“I was just thinking about Love’s Baby Soft,” I said.
“Oh?” Justin replied.
I nodded. “It’s the way I smelled from 12 to 19. A cheap perfume that smelled like baby powder and something else. Flowers maybe.” I told him I’d been given it as a present one Christmas. Couldn’t remember who from. Some relative probably.
And I’d worn it nearly every day in junior high and high school. Even a bit in college. Or at least the days that I thought to put it on. Because I needed an emotional boost or wanted to smell nice.
“I bet it’d smell awful to me now. Like cheap chemical-y perfume,” I said. “But I’d love to get my hands on some, just to bring the old memories back.”
The olfactory centers that the brain uses to smell are right near a major memory center. So smelling something is a great way to remember things you had forgotten. Memory and scent are intimately linked.
“Shaking those memories loose could shake up my writing in an interesting way,” I said. And on a personal level, I thought it might be good to confront things that I’d mentally sidelined from one of the toughest periods of my life.
“I bet they still make it,” he said.
“Oh, I doubt it,” I said. “Love’s Baby Soft is peak 90s and probably stayed there.”
Some People Take “Can’t” As a Challenge
He took my words as a challenge. But it didn’t prove to be a formidable one (few challenges are tough when faced with Justin). Two minutes later, he informed me that it was still being sold in a bunch of different places. Heck, Love’s Baby Soft was even on Amazon Prime.
I noted that the current price is at least twice what I remember it costing (maybe even four times). But then again, it’s been 20-something years, so even just increasing the price due to inflation/cost of living, that makes sense.
A week later, the bottle of perfume arrived. Within moments of smelling it, my mind was flooded with the strangest memories. Mostly background happy and neutral moments from one of the most traumatic periods of my life (the negative memories were already quite memorable cemented in my brain’s fear centers, guarded jealously by my amygdala).
Immune to Functional Fixedness
This isn’t the first time that Justin has unexpectedly redefined my belief in what is possible.
He’s good like that.
That’s because Justin in general is immune to functional fixedness, a cognitive bias most people have that causes them to get stuck in one way of solving a problem. And to discount the correct solution if it seems too out there.
It’s part of why I love him.
In the early years of our relationship, he asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I told him, “I’d like to go hot tubbing with all of our friends, but that’s really not possible. Just a silly idea.”
“I bet you can rent one,” he replied.
“A hot tub?” I laughed. “That’s not a thing.”
“I bet it is,” he said.
And lo and behold, he found someone. An entrepreneurial fellow who repaired broken hot tubs, modified them to hook to his truck trailer, and then rented them out.
For a shockingly affordable price, given how much fun it was.
It became a tradition of ours, for the next 5 years or so, throwing house parties in Cleveland. Then, at the moment I thought our hot tubbing days were over, the man retired his side business, and Justin found an inflatable hot tub online that we bought and started to use. It worked great.
A Person Who Presents Infinite Possibility
Sometimes you meet someone and they expand your definition of what’s possible.
And that’s really great when it happens. Those moments can stick out as peak experiences, times when we realize we’re more than we thought we were or the world more vast and varied.
But there are other meetings that eclipse these. And those are the ones you really have to watch out for.
Because sometimes you really luck out and you meet someone who never stops doing it. Who never stops expanding your horizons. Someone who never stops making an old world look new.