Everyone is chain-smoking. The windows are always closed. The walls had wood paneling, which soaks things up. They’re all drunk; they’re all drinking. You somehow know that’s not the only time Freddy Rumsen peed in there. And in those days, ladies wore perfume as a matter of course, the same way they wore constricting and terrible undergarments. BUT, every single one of those perfumes, by contemporary standards, was REALLY big, and REALLY obtrusive. Stuff we now think of as extremely difficult and weird, stuff most people will not wear because it frankly offends them — birch tar; civet (which is the nicest way anyone’s ever managed to say “catshit”); real oakmoss, real patchouli; the burnt-tallow kind of aldehyde, the ball-sweat-Crisco-and-sugar kind of musk — well, that was just how perfume smelled. Joan wears Shalimar. Because of course Joan wears Shalimar.* But imagine every female person, in an enclosed space, smelling exactly as strong as Shalimar. But also different from each other. In an office that Freddy Rumsen peed on. While everyone poured liquor, and smoked.
Just reread this to cheer myself up on a gray day in an office that smells of armpit bagel. Sady Doyle Describing Anything is great, but Sady Doyle Describing Smells is HEAVEN.
”Ball-sweat-Crisco-and-sugar kind of musk” !!!