I cried over perfume the other day.
On one of those rare days when I felt like indulging in my favorite things, I pulled out the bottle that lives near my jewelry box, instead of the bottle on my dresser. I spritz on the perfume living on my dresser with abandon, daily, letting the scent wash over my morning and make me smile.
The one nestled next to my jewelry box melts into my skin like a salve, transporting me to my wedding day. I feel more rested, younger, almost beautiful with my wedding day perfume dancing on my hair.
Trying to cast my mind back to the last time I’d worn my “good” perfume, days and weeks spooled into months and years, and I pulled off the stopper with dread.
The scent assaulted me; the notes I love crashed into each other in spoiled, age-ruined discord. I’d waited too long between special days, and now the rest of the smooth bottle needed to be tossed into the trash like the used cotton balls and tissues I shed without thought.
I save things.
Not money, much to my husband’s dismay. Not broken toys or outgrown clothes. I ruthlessly purge closets and old decorations.
Yet, I save things.
I wait to wear my favorite perfume or to use the body lotion with the scents I love the most. I promise myself I’ll buy new jeans when I lose 15 pounds, cut my hair into a jaunty bob when I lose ten, wear my favorite dress when I lose five.
I’ll start home manicures when I stop picking my cuticles. I’ll buy a real leather purse when I finally feel like an adult.
I’ll let myself start writing the novel outlined in my head and on scraps of paper when both kids are in school. I’ll add pink streaks to my hair when I publish my next short story collection, and I’ll retire the pajamas I’ve worn since college when I do…something.
The day I discovered my ruined perfume, I drove, alone, to pick up cupcakes in the sterile sunshine that brightens Michigan winters. I pulled on my sunglasses—the ones with the peeling tortoiseshell I’ll replace one day—and turned the music to volumes that don’t work when I have little ears riding in the back of the car. Dry heat warmed my brittle, chapped skin and let me pretend, as long as I didn’t touch the ice-cold window, that spring would arrive soon.
A song came on—”Hey Jealousy” by the Gin Blossoms—and my car morphed into a time machine. Car seats and errant toys became too many teen girls crammed into the back of the red Sunbird one of my girlfriends drove, where we pressed rewind on cassettes and waved our hands from the sunroof as we tried so hard to grow up.
I turned up the old song even louder, pressing the limit of sound distortion on my factory-grade radio. Words I hadn’t thought about in eons danced from my lips, and I felt the years lift away from my shoulders. Minutes later, Taylor Swift began singing, and those years pressed against me again, my ears hearing my daughter’s version of her favorite artist.
The present rests somewhere between those two songs. The days I think I’m waiting for—the ones where I’m thinner, less busy, more focused—might never come; I might never have the life that will be worthy of all those things I’m saving.
Keeping the things I want, the things I dream about, on tap for a mystical, far-off day means some of them are slipping through my fingers. My ripped purse spills onto the floor of my car daily, waiting for a time when I move my belongings into a bag with a real zipper. Unedited scenes sit patiently in rough drafts, and I realize I don’t want to throw away my favorite perfume again.
I save things for more perfect days, but it might be time to start celebrating the imperfection of these middle days instead.
This article was originally published on