White Linen Granny


Certain experiences during my mid-teens a quarter of a century ago left me with this strong Pavlovian reaction to a ladies' perfume called White Linen. It's not very popular any more, and not at all among young women. So imagine my moment of confusion when without warning a whiff of White Linen hits me at George Best airport, making me automatically prick up my ears -- and I find that the wearer is a stout 65ish grandmotherly lady in a floral print dress.

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Smells are so complex and ported into the brain at such a low level that unique combinations of scents can trigger cascades of memories and associations.

One of my first long term girlfriends was a nurse. Having to wash her hands a lot she used Nivea hand cream to keep the skin healthy. I associated it with her. Over thirty years after the fact various parts perk up a bit if I get a whiff.

Having grown up on a farm, the smell of freshly cut hay is associated with harvest and very long work days when evening brings no succor from the heat, because the sun sts ten in the evening. It took a decade of urban living before I could smell freshly cut grass without associating it with misery.

Non-smell pavlovian reactions are also usually negative. After seeing the documentary "The killing Fields of Sri Lanka" about the genocide there, some tropical TV footage bring out memory of terrible scenes.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 15 Nov 2013 #permalink