When I was 19 years old, I was hospitalized for anorexia nervosa at Johns Hopkins Hospital. I was there for 29 days. It is very difficult for me to explain what those 29 days were like. In Star Trek IV, McCoy asks Spock what it was like to have died. Spock responds, “It would be impossible to discuss the subject without a common frame of reference.” Blessedly few people share the frame of reference of having been a mental health inpatient. I had been ready to be done with my eating disorder for many years before I was finally admitted to Hopkins. It was the hospital itself that I was not prepared for.
The next time someone asks me what it was like in the hospital, I won’t bother with words. I will simply point to this perfume and say, “It felt like this smells.” Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman is quiet and eerie. Its sharp, grassy notes murmur through the perfume like a stream of water. It’s quite spicy, but has none of the sweeter, comforting spices typical of the genre. Ormonde Woman reminds me of Hamlet’s Ophelia, an exquisite, fragile creature on the verge of madness. I never once lost my sanity. I was very lucky. Others were not. I knew girls who heard music in silent rooms. Ormonde Woman is a beautiful perfume, but you would be a fool not to notice the danger lurking behind its beauty. I find it terrifying.
I wrote a short story called “The Meyer 4 Welcoming Committee” a few months after being released from the hospital. If you don’t mind, I’d like to share some parts of it with you.
Meyer 4 wakes up at 6 AM. Your alarm clock is the scent of latex and powder as the nurse’s gloved hand probes your arm for a good vein and the burn of blood being drawn when she finds one. Some of the nurses try to soothe with a “good job, honey” or “that’s right, sweetie.” Most do not. You’re lucky. New girls get Monica. They say she used to work for a record company. Ask her to tell you that story about Kanye West. Still light-headed from the blood sample, you join the line of gaunt girls waiting to be weighed. The sicker girls leave the top of their hospital gowns untied, defiantly flaunting their bones. If you’re stuck behind them, try not to stare. That’s exactly what they’re hoping for.
If you’re ready to be here, it’s not too bad. The girls who aren’t ready, it means nothing to them. You see Julia over there? The real pretty one? She just got out of some place in Arizona. Five months, $250,000. Insurance wouldn’t cover it. Her grandparents had to pay for the whole thing. You know how long she lasted before they had to send her here? A week. The five months, all that money- as hard as she tries, it means nothing to her. Such a sweet girl, too. It’s a real shame.
Watch out for Lisa. She steals food. None of the nurses expect a 60 year-old woman to be stealing peanut butter, so she never gets caught. Last I heard she was selling it, too. Some people will do anything to hold onto the sickness. You know what I mean? It’s like that movie my kids love, with all the hobbits and the rings and shit. There’s that Gollum guy, right? He used to be Smeagol, before the ring makes him into a monster. You can still catch glimpses of Smeagol every so often, but for the most part, the original owner has vacated the premises.
It’s just like that. When anorexia gets through with a girl, she’s not Julia or Lisa anymore. You know, I met Julia’s mom just a few weeks ago. Really sweet lady. She told me that Julia used to have the most gorgeous singing voice. Who knows? She can’t sing for shit anymore. A few years of throwing up eight times a day will do that to you.
But you’re not one of those, right? You’re here to get better. You’ll be just fine.
32 thoughts on “Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman”
This was an intense read. My dearest friend suffered from anorexia during her teens and still struggles with relapses from time to time. I’ve probably made apparent through my tweets that I suffer from body dysmorphia, something that’s only become worse the older I get. I cannot imagine what anorexia nervosa does to a person.
The more I learn about you the more I admire you.
Thank you for your terribly generous words. I wish the best of luck to your friend. It can be very hard for women who continue to struggle with eating disorders past their teens. There is a certain expectation of “Aren’t you supposed to be over this by now?” But truthfully, there were only two other girls anywhere near my age group during my time at Hopkins. The vast majority of the women being treated were above 30 and had children.
My god. I bow to the experience you carry in your very cells. That you are able to entrust it to words, and offer it to us in this powerful way…. Thank you.
Tiare is the only OJ fragrance I have tried, and it also struck me with a glancing blow of oddness, something disturbing hidden within the beauty. After reading your perception of OJ Woman, I wonder if I would have the wherewithal to approach this line without a great deal of mental preparation.
And I bow to your experience with meningioma. I have not tried Tiare, and doubt that I will try too many other Ormonde Jaynes due to the prohibitive cost of their sample pack!
Having been in a VERY similar situation (but not divulging too much because I’m a chicken)….in regards to being ready deal with the issue but not the treatment: I remember my first thought being, “what part of this is supposed to make me feel better?”
You could not be further away from a chicken if you were one of those “eat mor chikn” Chick-fil-A cows. There is no right or wrong way to go about disclosing this sort of thing. I decided to because I felt that I had been dancing around it. I hope that you are now doing better.
I think what I said might have come out wrong…. Sorry if it did.
Oh, Ari… I’m so sorry to hear that you suffered 😦 … it must be hard to struggle of anorexia.
Thanks for the efforts you’ve put in writing this, and for sharing… I know from some people, that it’s so psychologically hard…
Thankfully I’ve never suffered from eating disorders.
On the other hand, I know what you mean with “to notice the danger lurking behind its beauty. I find it terrifying”. I know what you are talking about … I have my own ‘scary’ smells and scents and fears, too… Even when you can find ‘beauty’ in them, still you are scared of the unease, discomforting sensations.
It’s so fucking curious… I still don’t know any of the OJ’s and to be honest -I don’t know why!- I’ve always felt a certain FEAR from ordering samples (?¿!)… and I’ve always figured the ‘Ormonde Woman’ strangely uncomfortable in my mind… Not strange I never wanted to try it.
Thank you very much, Gemma. It was pretty brutal, especially towards the end. But I am happy and relieved to report that I have maintained my recovery since the day I was released, which is now a little over a year ago!
I find perfumes with the “dangerous” vibe very interesting, but I would never wear them myself. I do not like to be reminded of feeling troubled. But I will say that I think this is an excellent perfume (if I had remembered the damn Harajukus, I would have given it a 4 or a 5) and I suspect that the whole OJ line is well worth trying!
Ormonde Woman I expected to be unsettling and eerie and foresty, but instead I found it all sweet, sweet amber. Which made me sad.
I heart you, Ari. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. My sister has bipolar disorder and struggled with bulimia for several years (treating the bipolar had positive effects on her body image). I hope you knew already that you would find support here with your readers, who are all amazed with your Total Awesomeness.
Oh, that would be such a disappointment! In that case, I really think you should try the Lush “Smell of Weather Turning”. It’s distinctly foresty. Do you have a Lush near you? I would be happy to send you my sample!
I am so happy to hear that your sister has gotten better. It is so hard to watch a loved one suffer, and the dynamics become especially strange when it is a family member. One of the girls being treated at the same time as me (“Julia” in the above piece) had a fraternal twin who often came to visit, and I could tell that it was very hard for her sister to be the “normal” twin. I am extremely relieved and thankful for everyone’s support!
I have been wanting to get an OJ sample pack… we’ll see. You’re not really selling me on OJ Woman.
Thanks for sharing. I really appreciate it; I actually most enjoy perfume reviews that give you some idea of the “who” that is spraying the perfume.
Oh God! I’m sorry! For what it’s worth, I think OJ Woman is a very impressive perfume. It is not remotely derivative, and I have never smelled anything like it.
This post was moving and so beautifully written!
AN is a terrible disorder to overcome, I have been working with young girls with AN earlier and it’s one of the more difficult things I’ve done, very rewarding though when I saw them get better and happy again.
OJ Woman is eerie and foresty to me, but I like it very much.
Thank you so much, Eva. You are doing godly work. I imagine that it must be even more difficult to deal with eating disorders in young patients, as I encountered women up to 75 years old who were still not ready to let go of their sickness.
Your power is awe-inspiring. I have only sampled this once, and was blown away. I take your story with me to test it the next time with new eyes (nostrils?). Thank you.
Thank you for your incredibly gracious words, Jen. I hope that your next encounter with Ormonde Woman is just as thrilling!
What a moving post, I’m so sorry to hear of your experience with anorexia. I think it’s incredibly brave to share it with the world like this and I hope it’s an inspiration to anyone who reads and is suffering. You’re an amazing woman!
Stef, I can’t thank you enough for your wonderful words. In a way, I am not particularly sorry for my time spent with anorexia. It taught me definitively that it is impossible to starve yourself into someone else (someone better and prettier), which is a lesson that many people unfortunately never learn.
About this post: thank you for writing, and hugs.
About this perfume: I don’t know why I don’t find OJ Woman at all creepy. For me, it feels natural, easy to wear, very me. Perhaps *I’m* creepy! 😉
I’ve always had a soft spot for creepers! 😉 I think it comes from having watched too much Scooby Doo as a kid.
Love the thought of Natalie as “creepy” – not!
Very haunting read, and power to your elbow for battling through this, as some people don’t stay in recovery mode.
I had a mild “episode” of anorexia also when I was 19, which was a knee jerk response to my dad calling me fat one day. I promptly went on the Canadian fighter pilot’s diet and lost 24lb in a month and a half. What cured me was a friend (whom I really looked up to) saying I had gone too far, and the sight of my bones was not pretty – suddenly a switch flicked in my mind and I was able to befriend food slowly again. It only lasted a short time and was nowhere near as serious as your experience (I only ever saw a doctor about it), but I remember how severely I deprived myself over that time – it was as though I had been taken over by aliens – or alien thought processs anyway.
I am another person who finds Woman eerie and foresty – and your analogy with Ophelia is a good one. I think I called it “Blair Witchy” after the film, by which I also meant eerie and foresty! : – )
Vanessa, thank you so much for sharing your experience with all of us. Yours is a story of hope! Thank God for your wonderful friend. I had a wonderful friend say something like that to me too, but unfortunately it only convinced me that I was on the right track. Brain takeover by aliens is the perfect way to describe it. You literally become something else, and after 7 years, I could not stand who I was becoming anymore.
By the way, I have seen your high school pictures on Facebook, and fat was the furthest thing from what you were!
Aha – there aren’t any pics from high school on Facebook – those were later at uni and beyond. But though there are no photos left from that time I wouldn’t call the size I was fat – a bit plump at worst ie it was still largely the alien voices speaking…
Thanks for sharing a bit of a very personal past.
I might be with Mals on OJ Woman — what? green and foresty? Seems sweet and soft and oily./ambery to me. I have just tried it couple of days ago for the first time 🙂
Damn! I definitely got the sweet, oily/ambery vibe with a different OJ fragrance, Tolu. I would be much more comfortable with OJ Woman if it was just a sweet amber, as I own many of those!
I’m not sure what to say. I have been fortunate enough to not have suffered through anorexia, so I cannot really understand what you went through, however, I do want to tell you that I admire you greatly for your strength in being able to overcome the difficulties in your life and emerge such a kind, funny, intelligent person. I am very sorry for the pain that you’ve been through, and am sending you a virtual hug. (I also am very curious to try Ormonde woman— ophelia in perfume sounds interesting).
Selina, I am so grateful for your virtual hug and your generous words. I do not really expect people without eating disorders to understand anorexia, and I am actually glad that you don’t- I wouldn’t wish the mindset required to understand eating disorders on anyone.
Thank you especially for your description of me. One of the biggest factors in my decision to treat my eating disorder was that I wanted to be an interesting person again. When I was so hungry that I could barely remember how to speak, I was mind-bogglingly dull.
Wow, Ari, you blow me away. Thanks for opening up and trusting us with such a personal battle. I’m so pleased to hear that your recovery continued after leaving hospital. That is such an amazing short story. I hope you share more with us.
I know what you mean about Ormonde Woman, I can’t cope with the witchy-ness either. Ever since I had a serious bout of depression I can’t cope with anything remotely spooky, upsetting or even challenging in film, music or perfume. This is a real shame because a lot of the good stuff is challenging (like OJ Woman) but maybe that will turn around one day. I just NEVER want to go back there.
Very best wishes for your continuted good health, dear Ari!
Tara, I can’t thank you enough for your good wishes and your gracious words. I do the very same thing that you do: I watch comedies pretty much exclusively and avoid sad books or movies. Life is hard enough. I am so sorry to hear about your depression and so relieved to know you are doing better now. The Hopkins eating disorder program was in the same ward as the affective disorders program, so I met many people with depression, some so severe that they received electroshock therapy a few times a week. It was very hard to watch them. They were in so much pain that they begged for death every minute of every day. They would be a little better, if disoriented, after the electroshock therapy, but all of the progress would be gone the next day.
I rarely leave comments and almost never on blogs that I just happened upon for the first time but your post resonated so deeply with me that I just had to. I came here through a search for reviews on Woman (which I have worn as a signature scent for the past year) and could not have described it better than how you have, particularly since I went through a very similar experience with ED. Frame of reference is everything. It’s still strange to me how much a fragrance can capture who we are, how it can so delicately and intricately tell our story and all its complicated/contradictory/ambivalent nuances. Whenever I wear Woman, I feel both ends of the spectrum of actually being one – all the good and bad, the past and present, the sadness and the joy, the tragedy and triumph – all condensed into a quiet fog that follows me around throughout the day, reaffirming to me just who I am but perhaps more significantly, reassuring me that the latter is actually rather great (or valuable/worthwhile/etc)…
Dear a, I’m so glad you decided to comment. OJ Woman is a very special fragrance, and it makes me happy to hear that it does what it does for you.