Living in the Nose South

What does your house smell like?

Ours is a mixture of coffee, a hint of mildew wafting up from the basement (the dehumidifier is on the fritz), fabric softener, and bergamot. You heard me. Bergamot. You know bergamot, right? I didn’t think so.

You see, here in the New South we have new smells filling our homes. Gone are the days when your house smelled like last night’s supper, at least until the next morning’s bacon began to fry in the skillet. Now, we have a growing multitude of products to help our home smell more inviting.

When it comes to homemaking, I often tease my wife for going to Martha Stewartian extremes. However, I have to take the blame on this one. I have a sensitive sniffer. Smells affect me in powerful and mysterious ways.

After a hard day at the office and a difficult commute, what I smell when I open the door affects my mood. Even if the playroom looks like Tokyo at the end of a Godzilla movie, if there’s a pleasing aroma, I can cope. Aromatherapy was invented for people like me.

I’m like those people in the Febreeze commercial where they hide all the smelly garbage in a condo unit at a resort and invite people to spend the weekend. The Febreeze plug-in air fresheners cover the smell. Don’t get me wrong: I like things to look neat, too. It’s just that I’m very sensitive to the way things smell.

So over the 16-plus years of our marriage, Carla has figured this out and tried a number of ways to keep the house smelling fresh. At first it was candles. Anything named “Yankee Candle” does not deserve space in a blog about the South, so I’ll just move on.

Then we tried sprays. Lysol sure smells clean but in that “someone just vomited” kind of way. And anyone who’s ever heard Jeff Foxworthy’s routine about the air fresheners in the bathroom “not fooling anybody” (“Walt, what have you been doing in there, arranging flowers?”) understands the depths of their inefficiency.

Carla even went so far one year as to buy these very concentrated sprays from Bath and Body Works. Maybe she just got the wrong ones, but a hit from these things could peel the paint off the walls. I have the smell of Bartlett Pear forever seared into my memory. I’m gagging a little right now as I type this.

One Christmas a few years back, my brother and sister-in-law gave us some plug-in scent warmers called Scentsy. They’re like little fondue pots you plug into the outlet and feed with scented wax bars. They are amazing and come in a variety of fragrances that help keep the house smelling good… at least until the bar has to be replaced.

Wallflowers are as lovely as they smell, in a way that begs preschoolers to play with your electrical outlets.
Wallflowers are as lovely as they smell, in a way that begs preschoolers to play with your electrical outlets.

We’re currently using a product called Wallflowers, also from Bath and Body Works, hence my recent education on bergamot. Like all of these products, you can buy seasonal fragrances. We’ve been through the fall scents of pumpkin, cinnamon and autumn woodland and are still shaking off the residues of Christmas: “Vanilla Snowflake,” “Frosted Cranberry” and “Twisted Peppermint.” As the throes of winter gloom pin us down in our homes, we can eagerly anticipate “Honeysuckle,” “Beach Cabana” and “Watermelon Lemonade.”

Whatever their names, these aromas are now part of our daily lives in the New South. So whether your boudoir smells of bergamot or your foyer welcomes guests with lilac, the modern Southern home is a nasal sanctuary. And as ridiculous as some of the names of our new smells are, it sure beats dog vomit, dirty feet or post-burrito bathroom.

I know I am not alone in this wacky world of Wallflowers. This topic begs for an interactive component: What five words would you use to describe the way your house smells? Leave your response in a comment below, and let us all imagine the aroma you describe.

My big royal redneck wedding

Prince William and Catherine Middleton
The prince and princess

While I type, NBC’s Today Show hosts talk breathlessly about the royal family members entering Westminster Abbey for the wedding of the decade. William and Catherine’s nuptials have created a media stir, drawing the obsessive attention of anglophiles and royalty voyeurs from around the world. It is reality TV at its most unreal.

As I contemplated a New South angle on this cultural phenomenon, I was reminded of another wedding-oriented reality TV experience I stumbled upon one night while channel surfing. No, it wasn’t “Bridezillas,”Say Yes to the Dress,” “Wedding SOS” or any of the nearly 20 other wedding reality shows.

Amber and John
Amber and John

“My Big Redneck Wedding” is a train wreck you can’t look away from. I would never seek this out again, but it did make me wonder if this was a Southern thing or a blue collar thing. It’s been well established that redneck culture knows no geographic boundaries.

We all know that “redneck” can be a derogatory term as well as a badge of honor. If you are a self-proclaimed “redneck” is it really an insult? Jeff Foxworthy is not an insult comic. He has tapped into the sense of pride so many feel in the redneck identity.

The themes of the redneck wedding reality show are familiar and cliché: lots of camouflage, farm implements as decorations, tractors and ATVs, horses and dogs, sports venues such as demolition derby tracks and a consistent emphasis on guns, shooting and hunting.

Demolition Derby wedding
A car wreck no matter how you look at it at this demolition derby wedding for Kelli and Ron.

What has undermined the concept of this particular reality TV is that several of the couples featured had “real weddings” and then staged these redneck affairs just for laughs. I won’t explore who is laughing at whom, but the whole thing is a little off-putting.

Southerners have traditionally been self-deprecating, and staging a redneck wedding would seem to be the height of self-deprecation. But what really seems to be at play here is desperation to be on television.

This “by any means necessary” approach cheapens their relationship, their culture and the wedding covenant.

I don’t think William and Catherine suffer from the “must be on TV” malady, and I don’t think anyone at the reception will be in camo. But it would be kind of fun if there was a demolition derby in Trafalgar Square.