Fall is my favorite time of year. Yes, I love the spectacular colors of fall, the crunch of fallen leaves under my feet, the feel of crisp autumn breezes on my face. But what I love the most are the smells of fall. Right now our house smells like homemade apple sauce, hot peppers dehydrating soon to be ground into delicious dried seasoning, fresh sage harvested from the herb garden, and cool, clear country air. It’s been an exceptionally mild autumn day here so we opened the windows and let all that beautiful fall air in to every room.
I am very sensitive to smells. I associate memories with scents, and the slightest hint of certain smells will cause a wave of memories to flood my mind. The scent of roses makes me think of the week Carli and I spent in Las Vegas. The smell of a certain shampoo reminds me of visiting our son when he lived in California. Lilacs make me miss my Dad. I had no idea when Carli started to transition that even the very scents that filled my senses would change dramatically, or that I would miss the smell of the sweat.
I’ve always enjoyed stereotypical masculine scents. When I pick out candles, I avoid the flowery kind and the ones that smell like food, always opting for the ones that smell like men’s cologne, woodsy, or clean. The smell of motor oil and gasoline is a constant presence, and it’s always been comforting to know that Carli can fix almost anything with wheels and an engine.
While the smell of vehicle repair is still around, and the candles are still lit, I miss the smell of a man in the house. Carli started hormone replacement therapy six months ago, and I expected slow physical changes to happen. I was not prepared for how quickly she would stop smelling like a man and start smelling like a woman. I literally woke up one morning and didn’t recognize the person next to me by scent alone, and it was startling.
Of all the things I anticipated I would miss, this never even crossed my mind. All of a sudden I realized there would never be another bottle of men’s cologne in the house. All the shampoo and lotion will smell like a girl. Even the perfume samples that come in the mail are all women’s fragrances. She will never smell of testosterone-laden sweat again.
When Carli was in the Air Force, long before we knew what being transgender was, she traveled a great deal, often 200 days out of every year. I remember keeping the pillow case on her pillow, not washing it with the rest of the sheets, just so her scent would be there even though she was not. It was always comforting to walk in the closet and be met with the masculine smell of her uniforms and work clothes. I worried about what else might change when I couldn’t smell the old Carli anymore. I have always been keenly aware of how my sense of smell is tied to my sense of well-being, my sense of security and stability. What would happen when all of those familiar, comforting smells were gone and replaced with something unfamiliar? Would it still smell like home when I walked in the door, when I opened the closet?
As with so many things I have been unnecessarily worried about, these changes have not been the end of my world. I’m learning to appreciate the new scent of Carli, associating her new scent with our new experiences. The scents are different but my sense of well-being, security, and stability are stronger now than ever before because my relationship with Carli is stronger. Home is still home. Today, we both used the girly perfume sample that came in the mail before we left the house to visit friends. We both smelled pretty nice.