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Will you keep my secret?
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I’m going to let you in on a little secret, but you’ve got to promise not to tell anyone. Do I have your word you’re going to keep this absolutely confidential?

Yes? OK, good. Come on over here a little closer so I can whisper. I don’t want anyone else to hear.


I really like aromatherapy.


Now stop giggling. I wouldn’t have told you if I had thought you were going to collapse with laughter.        

Aromatherapy is a word that probably didn’t even exist 20 years ago. It pretty much means that things that smell good make you feel good. Simple enough. And though it might be partly snake oil, it’s grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry.

There are entire stores devoted to things that smell good. And for the most part, you either like these stores or you don’t like them. There’s not much in between, sort of like Brussels sprouts.

I’ve always liked the way perfume smells on women. Back in high school, for a brief period of time I had a girlfriend named Francine who wore such an excruciatingly enticing fragrance that at certain times I was moved to tell her I was much fonder of her than I really was.

(Full disclosure: it wasn’t just the perfume that prompted me to tell her that, but we’re not going to go there today.)

Things that smell good certainly aren’t limited to women’s perfume.

Back in college, I worked in a gift shop in a national park, and we sold all sorts of things that smelled good, like little bags filled with cedar shavings. You’ve probably seen those before.

When you opened the door to that shop each morning, it was like stepping into a forest. Because we also sold lots of other nice-to-smell things, the store was a cornucopia of pleasant odors.

Next to the cash register -- where they put items the marketers now call “impulse items” -- we had these little walnut-sized nodules called rose pods. Man, they gave off a powerful odor, something that might remind you of being in a house of ill repute.

When customers asked their purpose, I would tell them that when they were on vacation -- remember, this was a national park, where lots of people camped -- they could just put a rose pod in a paper bag along with their underwear when they went to bed every night, and they’d never have to wash their undies. They could go a whole week with just one pair, and on Saturday that underwear would still smell as fresh as a rose pod.

Some people probably did it.

Not too long ago, I wandered into an aromatherapy store and bought a bottle of lotion which is sitting on my desk right now. It has a little pump handle on it.

The label says, in large letters,“Stress Relief – Eucalyptus Spearmint.”

Then in smaller letters it says, “Relax and think clearly. Eucalyptus essential oil clears the mind while spearmint essential oil uplifts.”

It probably would be more truthful if it just said, “Give it a pump and then sniff your hands. Smells nice, eh? It won’t help you relax or think more clearly but it will make you feel better than if you had doused your hands in motor oil.”

I had a hard time deciding on the Eucalyptus Spearmint. They had all sorts of choices like Orange Ginger and Jasmine Vanilla. I’m not sure who thinks up all those names, but they’re pretty creative.

In any event, I like those fragrances, even if they’re marketed primarily towards women, and my hands certainly smell better than if I had poured a can of Valvoline 10W30 on them.

But remember that you promised not to tell anyone about this aromatherapy thing, because if the guys in my golf group find out, they’re going to make my life miserable.

And by the way, thanks for keeping my secret.