May 25, 2011

Scented beads

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:27 pm by changisme

Walking to work this morning, I had an overwhelming deja vu as my nostrils were suddenly saturated with the scent of a perfume. I looked toward the source. It was a woman coming out of a taxi. She was dressed in a bright pink blouse and lawngreen caprice. Her skin was dark and shiny. I wondered if the sheen was from sweat or rain. I wanted to touch her. (Just on the arm!)

The memory of the smell came to me like a page of crumbled diary drifting through the wind. She smelled like some scented beads from my childhood. In fact, any urban or suburban Chinese, born in the 80’s would know these beads. They were sold in small clear plastic packets less than a square inch in size. The beads were smaller than grains of rice, but they were translucent and shiny. Each packet probably contained 50 of these tiny little plastic beads. They came in a slew of colours, white like diamonds, baby pink and blue like candies. We would put them in pencil cases and backpacks because they smelled so sweet.

Thinking about the beads actually surprised me a little. I have always thought of my pre-puberty self as an extreme tomboy, and so do my family and peers. People around me criticized my above-the-ear hairdo and scar covered legs due to too much climbing (and falling). My mother especially was unhappy with my tanned skin and burned cheeks, and told me that I looked like the offspring of an African and a Tibetan (yes, she’s slightly racist). My cartoon and book choices were not entirely girlish but they were too secretive to be frowned upon. Even my relatively late onset of puberty became a somewhat fascinating topic. For a brief 3 or 4 months, some people in my class thought I was a lesbian, as middle schoolers in the 90’s were understandably ignorant. Soon they concluded that I was a UFO, and the nickname stuck till I graduated from that ghetto.

Just think about it, while all that were framing my identity, I was actually quite girly! I had those scented, shiny beads. I think I’m quite proud, now, to say that, hey I’m really pretty normal here, not at all a wacko. I may carry this sweet scented memory with me all my life. Even if I acquire dementia or get a stroke, and all the confusion among my childhood schoolmates regarding my normality would fade, but the scent of the beads would remain.

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