When I was 17, my friend seduced my boyfriend, Victor, with her charm and her L’Air du Temps. Inspired by the power of perfume, I made L’Air du Temps my scent too. But, alas, Victor was never to be mine.

The years passed. Love and fragrances came and went: Joy, Obsession and Eternity were names indelibly linked to phases of life and men. Recently, having finished a bottle of Acqua Classica Borsari di Parma, I was without a scent—and worried. What if Coco Chanel was right when she said that a woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future?

Then a woman came into the office wearing a distinctive fragrance that had me asking “What on earth is that?” It turned out to be Molecule 01 by Escentric Molecules, which she had received as a gift in the United Kingdom. I felt compelled to track it down and discovered that Molecule 01 contains a chemical, Iso E Super, that is promised to be “less of an aroma than an effect…the wearer will notice the impact it has on other people.” Apparently Madonna and Kate Moss are fans; some claim that it makes you irresistible to the opposite sex. From one website: “Every man, woman and child within a five-mile radius will want to know your secret.” (Oh, dear.) PR hype or for real? All I knew was that I had to have it.

That’s when I learned of the elusiveness of Molecule 01. I couldn’t find a retailer in Canada; I was about to have Harvey Nichols ship it from the United Kingdom when I found luckyscent.com, which offers $3 samples. Should I spring for a bottle ($135)? Dateless for ages, could I afford not to?

Ten days later, the sample arrived. A few drops on my wrist and—nothing! No scent at all. Odd. Moments later…yes, that’s it! But what was it? Pine? Leather? A vodka martini? “What does this smell like?” I asked a friend. “Musk,” she said. “Or maybe patchouli.”

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“Like a forest of cedar trees,” suggested another. “In a good way.”

I’m not the woodsy type. Nevertheless, I spent the afternoon periodically sniffing my wrist, wondering if it’s possible to be attracted to oneself.

The next day I headed out, eagerly anticipating the consequences of being irresistible. In an elevator, a man started a conversation, which is rare these days. At a store, a man lingered to chat. Wow, they should bottle this—oh, right. A day later, in a bookstore, five people swarmed me. “They’re publishers,” I thought to myself. “Here’s a book idea: An intriguing fragrance changes a woman’s life. Think of the film potential!”

Would more magic happen? Yes, indeed—a disappearing act. Often I couldn’t detect Molecule 01 at all.

The weeks passed. No admirers followed me home. No strangers started conversations. Just emails from luckyscent.com, urging me to try L’Eau Serge Lutens.

My sample was running out, and it was decision time. I did like it, when I could smell it, but not enough to commit to a bottle. “No wonder I’ve never been married,” I thought, and ordered a sample of Serge Lutens.

I also thought about how fragrances are like lovers: You desire them like mad, and then, after a while, you tire of them and crave something new. Then there was Molecule 01. I could never count on it to be there when I wanted it to be. Just like some men in my life.

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