MICKEY MCCLAIN WROTE THIS.
It’s Christmas, dammit. It’s that time of year. The scented time of year. You know the deal. You walk into a store to do some Christmas browsing, and suddenly you’re assailed by the smell of gingerbread. But nowhere do you see any cake. Not a crumb. Just crazed hordes of people all fighting over the latest must-have Lego ISIS Warrior Series. You mush in to some impersonal office to pay your damn utility bill before the holiday begins, when suddenly you’re engulfed by the aroma of cinnamon apple. But there is no pie, no cookies, no strudel in sight. Just angst. You walk into THAT secretary’s office—you know, the one who changes the candy in her bowl to match the season, or the holiday “le mois” (you are annually amused at how she is always stumped by the month of August), and but then… ah, you are suddenly swept away in a Dickensian reverie by the heady scent of hot spiced grog. But does she offer you a cocktail? A tankard? A goblet? A stupid paper Dixie cup? Hell, no. She just gives you the stink eye when you take some candy (she never seems to actually want anybody to eat her candy), and she tells you to sit down and wait quietly with a magazine, she’ll let you know when you are needed. That intoxicating redolence of mulled wine? It was from a stupid Glade Plug-In. And then you go into the bathroom—it could be at a gas station, it could be at a neighbor’s house, and so overwhelmed are you by the bosky, godly, sylvan scent of Mountain Pine, you imagine that for just a moment, you are some old Druid, roaming the Black Forest, searching for Balm of Gilead. But there is no living thing that smells of Pine in the guest bathroom. Just a small plastic aromating thingie, and next to it some fruit shaped jelly looking things that you are not sure if you should snack on or bathe with, especially as the little fruits smell just like the actual fruit they are supposed to represent. (Bathrooms are particularly full of teases.) All this just annoys the scabs off of me, and really puts a kabash on my Christmas spirit.
Aromatherapy. Expensive, stupid. And worst of all, the ultimate Big Tease. Happy Holidays from the Pickfords, the surly yet sincere home where if it smells like something in our house, dammit, that’s because you’ll find that thing ACTUALLY IN OUR ACTUAL HOUSE--be it fresh muffins, old mulch, roses, rump roast, lasagna, lilacs, Turkey dinner, turds, hot waffles, wet dogs, sandalwood, or sandals that you’ve worn for a very long time walking through the woods, Hmph. So there.
AROMATHERAPY--THE GREAT DECEIT
By Mickey McClain
… LET ME PUT IT ANOTHER WAY: Nothing of significance in human culture has ever been accomplished while under the dopifying influence of Aromatherapy. Got it?
Let me be more specific, yet at the same time more all-encompassing: Virtually no major contribution to civilization has taken place in a place where it smells good. And let me put a finer point on the point still: most of the great accomplishments of humankind. . .took place in places where it STANK! Cases in point:
--The Pyramids of Giza. Regardless of how we feel about the fact that they were almost certainly built by torturous slave labor, the results were amazing, and I can assure you, those slaves did not smell like daisies.
--The Sistine Ceiling. Read the account of the creation of that magnificent obsession; not only will you learn that it was commissioned by a Pope with syphilis, not only will you learn that the little private parts of the saints on display for all the world to see were painted over with fig leaves when the Pope’s employees saw the naked bits, but Michelangelo’s personal hygiene was so poor, he went for so long without bathing, he (and this is a documented fact) went for so long without even taking off his boots, he slept in his boots, that when those boots were removed, hunks of his skin came off with them. Sistine Ceiling: arguably the greatest work of art of all time. Aromatherapy, no!--Stinky, maggot-infested artist boots. YES!!!
But that’s the eccentricity of genius, what about the more grounded moments in history--what would this country be without the creation of the Declaration of Independence or the forging of the Constitution of the United States, by those several dozen men during one sunny summer in 1787, when the July temperatures soared to well over a hundred degrees, there was of course no air-conditioning, and the windows were never opened, lest spies for the King overhear the goings-on. Already, as it was, these Founding Fathers were all risking a traitor’s treasonous death, and so tell me, what do you think it smelled like, as those men sweltered, not only under threat of execution by hanging, but also under several layers of satin, silk and velvet, to say nothing of those goofy powdered wigs. No breathing pollyblends here. It smelled REALLY BAD. And I can assure you there were no bowls of pleasantly perfumed potpourri on the tables to offset that stench.
Again I say--nothing great is accomplished in places where it smells good. I give you further evidence--the trenches of World War II, which saved the world from domination by a genocidal maniac, the trenches of the Civil War, which freed millions from human bondage … and for that matter, any worthy war: I am having trouble imagining one single square foot of war that doesn’t reek to high heavens.
You know, I heard an artist who was also a veteran of World War II,and whose work was naturally haunted by what he remembered from those days, being interviewed about his impressions of war. He looked right into the camera and he said, “War Stinks.” And it was only when he began talking about what he meant by the comment that I realized “Oh, he’s being literal--war really stinks.” The artist then went on to talk about what war was like, precisely what it was like when you saw a human being torn apart by modern firepower: it is not only blood and guts that are unleashed upon the world, but--and these were his words--shit. Human shit, and that is what war smells of. Yet is there any other theatre that shows man being quite so brave, so noble, so self-sacrificing, as war? And look ma, no Aromatherapy. . .
…And if you are thinking, that of course things didn’t smell good in the examples I just gave you, because that was a while back and bathing wasn’t such a priority back in the day--well let me assure you, friends, that modern great moments are pretty ripe to the nostrils as well.
Hey, talk about recent news, how about those 33 Chilean miners a few years back, who heroically not only survived, but inspired the world--you think it didn’t stink down there, you think they didn’t stink, after 69 days?
And hey, what about those Boston Red Sox, God Bless ‘em. When they trounced the damn Yankees, then the Cardinals during the 2004 World Series, securing their first win in 86 years after the Babe was sold into Yankee servitude, thereby creating the curse--there may have been a lot of celebrating in that locker room, but I can assure you, it also stank of sweat, filthy socks, and chewing tobacco--not exactly popular smells in the wonderful world of scented candles. I have never seen a fragranced sachet bag where the scent is labeled “Maledizione d’el Bambino”.
And that mind bogglingly inspirational moment when man landed on the moon--you think there weren’t some less than pleasant aromas wafting from those heroic astronauts, after they were all crammed in that pod for a week without shower facilities. One great step for man, yes, Aromatherapy, no.
And if there was greatness in our recent history’s profoundly tragic moments--Katrina, assorted tsunamis, 9-11 rescue efforts--great moments which, from my perspective, were made great by the people who selflessly got up off their sofa and charged into harm’s way, to rescue, comfort, help, and heal--I can assure you that after days and weeks of wading, rowing, digging, and generally pulling all-nighters in subhuman conditions--I can assure you that those Heroes, none of them, smelled very good.
So. Aromatherapy not only has virtually no scientific evidence to back up its claims to healing the body, calming the mind, and soothing the soul. . .Aromatherapy not only costs us a Cyrano’s Nostril full of money (400 million annually in the U.S., and growing, according to a study by the Nutrition Business Journal, and 2.3 billion worldwide, according to Kline and Company), money that we could be spending on other more tangible, time honored things that really do heal the body, calm the mind, and soothe the soul--things like yachts, charity, music, art, beer, exercise equipment, motorcycles, oneness devices, beer, books, travel, more charity, and pets--but more to the point, Aromatherapy is The Great Deceit.
The only point of aromatherapy is to simulate the existence of a thing or experience which is nowhere around where we are at that time, or else it would smell like that naturally, already.
Do you remember that naughty word from high school “c-cktease”? Well, aroma therapy is a nose-tease.
You close your eyes, it smells like a beautiful winter morn in Aspen, all evergreen and crisp snow and ski-slopes, then you open your eyes and you’re a sittin’ in a stinky taxi in New York City, with a plug-in air freshener glued to the back side of the front passenger seat, with some smarmy commercial spokesperson smirking and saying “Fooled you, didn’t I? Didn’t I?”
You bend over slightly, and you say to yourself, “I must be nestled in the bosom of some Hawaiian dancing lady, dressed only in a grass skirt, with nothing more than a lei of flowers and her long black silky hair covering her sweet coconut brown breasties, because it sure smells like a tropical paradise,” but then you open your eyes, you see no palm trees, no aquamarine waters lapping the golden sands, no, instead what has happened is some product research goofball has stuck your head into a trashcan containing a press-on scent atomizer thingie as part of a focus group study. Yeah, it smells good, but it’s still a friggin’ trash can; you aren’t in Maui. There are no dancing ladies, no pig roast, no drinks with umbrellas in them, no sunset over the white glistening beach.
You walk inside a door, and you say to yourself, “I must have just stepped behind a rushing waterfall, for I am overwhelmed with a memory of being in New Zealand in the spring (even though I have never actually been there), near rushing water and colorful birds and the fruity scent of fat kiwis ready to fall ripe from the tree …” Then you open your eyes and realize, “Aw crap. This isn’t New Zealand. This is my local IRS office, and this is no vacation getaway, this is that appointment they set up for me when they decided that I scammed the government because I tried to deduct the cost of clearing out the garage where our 32 year old son was living, when at long last left he left, finally deciding to follow that horrible girl with the tattoos to the community college to study throwing pots, and I declared the rent-a dumpster and furniture haul away service and fumigator as Federally Declared Disaster Area Clean-up Expenses, see IRS publication 547, Topic 703. Goddamit. I sure wish it was New Zealand. I hate that friggin’ air freshener on the receptionist’s desk. And what’s she so happy about, anyway?”
Do you know, when I lived in skinny-thin Los Angeles, how many times I went to a soirée, passed thought the portal, inhaled the delightful smell of strawberry shortcake or pineapple upside down cake, only to be served agave-kissed, no-carcinogenic-dyes and no-horse-hooves-used-in-the-making-of-this-gelatin for dessert? How many times I smelled the distinct aroma of chocolate caramel brownie delight, only to be served gluten-free, fat-free, sugar-free carob granola crumble over iced 2 percent soy milk?
Yes, my friend, Aromatherapy is a nose tease. It is to food what that saucy headed cheerleader in high school was to fellatio: she knew all the terms, had all the looks, all the moves--but none of the follow-through.
Hey, friend, here’s a tip:
You want your guests to be impressed when you invite your neighbors and friends from work to your festive holiday party; you want them to be swept away by visions of sugarplum fairies flying through the air? You want your home to be thickly redolent with the intermingly smells of cinnamon, clove, and apple?
Bake a fucking pie.