Monday, February 27, 2006

Scent of a Woman

He wanted her to smell like me.

Doug and I had been friends for years. We'd met when I was dating his best friend, Chris. My relationship with Chris was short-lived, but Doug and I stayed friends. We had a similar goofy sense of humor, sharing a love of MTV's Liquid Television and Bill Plympton cartoons. We'd drive with the windows down in the blazing, humid New York summer, yelling the lyrics of Plastic Bertrand's "Ca Plane Pour Moi" at the top of our lungs (badly). We could hang out and talk for hours, making each other laugh nonstop and never getting bored. That's how it started, anyway - two people who enjoyed each other's company, doing just that. Then, as so often happens, one person starts developing decidedly non-platonic feelings for the other. In this case, it was Doug.

I really cared about Doug, knew and loved his family, really enjoyed spending time with them. I know from experience how much it sucks to have unrequited feelings for someone. I tried to tread carefully; I even tried to rationalize the possibility of getting more involved with Doug. He was a good guy, funny and smart. But it just wasn't there for me. There is no rationalizing a lack of attraction for somebody that you otherwise adore. I was in the classic "it's not you, it's me" scenario, and Doug didn't want to take no for an answer. I told him I couldn't go beyond being "just friends"; he told me that he could see us getting married. I made it clear that I wouldn't be thinking about marriage for years; we were only college-aged. He told me that he knew we'd get married eventually. He was a heat-seeking missile that wouldn't be dissuaded, so he would dismiss every reason I had to opt out of a more serious relationship. Things started to get tense between us. When our friendship had been platonic, I had felt listened to, like my opinions had weight. Once Doug became sexually attracted, he seemed to negate anything I said that he didn't agree with. He wanted to be together, even if that didn't work for me. I became even more stubborn because I didn't like being so disregarded.

I wouldn't budge; I knew it was the right decision. School years came and went. Doug and I would still hang out during breaks, but it wasn't quite the same, though we both tried hard enough. The underlying tension was still there, even when we were in our old haunts, laughing and catching up. He'd occasionally drop a joke about us getting married. I'd reply with a quip about planning to join the convent like a good Irish Catholic girl. We dated other people and kept in touch, always wishing the other well.

Then Doug did something that threw me. He called me up to let me know that he had a new girlfriend. "That's awesome, Doug, I'm thrilled for you!" I said. I meant it; he was a good guy. He deserved someone special in his life. Then he said something that freaked me out.

"Yeah, she's great. She looks like you!"

"She what??" I had no idea how to respond to that one. I tried to laugh it off. "Well, everybody has a type."

"No, I mean she really looks like you. Same hair, and built like you. Small boned." He sounded excited; triumphant, even.

"Oooo-kay..." Don't get me wrong, he had the right to date whomever he wanted. I wasn't going to flatter myself that Doug was dating my doppelganger because of unresolved issues between us. Readers, I am not Da Bomb, a perfect woman that a guy should obsess over; I'm just an ordinary chick trying to figure her shit out as she stumbles through life. Besides, it's true that everybody has a "type" that they like. I just love black haired, blue eyed guys, for instance. Something about that combo just does it for me, but that's not the only kind of guy I've dated. Doug liked my type, that was all. I would overlook this strange feeling in my stomach and be happy for him.

Then the conversation got really weird. "So," he said, "I wanted to get the name of that perfume you wear."

"Why?" There goes my stomach. I already knew the answer.

"I'm going to buy it for her."

I couldn't believe he was saying it! "Doug, do not do that."

"Do what?" he asked, in his most innocent-sounding little boy voice.

"What you're doing. You want her to smell like me!"

Silence at the other end of the line. Then: "Well, I like how you smell."

Here's the thing; Doug already knew what perfume I wore. Why was he calling me to tell me this? I felt badly for his girlfriend, whomever she was. Smell is the sense that's most closely tied to our emotions. So my gut reaction had been right. I wasn't flattered; I felt like shit. I was angry at Doug, too. I told him that no woman wants to be treated that way; that he should want his new girlfriend for the ways in which she was unique; the ways in which she wasn't like me. Doug wasn't hearing that; he'd become accustomed to not listening to me.

"I do want her to smell like you. I like your smell."

He probably bought the perfume, for all I know. I stopped wearing it altogether - the smell of it quickly soured for me. I hated abandoning my signature scent, but I got over it and eventually found another one that I liked even more. It is possible to move on and fully appreciate The New, even when you've been attached to The Old for years.

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17 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ginger, Do you know what became of Doug?

Did he get over it?

It's a common phenomenon that an individual that you love can be wonderful, funny, bright, and even more or less balanced-less-yet at the same time, there lives in one seemingly isolated mental compartment, some absolutely irrational psychological bugaboo, that is clear to anyone else but the beholder.

And perhaps it will only manifest when the gravity of circumstances come to call upon it

But I'm sure you knew that Already. So, please disregard anything in surplus.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Daniel, I like to think he did, although I'm not sure. I certainly hope so. He's married now. We still talk, and he makes the occasional comment - but it's not like it was before. Believe me, I'm glad.

"there lives in one seemingly isolated mental compartment, some absolutely irrational psychological bugaboo, that is clear to anyone else but the beholder."

Ummmm....ok.

4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gin- why do you suppose that your incidence of freak encounter, deviates (no entendre intendred), from sadistical norms?

It could be like that old expression:

Be careful what you find- it just might seek you.


"Ummmm....ok." ?


Oooohh..... you must be referring to the provocative suggestion that I telepathically insinuated to you.....

either that, or you're just making coquettish or jocular mockery and good natured public ridicule of my debilitating speech impediment.

Yes, as you can see, It's a great source of anxiety and beguiling conversation.

But, I can only wait with bad breath and hope that it is of a sufficient magnet-tude to qualify entry into the rarefied ranks and rankified air of the nefarious freak files.

2:09 AM  
Blogger Ginger said...

"why do you suppose that your incidence of freak encounter, deviates (no entendre intendred), from sadistical norms?"

Just lucky, I guess.

"you're just making coquettish or jocular mockery and good natured public ridicule of my debilitating speech impediment."

Nah. You're just being a show pony.

8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, but it's your show for talking horse sense.



Thanks for the apples

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You got any of that perfume left.... cause I DO want to smell like you too.

Is that bad?

9:39 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Maybe you're just in touch with your feminine side...I'll bet you're touching it right now.

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My feminine was playing on the TG/GA circuit, when she was struck by lightning and paralyzed from the waist down

It's freaky-deaky, really

And It's my masculine side that needs the perfume.

You know I put on airs.

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