Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Nosy Interview: Jessica Langlois

 Jessica blows bubbles in the M81 Galaxy Group Through the Integrated Flux Nebula, © Nicolás Villegas

Jessica Langlois marks the first Nosy Nomination! Jessica was nominated by our mutual friend Elizabeth, who described her friend Jessica as "a terrific and thoughtful writer." Though I haven't met Jessica, I've grown fond of her through her blog, A Supposedly Fun Thing, where my favorite recent post is the sensory-superrich Walnuts, Artichoke, Nettles, Maroni. Follow her on Twitter @langloislane

What do you smell like? 
There was a while, in 2007, when I always smelled like maple syrup. I’d be tented into downward dog in yoga class, then turn my head to the left, dipping my face into my armpit, and breathe in deeply (pranayama!), thinking of pancakes. My friend Steffy Sue had shown me that eating sprouted fenugreek seeds had this effect—nature’s deodorant! Or, alter-odorant. So for most of 2007 I had a little covered box growing fenugreek sprouts in my pantry, rinsed twice daily.

Eventually, this got to be too much of a hassle, so I went back to smelling like cookies. At least, this is what my boyfriend, Aruna, tells me I smell like. Snickerdoodles,he says, sugar cookies with a sprinkle of cinnamon, like the freckles on my cheeks and shoulders. It is very sweet and flattering to be told you smell likecookies, but I’m guessing these pheromones are programmed only for Aruna. To the rest of the world, I believe I smell kind of like most people—tart and sour after three days without bathing (uttanasana!); I do live in Berkeley, after all.

What do you like to smell?
1. Coffee and Charlie perfume. It’s what my mom smelled like when I was a kid. Cross-legged on the floor of her bedroom, I’d watch her get ready for her secretarial jobs, all Snow White with her shoulder-length hair in large, mahogany curls and her lips bright red. I breathed the bitter coffee and sweet perfume; it was the smell of glamour.

2. Cigarette smoke smells like kissing (high school), and Acqua Di Gio and CK One cologne smell like sex (college). All first times, first feelings. I actually don’t like the smell of cigarettes or strong cologne at all. At the tutoring lab where I work, I sometimes want to hang a sign at my station saying “Scent free zone!” like a new-agey jerk. But Acqua Di Gio and CK One still make my mouth rush with water, like walking to the club in the West Village at 1am with a fake ID and low-rise jeans, and summertime dates in minivans to multiplexes. I feel foolish and embarrassed when I step into an elevator with one of those colognes—at once, eighteen again, my face burning red and heat between my legs.

3. Then there’s night blooming Jasmine and woodsmoke. Berkeley smells that sidle up to you—suddenly there and then gone—as you’re walking the quiet, fog-rubbed streets. And clean laundry. That smell belongs to Vienna, to my mother’s best friend’s apartment. Small rooms, white curtains billowing out onto the hot summer cobblestones. Of course, there’s the garage smell—gas dryer, car exhaust, rubber beach balls—which is my grandparents’ old house. Afterschool and summers at their neighborhood pool, plucking strawberries from the cracks in the sidewalk… always passing through that garage. (Do I only smell things in summer?)

4. My Grandmother. I found her smell recently. On a set of towels she no longer needed and gave to me. The towels’ smell, like Grandma, is crisp—no florals, no perfumes, no frills—but has a musty softness, like warm sun on aged wood. It’s probably just the brand of soap Grandma uses, or laundry detergent, that I’m smelling, something (like her Gordon’s gin for her four o’clock martinis on the rocks) that she hasn’t changed in thirty years. Except, I remember the same smell in the cream carpet of their old house, in the polished wood of the Seventies’ bookshelves with snap drawers, in the tweed TV room couch. It could be a trick of my mind, the memory of this smell, a longing for a tether to those artifacts of my childhood. Or the smell in the towels could truly just be… Grandma. Crisp at first, then soft.


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Ohh! I understand. And summer makes sense (and scents), since the heat opens up the pores on everyone and everything, livening up the funk everywhere.

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