Confessions of a Fragrance Fraud


Suzy Cox can’t smell. So please stop wafting your wrist in her direction.

I’ve known Ali for 17 years. She’s seen me naked, pass out, and get married (not necessarily in that order). She knows all my secrets. But even Ali still forgets.


“It smells amazing in here, doesn’t it?” she said on Friday night as we walked into a hotel bar on a mission to mainline a disgusting number of bad-week memory-removing drinks. “It’s like a… Oh, yeah. You wouldn’t know would you?”


No, I wouldn’t. And, actually, I never have done. Some people have party tricks that involve Jacobs Crackers or weird bendy elbows. Mine involves this one confession: I have absolutely no sense of smell. None at all.


To save time, let’s run through the questions people usually ask when I tell them that. Yes, I can still taste things – though probably not as well as you. No, I can’t remember a time when I could smell (aged 5, I failed the ‘senses’ badge in Brownies; that was the tip-off). No, I’ve never thought about going for some big scary operation to sort things out. And yes, beauty-wise, it does make me feel like something of a failure as a woman.


Many women believe that – like the brand of our handbag or the thickness of our eyeliner flick – what we smell of says oceans about who we are. Marilyn Monroe was all nudity and Chanel No 5. People can’t hear the word ‘Fleurissimo’ without thinking of the pure icy class of Grace Kelly. Hell, Jean Harlow’s second husband apparently doused himself in her infuriating signature Mitsouko before he committed suicide. So I never wear perfume because I’m terrified of expressing something I’m not. Like the time I bought a Metallica T-shirt, aged 12, because I thought the logo was cool. I have no idea what I smell of. Probably the Northern line, Pantene and Pret skinny cappuccino. Hardly siren scents.


I know I should probably just woman-up and get a friend with a working nose to advise my wrists on what suits them best. But if I don’t trust anyone enough to tell me which skinny jeans make me look anything but, would I really trust them with something as personal as scent? The only two perfumes I’ve ever owned are CK One and Daisy by Marc Jacobs. Purely because a) I am a child of the ‘90s and b) I worship at the altar of MJ’s bags so the perfume can’t smell shitty, right?


Workwise, it’s often a bit on the embarrassing side. I once spent 30 minutes trembling through an interview for a beauty writer job (yeah, yeah, I know…) on a glossy, terrified I’d be found out. Like maybe round two would involve a tiebreak sniff test and they’d cast me out of lady-magazines forever.


I’ve been to beauty launches where I’ve had to smile like a dick and pretend to appreciate new ‘high’ and ‘low’ notes because, really, who can be arsed to explain what’s wrong with their nose to total strangers with beautifully blow-dried hair?


Sure, there are many upsides to being ‘a-smellsual’, as my friends call it. I won’t get into the wafts associated with growing up with a younger brother, but they’ve never had any affect on me. No matter how closely they’re emitted to my face. Ditto bins (happy to take them out). Fish and chips shops (can totally walk past one on a diet). Or drains (enough said).


But at the same time, I’ve never walked past a woman in the street and been instantly reminded of my mum. I don’t get why people go on about freshly-cut lawns, summer rain or guilty petrol fumes. I’ve not picked up a pillow and thought of the man who slept on it. I buy my husband Issey Miyake every Christmas because I know he loves it, but I have no idea if it’s the adult equivalent of Lynx. And I’ve had to employ a designated smell buddy in every house I’ve ever lived in to tell me when clothes need to go in the wash. Not the luckiest of lucky-bugger jobs.


So if you ever meet me in real life, don’t wave your hand in my dance-space and ask if something smells nice. I’ll probably just fib because I can’t bear the poor-you face. And seeing as I can’t tell the difference between L’Air Du Temps and a broken loo bend, you really don’t want to be taking advice from me.



Suzy Cox is deputy editor of Cosmopolitan. Her debut novel, The Dead Girls Detective Agency, is available for pre-order now.



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