Smells like teen spirit


Smells. Noses. Nose Hair. Big noses. Peculiar things. Smells like teen spirit. Cue 90’s grunge riff. No, this is not a post about nirvana or Cobain. It’s about smells. The good. The bad. The ugly.

Like any of the senses, the sense of smell can elicit many a memory.

The above picture is a collection of some of the colognes I own. You could say I like smelling nice. My most recent re-addition was the Tommy. Love it. I was first introduced to Tommy by some rich kid on sailing camp back in ’97 or ’98. I can’t exactly remember when. But I do remember this. From that time on, I swore I’d never wear anything from a can again. It was one of the most amazing things to ever happen to my teenage, un-muscular, gangly self-esteem. It helped me almost get my first kiss (it wasn’t my amazing 16 year old personality or confidence that almost got me over the line!). That smell reminds me of the freedom of youth. Of awkwardness. Of first lust. Of spending $55 on 50mls of pure sophistication.

It was a smell that even got me thinking about this post. Not a pleasant smell, but a homely one. I was sitting outside in the hot Queensland sun, tanning myself, sweating. It reminded me of one of the most humble, hardworking people I know. I can close my eyes and just remember his smell. Sweat, car oil, coconut oil and Solvol soap. A masculine mixture of love. Yes, it reminds me of my Opop – my grandad. It was that smell that was in stark contrast to his last days – the last times I saw him. Hooked up to clinical machines in a hospital, then at a viewing. That rough, dirty, loving, sweaty smell had been replaced by the cool, businesslike smells of hospital and morgue. How can smalls change so quickly, so dramatically?

Mangroves have their own, pungent aroma. It has something to do with gas from rotting leaves mixing with the water and mangrove roots that give rise to that disgusting smell. No wonder mud crabs are always so cranky – they have to smell that God-aweful smell 24/7. But the mangroves for me have a different meaning. Every year, I used to go on holidays with my family, my grandparents, my uncle and aunty and cousins to my grandparents holiday house. At the bottom of their garden sat a tidal mangrove beach. Let me tell you, countless hours – days even were spent hunting soldier and mud crabs through those mangroves, under rocks, in the shallows. Now every time I smell those stinky mangrove odours – I think not of my burning nostrils but many a sweet summer spent with my siblings and cousins ‘at the bottom of the garden’, playing in the mangroves!

I’m interested – what smells remind you of what? Don’t be shy. I want to hear about funny ‘cupcake’ stories. First perfumes of colognes. Baby poo. The good. The bad. The Ugly.



  1. paulfg

    WOW memories!
    * The sweet cloying flowery smell of the riverbanks where I grew up. Happy happy memories of a young lad doing young lad stuff along the river and banks and paths as our playground!
    * The flowery herbal spicy smell each time we exit the airport in Turkey. Happy happy memories of so many memorable holidays with great friends!
    WOW!! What a great memory maker this cold wet day! Thanks!! 🙂

      • paulfg

        Growing-up playground: Durham City, County Durham, UK: the River Wear. Then travels? Turkey: Calis, near Fethiye. The people are as warm and friendly as the weather, the fun is gentle of frenetic as one wants, the culture is captivating, and the smells and sounds are evocative. Spain is good, Greece is okay, Egypt is fine – but Turkey is tremendous! Then the USA was and education. But the Maldives – mmmm the Maldives ….

  2. Rosemary Peteranec

    For me it’s the perfume of the first gardenia in the garden which takes me back to being 13 years old, waking up in a beautiful old home in Sydney on my very first morning in Australia … 1971! The lady who welcomed us into her home had prepared a delicious breakfast, freshly squeezed orange juice and a vase of pure white gardenias on the table. I thought then, and I still believe, there is nothing more delicious in all the world! I can never encounter a gardenia without being instantly transported back in time.

  3. suzjones

    Freshly baked bread give me instant memories of the baker van that used to come around in the 70’s. The guy who ran it had an old fashioned leather money pouch that he wore around his hips and when he opened it to get out change the aroma of fresh bread was remarkable.
    And believe it or not – Brut! To me the smell of Brut is the smell I associate with my wonderful other half.

  4. SeriouslyOutnumbered

    First off, thanks for following my blog! I appreciate it!
    Secondly, Smells!
    My fondest memories come to me when I smell the burning of wheat. I grew up in central Kansas and wheat fields being burned is just…well home.
    The smell of a good spring thunderstorm. See above…Kansas has some of the most amazing thunderstorms I have ever experienced. The clean, crisp, cooling smell….*closes her eyes to transport herself back*
    Cheap Stetson: My grandfather used to wear it. Oh my goodness, what a sweetheart of a man. He passed away just 6 days after I graduated from high school.
    GermX, the green kind with Aloe: I bought a bottle before my 3rd son was born. Now the smell reminds me of the days I held his delicate little body in my hands. I can’t thank God enough for him and my other two boys.
    It’s not a smell but a sound: The sound of it snowing in Kansas. I am not even sure how to describe it. It’s like little tiny feet tip toeing across a crisp newspaper. Or, the sound of an oscillating fan on low, heard from two rooms over.


  5. andreawriteshere57

    Thank you for liking my blog entry. I enjoyed reading your entry on Johnny Cash, boys playing with dolls and smells. I believe that a smell is said to invoke the most vivid memories that allow the “smeller” to re-live a hopefully positive experience. Whenever I’m near an open field with bales of hay it takes me back to spending holidays on a Bavarian farm jumping from the hayloft into the bales below. Grilled cheese sandwiches wrapped in red and white checkered paper that I ate with my parents on holidays in Italy. Almond-scented shampoo on a boys hair when dancing in slow circles. The washing-line smell of fresh air on my husband’s shirts. The smell of freedom that comes from the creek near my home and of course the fragile innocence of a baby’s skin.
    I’m sorry for your loss and thank you for getting me to think about taking an olfactory trip down memory lane.

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