Ode to Deliciously Scented 80’s toys

It’s no secret. Many of us continue to spend obscene amounts of money on scented candles, wax melts, diffusers, you name it. The aromatherapy boom has reached incredible heights – to the point where you can find a bottle of tea tree oil in a gas station convenience store. At least that’s true in the New York/New Jersey area.

I’m sure there is a very interesting science behind the rise and effectiveness of aromatherapy, but you don’t have time to get into all the research and neither do I. Let’s just say, in 2022, we are grasping at whatever sensory input we can find to keep ourselves functioning. We have fidgets. We have slime. We now have those weird looking, multi-color plastic worm things that seem to have taken the place of water snakes.

In the Gen-X universe, doesn’t it seem like we were able to implement sensory stimulation more naturally and efficiently when we were kids? Or did we simply have more of an opportunity to bask in comfort smells, sounds, and textures when we were dirty, stinky, mud and sewer slinging brats?

Don’t get me wrong. I love modern aromatherapy. I’ve given more money to Yankee Candle than I care to admit. I have bottles and more bottles of essential oils piled up in a turkey-sized metal tub. My home typically smells so strongly of incense, you’d think my husband and I were stoners or Wiccans.

But there is something to be said about the scents of our youth that are often forgotten until we see a long lost picture or hear a familiar song. If someone told me I had to give up candles, incense, and essential oils, here are the classic 80’s kid scents I wouldn’t mind bringing back to daily life.

Strawberry Shortcake and Banana Twirl – The majority of the lotions and soaps I own (big Bath & Body Works whore) are either strawberry, vanilla, banana-scented, or a delightful combination of two or three. If I had to pick an origin for this fruity obsession I would have to go back to all the Strawberry Shortcake toys. But my primary comfort scent spirit animals were definitely Shortcake herself and her friend Banana Twirl – yes boys and girls, before we had those cute little banana junkie Minions, we had Banana Twirl. Then we can’t forget the Banancy Doll with her scented muffins and the scented Swatch watches. Actually, I had no idea the scented Swatches existed until about 15 minutes ago! And I’m trying to make myself out to be some sort of 80’s ambassador. Ha, ha!

There are no naturally occurring fragrance oils that last as long as the scent of Strawberry Shortcake. Some of them at age 30 or older still carry that goodness. So perhaps the chemicals used to create those scents could have been called into question by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Nevertheless, in 1977, a greeting card artist by the name of Murial Fahrion showed up to work one day at American Greetings with an idea for a rag doll and the rest is history. There are few 30 or 40-somethings who don’t still get a moment of clarity, sensibility, and whimsy when coming across a Shortcake in a vintage toy shop. Luckily those responsible for bringing her back for the current generation got it right. If she showed up on Target shelves with four eyes, there would have been anarchy. By the way, if you’re looking for body care that closely matches Strawberry’s fragrance – Bath & Body Works Strawberry Poundcake products – smells so good it’s life altering.

Cabbage Patch Kids – They were chubby, yarn-haired, snuggle babies whose creator-autographed butts smelled like baby powder. Personally, being the tomboy I was (now I hate that word), dolls weren’t necessarily my thing. But my parents forked over the dough and powered through the mobs at Toys R’ Us to get me one. Then all I’d really do with the thing was strip it and sniff it. That just sounded wrong on so many levels. Moving on.

Scratch and Sniff Stickers and Sanford Scented Watercolor Markers – With the exception of the black licorice scents that weren’t far off from toe jam mixed with cheap liquor, every scented sticker or marker we received as kids was as euphoric as Donnie Wahlberg’s ass. Luckily, scratch and sniffs and fruity scented markers are alive and well, and I catch myself grabbing some when I stumble upon them in the store. I always say they are for my younger students. They’re really not.

The only thing that sucked about the scented markers is they never lasted long – as with dozens of aspects from our youth. Did we have to give up practicality in favor of sniffing marker tips like Lloyd Bridges sniffing glue in the movie Airplane? We were lucky to get two art projects done with one set of markers.

We can make machines that can develop their own feelings and emotions, but we can’t make a scented marker that lasts more than a day. Who knew?

Oh, and I have a confession to make – those fat, metal, permanent Sharpie markers – I totally took a few whiffs when the teacher told me not to. I guess that explains a lot.

Playdoh – This one is hard to describe because we were never able to pinpoint the reason why Playdoh smelled good enough to eat. And you lie like a damn rug if you claim you never stuck a tiny piece in your mouth.

It was a clean, distinct, uncategorized smell, but for so many of us it was fuel for creativity, solace, and peace. It was and still is the perfect get-your-kids-to-shut-the-hell-up on a rainy day kind of toy.

Playdohs with identifiable scents didn’t come around till much later, and by that time most of us grew out of the magic. But while doing some research for this post, I stumbled upon new scented, adult Playdoh available for purchase.

Get your mind out of the gutter.

Apparently there’s a 90’s themed collection of 6 scented doughs for 14 bucks. I haven’t looked closely enough at what kind of 90’s scents we’re talking about, but I sure hope CK One or over worn flannel is one of them.

There were few 80’s and 90’s smells that weren’t invigorating, joyful, and equal to sitting on the couch on a Saturday morning, wrapped in a blanket, eating a bowl of Fruit Loops and watching cartoons. Today’s aromatherapy may work to some extent, but unfortunately there are still plenty of people mentally lost in the world, trying to figure out their place within it. Maybe we picked the wrong week to stop sniffing Playdoh. Maybe the world needs more Scratch & Sniffs – minus the black licorice.

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