture more (becoming more of a world citizen, as my mother calls it). I was always a weird kid, and preferred playing strategy games, reading, and daydreaming to playing with a billion kids. I was considered "gifted" when I started reading at age 3, and was skipped a class. I have not finished the final year in any of the 4 secondary schools I went to. I went to university for a semester - online (I keep in touch with one classmate, about once every few months). I do not seem to understand a lot of my age-mates, mostly due to hanging out with older people all my life.
All this signifies one thing. I never belonged. I didn't have a large family to belong in, I didn't belong in my agemates' class, but also didn't belong in the class I was in. I didn't fit in modern day society's "good-child" extrovert mold. I didn't belong in any culture or country. I have never had a class that I have stayed in long enough to forge bonds with the entire group.
You might say or think that this is pretty sad. Maybe so, but to me it never was something that got me down - probably because I enjoy my own company so much. Of course, depression is a part of my life I have come to accept, but this particular aspect did not get me down as much as other things - or perhaps I just did not want to think about it. Either way, I never consciously felt sad about not belonging anywhere. It just was a part of my life (as I yesterday realised physical pain (muscles, joints, etc) has been, too, but that is another story for another day).
Fast-forward to now. I am now slowly making my little nest in a new community, and although I do not feel as "at home" (yet!) as an old-timer might, I could say that this is the nicest little community I have ever known. Picture a warm grassy area in a little gated picnic place, the sun is shining, and there is shade for those who like shade (dark and dirty scents), open sunny areas for those who like the sun (white florals), and perfect spots for everything inbetween. There's also a little bakery for the Serge Lutens lovers (as I type this wearing Jeux de Peau). ;)
This little gated area for picnicking has all sorts of people sitting and chatting, enjoying food and fine wine, but the interesting thing to note is that there is a welcoming warmth emanating from every single person here. There is no one sitting alone, and the moment you enter the area, you just have to say hi and someone welcomes you to join them in enjoying life and all its sensual pleasures. THIS is the online perfume community - and yet my metaphor is probably still not as amazing as the people who are part of this group.
This lovely feeling is how I first felt when I started talking to Birgit of Olfactoria's Travels. Sometimes, when I come into contact with a person, I feel very drawn to them and know that I would like to speak with them more. Birgit is one of those people, and like a little girl, I always get excited whenever she writes back (I know, I sound like a total groupie). I have enjoyed numerous short conversations with her on comments, and hope to enjoy many more. I also love the cute way her husband (known as The Husband) comments on her blog posts, and how they sometimes have the cutest ways to refer to eachother in comments. It reminds me a lot of myself and my boyfriend (not known as The Boyfriend, as I will then have to boycot marriage - how can we have two The Husbands?!), who I recently converted into a budding perfumista. With Amouage (I know, I created a monster... with monster sillage. Ha ha, I'm so clever)....
The point is, this perfume community is beautiful simply because it combines a bunch of sensual people who know their passion might be slightly over-the-top, with a love for everything that we can sense with our noses. Now that I think about it: Isn't that incredible? I doubt there is any other community that is made up of people who love everything that one of the six senses can, well, sense - people who love visual art do not always love photography, and people who love food do not necessarily love wine - yet perfumistas are keen on smelling everything (well, almost everything) that they love. We love smells and often try to see if we can find a nostalgia-inducing smell in a fragrance.
I will give you some beautiful examples of why this community is truly a blessed community. Recently, a writer at one of the blogs I follow mentioned that she is going through a divorce. The love and empathy shown in the comments was unlike any I had seen before. I commented that perfume had taught me to open up in all my senses, and I feel that that is the key to this vibrant and warm community. We are sensual creatures, and I will not be surprised to find that perfumistas also love music, sex, films, and books purely for being - not just for their entertainment value. The perfumistas I have had conversations with are all open and warm, and enjoy discussing scents without the childish banter one sees in other fields of "Naw, THIS one is the best!" Perhaps perfume has also taught us that there is no "better" or "best" - just "different". This is a valuable lesson we can all learn in life, and one of the lessons lacking in the lives of people who discriminate.
Another blog post I read that displayed this beautiful (I need to start using synonyms for "beautiful") phenomenon was by a person who had lost a lot of perfumes to leakage. The love on that page is not only immense but also extremely touching. Sure, you could say that it is easy to empathise with a loss of something you also love, but I have noticed that empathy comes easy to a lot of the perfumistas in this community, if not all.
Perfume, to us, is not just an added touch to our wardrobe, but a part of our desire to express (if artistic) or just feel (if simply wanting to feel, and sense the beauty that is in our world). It is almost as though, in accordance with my own spiritual belief system, we perfumistas are the souls that want to make as much use of our senses, so that we can truly say we have had the full Human experience.
Art = beauty = love = Spirit.
"Alone" from alone-alone-alone.blogspot.com
A beautiful painting of the perfumista community (not really) by Seurat.
A happy picture that reminds me of perfumistas by Rebel-Skum at DeviantArt
A gorgeous image by Nullermanden at DeviantArt
"Perfume" by the talented Raipun at DeviantArt
Note: Excuse any typos - I am super tired and typed this quickly. My eyes are shutting as I type this!