Salt from my tears

sob weep blubber snivel whimper bawl howl wail shed tears mew

Last night, I cried.  I cried some tears that I have been holding on to for a while.  For days now, they have been waiting for the permission to run from my eyes.  The tears bubbled up from somewhere inside, became lodged in my throat and resisted any attempt to swallow.  They made trails down my cheeks and leaked into my hair and ears…they pooled in the hollow of my throat and traced my collarbone.  I could taste the salt on my lips.

By the time we are adults, many of us have cried too many times to count.  So I started to think, of significant moments where I have cried.  Besides those times when I fell and bumped my funny bone, I cried when I watched my friend get married and then when I got married.  I cried as I held my weeping Aunt in the hospital room when her husband died.  I cried when I broke somebody’s heart and when mine was first broken.  I cried when I graduated high school and I cry whenever I see military personnel returning home.  I cried when I had my first orgasm while making love.  I cry every time I leave Puerto Rico.  I cried when I gave my dogs away.  I cried when my Dad would yell at me.  I cried when I left home, but also, when I found a new one.

Happy or sad, humans are mammals that shed tears for very emotional reasons.  Evolutionary theorists have suggested crying to be a mechanism at one time useful for survival.  They might have protected us from predators being able to see where we were looking.  Emotional tears show others that we are vulnerable and may have stood as a signal for our willingness to trust.

Whatever the reason, we know that tears flow for one of three reasons:  to lubricate our eyes, as a reflex because we are cutting onions or have just sneezed, OR due to an emotional stimulus.  

Some interesting facts about tears:

  • You can feel better or worse after a cry.  It depends on when, where, and with whom you cried.  Studies have shown crying to be both cathartic which leads feeling better, but also feeling worse because of shame or embarrassment about the act of crying.
  • Women’s emotional tears reduce sexual arousal in men
  • Emotional tears have a different chemical composition that other types of tears.
  • Mainly tears = water, salts, antibodies, and lysozymes.  Emotional tears tend to have more protein-based hormones (prolactin, andrenocorticotropic, & leucine encephalin which is a natural pain killer)
  • Decorative tear bottles or lacrimals were fairly common in Roman times and were used to collect the tears of mourners.  They reappeared in the Victorian era with stoppers that allowed the tears to evaporate and signify the end of the mourning period.

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It just isn’t fair.

They say that veteran perfume makers have the ability to detect hundreds and thousands of different scents through vigorous training.  People are not simply born with a heightened sense of smell superior to the average human being.  Smell is commonly known to invoke a strong sense of memory because, “…olfactory input winds its way through other brain regions, including the centers for memory and emotion, before reaching the thalamus” (Weir, 2011), whereas our other senses relay their input directly to the thalamus which is considered the switchboard to the brain. 

Recently, my sense of smell has become a preoccupation of mine after watching the movie Perfumethe story of a Murderer.  The film tells the story of the notorious murderer Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in 18th century France.  Grenouille was born with a super human sense of smell and is thus able to create the world’s finest perfumes.  Despite his success, he becomes obsessed in his search for the ultimate scent which leads to a much darker side of this olfactory sense.

Out of all my 5 senses, I consider my sense of smell to be the most intriguing.  It is intangible and elusive but somehow has a fervent hold within my psyche.  Despite its perishable and at times, indescribable nature, it is the sense most strongly tied to our memories.  A single whiff of a particular scent has the power to transport me to the time I first experienced the smell...

[Caution:  Keep from heat or flame]

My mother told me not to look into other people's medicine cabinets.  The bottle had a smooth black cap and ridges that truncated the dark red glass.  3.7 ounces.  Eau de Toilette. Natural Spray.  There was nothing natural about this scent.  I continued to read the box:  absinthe, red basil, pimiento, patchouli, styrax, and benzoin to create the, "image of carnal sensation".  Clear masculine codes like a heartbeat intoxicating absinthe to thrill, wormwood to anchor and ground.  Recommended Use:  day, evening, or night.  Distilled unripened cherry, pepper, flesh and virile patchouli can swoon any heart.  A drop of benzoin to convey seduction.  It. just. isn't. fair.  I looked up the ad for his cologne when I got home that night.  Coupled and fragmented scenes of contrast.  Freshness and warmth, shivers and caresses, fluidity and power, nature and seduction.  I removed the cap, depressed the plunger, and watched the molecules mist in front of me.  Departing from one another.  Atomizing.  I smelled what had been intended:  wood furnishings and late nights, leather and a freshly made bed.  The smell of dance floors to thrill and my favorite tea.  Salty collarbones and kisses.

It really isn’t fair…these colognes and perfumes that we wear.  Without any added help, we are already attracted to how we naturally smell on the most primal and carnal levels.  On top of this, our minds and bodies attach these colognes and perfumes to detailed emotional memories.  I know for a fact, that as long as I live, the cologne described in [Caution:  Keep away from heat or flame] will have the power to quicken my heartbeat, weaken my knees, and bate my breath.

Favorite scents:  cilantro, grapefruit, black peppers, crayons, Meyer lemons, lighting a match, warm tomatoes on the vine, newspaper, and my cousin's Chicago basement (which smells like poetry, gin, and a pool table).  


Weir, K. (2011). Scents and Sensibility. American Psychological Association. Retrieved November 8, 2012 from