Tuesday, October 16, 2007

the plumeria incident of the late '90s ...

at the height of the bath & body works phenominon of the mid-1990s, i was pretty into fresia and sunflower, but willing to experiment with cool cucumber. the smell in my dorm, dowling hall, was as thick as the pasty lotion with which we all regularly basted ourselves.

"you smell like ketosis," my friend basil used to tell me, making a face as i lubed my body to greasy perfection.
ketosis, she explained, smelled like rotting fruit. anorexic women, she said, emitted this smell from their emaciated bodies. basil had learned this in a science class at winona cotter high school. i wasn't anorexic. i had a meal plan. and every holiday i received at least three plastic bottles of ketosis.

basil favored the natural smell of an armpit after basketball practice. she considered me "girly" which is more of a testament to her own non-girly nature. basil considered any woman who was not dressed in a combination of mesh and nylon to be fragile and prissy.

basil was harsh and smart and controversial. she was a horror behind the wheel, and didn't seem to understand the scientific ramification of an escort versus a semi.

basil was my only friend because i met her on the second day of school and the entire thing completely taxed my ability to make other friends. and she had one other friend besides me, a woman named newman, whom basil bequeathed to to me when she decided to transfer to st. ben's after freshman year.

so newman and i forged a desperation friendship, deciding we would hang out with each other and figure out why later. newman was quirky, with a dry sense of humor. hard working. a little socially awkward. very specific. sophomore year she came to me with a complaint about her roommate:

"tracy is wearing plumeria," newman said. "i friggin' hate plumeria. the smell makes me sick. i have to tell her she can't wear it anymore."

in those days, people were pretty loyal to their shade of bath & body works. this seemed like a conversation with one roommate that would result in weekly counciling with the resident advisor and the backlash of the 40 other women sharing our floor who would eventually hear about the confrontation in the study lounge or while waiting to shower. you can't just, like, tell someone to stop wearing plumeria just because they share a bunk bed with you. this injustice would cause some serious chaffing.

when tracy would leave the room, newman would scrunch her nose and say, "do you smell that? seriously, i'm getting a headache."

i didn't notice.

newman's hate for plumeria had psychotic side effects. plumeria brought out her inner edgar allen poe. by the time we had moved into a house on fairview ave., she could pinpoint plumeria pockets wafting from women in her education classes; she could detect it in the cafeteria and library. it went unsaid that none of her five roommates should even consider a dollop of plumeria, let alone sample it at the mall of america. let me tell you: in the late 90s you would be hard pressed to take a pack of six women and not find at least one drenched in plumeria.

plumeria was a pretty popular gift in those days. nothing said "merry christmas, i don't know you very well" like a bottle of plumeria. i got an eight ouncer from one of oneniner's sisters. i didn't tell newman; i squirreled way the bottle in my bedroom far from the freakish strength of her nose. i didn't wear it, though. not even in river falls, wisconsin for a track meet. not even when i was home for thanksgiving. i was scared to even open the bottle, even though i liked ketosis.

newman moved out of the house after our junior year, to an apartment with her sister. we had been planning to ask her to move out anyway, because the bath & body works situation became other situations which gave birth to more situations and eventually she holed up in her bedroom with a case of diet coke and watched tv in her robe until the semester was over, coming into the livingroom to ask us to be quiet, or to please not do laundry anytime after the six o'clock news.

by then i'd started wearing plumeria. just to piss her off.


Beret said...

What was it about Bath and Body Works in the late 90's? I think I had about 20 bottles of the lotion. I still have 1/4 a bottle of Plumeria, some Cool Citrus Basil (can't throw that out b/c when I smell it, it reminds me of when my daughter was a newborn), some Honeysuckle, and mabye some Cool Cotton? When I think of the money spent on that stuff ($9 a bottle) I cringe.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the trip down memory lane! :) though i am surprised you didn't mention the words "navy blue" when describing her!

ah, good times. good times.

-red lipstick

Flee said...

I was a freshman as the Victoria's Secret scents made head-way upon the bodies of young wonen.
My roomie loved - LOVED - "Heavenly."
I can sleep through damn near anything; IM typing until the wee-hours, alarm clock set to an Incubus; hair dryer on low - check, check and check.
But as soon as she started bathing in "Heavenly" the smell would wake me up.

L Sass said...

You're a great story teller--this reminds me so much of both college and my former devotion to B&BW.

At some point in the early 200s, we all realized that all B&BW stuff pretty much smells like chemicals.

feistyMNgirl said...

true. and hilarious. they should've marketed T's that said "i'm a plumeria" or "i'm a cool cucumber".

and....ditto on the 1990s Victoria's Secret body splash/lotion sets. i've now been transported back to 1996...one of my college roomats had a bizarre shower/body splash routine.

nanners said...

because i'm me, i have to correct you. there was no sunflower bath and body scent. and you're thinking of cucumber melon, not cool cucumber.

havington said...

what about freesia, sun-ripened raspberry, juniper breeze, or country apple?

I think gallons of these lotions, sprays, soaps, and creams worked their way into our house in the late 90's and early 2000's.

I am glad they are gone, because I did not have much choice in the matter. . .

Maurey Pierce said...

Argh. I could SMELL it as I was reading your post.

Though I must confess I do still shop at BBW. I just got Pecan Pie Passion shower gel, actually. I'm terribly sorry.

CDP said...

Hysterical. And how funny is it that the mid 90s are now nostalgia fodder? Anyway, I hated Plumeria even more than your roommate, and I had a boss who drenched herself in Cotton Blossom, my second-least favorite, but I still love Warm Vanilla Sugar. (not enough to actually pay $9 a bottle for it...my mother buys it for us for Christmas and has for years).

Domestically Disabled Girl said...

i have a ceartin relative who still thinks it's cool to give b&bw gift sets for christmas. argh.

Nick said...

I worked across from a B&BW for 4 years through high school. I swear those products are carcinogenic! The workers would spray the scents out in front of the store to draw in the clientele. And we would go and shoplift bottles of lotion and sprays and give them away just to pass the time.

nanners said...

i like bath and body works. they have updated the retard scents of yore and now i wear some sexy japanese cherry blossom from time to time. and nothing kills a sunburn faster than their recipe. generic target shit can't touch it.

Mach1 said...

Kate used to wear some Bath and Bodyworks stuff. I think it was Black Raspberry Vanilla.

I really didn't like it, and this was an obstacle because she's a compulsive lotioner. Also because a fair amount of it ended up on my car sweat, sweatshirts of mine she borrowed, stuff like that.

So I tried the delicate tack:
"What is that?"
"Black Raspberry Vanilla. From Bath and Bodyworks."

Too subtle, so I move up to the next degree:
"Are you wearing that Bath and Bodyworks stuff again?"

Still not the desired effect. Time to be blunt.
"I don't like the smell of that stuff."
"Okay, it's not your body though."

Then one day, her sister left a bottle of Moonlight Path (or something) at home and Kate tried some.

I don't necessarily like the smell of Moonlight Path. But I like it better than Black Raspberry Vanilla, and so showered her with praise.

"Wow, that smells really good," I said. "I like it much better than Black Raspberry Vanilla. You should use this stuff all the time."

She's since switched scents. I should've thought of that a long time ago...

chuck said...

Oh ... so THAT'S what that girl meant when she said she had plumeria. Turns out I went to the clinic for nothing, I guess.