Friday, November 30, 2012

Joy and I have finally made amends...

I was captivated by the image of Joy in my mind. After dreaming wistfully about her for years, I finally decided that it was high time to invite her into my home. I made the call, and a week or so later, on a crisp, cool fall day, she arrived at my place. I must say that I was tantalized by the glamorous demeanor before my eyes. Such a stunning package she presented, seeming to be everything I had hoped for.

No, I cannot deny that upon our initial encounter, Joy seemed quite accurately to reflect the picture which had been painted for me by others over the course of most my life. Yes, as I gazed at her amidst all of her trappings, she seemed to me truly to be the dearest in the world, as I had heard so many claim.... The epitome of refinement and class, she stood there before me in her gold jewelry and haute couture wrappings—I felt happy and frankly honored to have made her acquaintance at last.

But then it happened: Joy took off her coat, removed her cap, plopped down on the sofa as though she owned the place and propped up her mud-covered, dung-encrusted, four-inch chunky heels on the coffee table. Then, to my surprise and dismay, she opened her mouth and started to chat. She swore like a sailor, loud and brash. What was worse: she seemed to be talking for the sake of hearing her own voice, oblivious to the effect of the volume on anyone who might be present to hear, including me, her gracious host.

Tolerance has always been one of my virtues—which is not to boast, but to state a fact—yet I felt that my patience was being tested by the presence of this larger-than-life personality who managed somehow to cast a shadow down upon the ground in all directions at once. What to do?

Well, as I always say: when life gives you iso-E-super, why not make niche perfume? After all, you can pour it into attractive bottles and sell it at 10,000% profit—all that it takes is a “creative director” wand and a hat!

So, yes, I figured that I'd simply try to make the best of the situation, look at it as yet another opportunity for anthropological reflection on what we have become. How long, after all, could this stare-down with Joy really last?

I began to take note of her mannerisms and compare them to people in my past whose images were evoked by her, as if she and they were linked together metaphysically across space and time—among other more arcane dimensions. This little game, like counting tiles on the ceiling while reclining in a dentist's chair, did distract me for a while, but my plan was abruptly disrupted when two strange men suddenly showed up at my door.

At first I was taken aback—who could these strangers be? But then I saw their manner of dress, dirty jeans and sweatshirts, hammer and wrench-laden tool belts weighting their already low-rise pants down even further to the point where I found myself mumbling yet again that so-oft recited rhetorical refrain: Why bother? Why not just go out in your underwear, guys?

Suddenly it dawned on me who they were. Yes, coincidentally, on the very same day as Joy's arrival, I had scheduled the delivery and set-up of my new Samsung large-screen HDTV. There was no getting around this engagement, so I steeled myself as best I could, opening the door with a smile and gesturing them inside after first glancing at their work boots to make sure that they would not be tracking in any moribund leavesor mud or dung.

I immediately registered the consternation caused to these two young men by the presence of Joy. Their faces seemed puzzled, a bit taken aback, not sure exactly how to react. They hoisted my television to its proper place and set it up, verifying that it worked in what must have been record time, and then they bustled to the door and went promptly on their way, plumber's cracks in tow, no doubt glad, even relieved, to have escaped Joy's wrath. Or was it, rather, that they feared some sort of trap? A snare of seduction, perhaps?

As far as they could see, there was no one there but me, so were they then wary of me rather than her, whom they had no reason to think might be lurking just below threshold visibility? From their perspective, if Joy did not even exist, as far as they could see, then I and I alone was the cause of what they perceived. Had I, indeed, not laid the trap for them?

Yes, if it was true, as it seemed to be—I had gathered from the looks in their eyes that they were quite anxious to leave—then this was because they believed that I, and I alone, was implicated in the clever scheme. They had no idea that she was there, in my house, invited by me, and let loose to vent her vapors upon them. Was I not, then, ultimately the cause of their unwitting encounter with Joy? Was I not, then, as far they were concerned, numerically identical with Joy?

What, precisely, did that eccentric woman have in mind? they seemed to be musing to themselves as they hurried out of the house and back to their truck, peeling out so rapidly that they burned tire rubber in the process. The noxious stench of black smoke now the only trace left behind, in the blink of an eye, the deliverymen were nowhere in sight, having disappeared forever from the narrative of my life.

Even now, years later, I do not know the content of the ideas circulating about those men's minds on that fated Joy-ful day. I caught their sideways glances to one another and have often wondered what it was precisely that they thought. Had they stumbled upon yet another hoarding cat lady's home, filled with the scent of used litter and hidden infelicities on rugs under sofas, chairs and, yes, even beds? They had been given no reason to believe that the problem had anything to do with Joy at all. The only person whose presence they registered was mine. I was the only one whom they could see.

Perhaps they considered me to be like the woman in her exercise studio accidentally killed by Alex in A Clockwork Orange while trespassing, thus transforming a trivial into a capital crime. It's true that they were younger than me, and the more I thought about this little theory, the more plausible it began to seem.

In my more epistemologically humble moments, I recognize that the answers to these questions I'll never know. The only thing I have to go on is my memory of the looks that passed between the two stocky fellows—padded with both muscle and fat—who had seemed to be so taken aback, to say the least, by this unexpected encounter with what they could not have known was really Joy.

Had I violated norms of acceptable behavior by inviting Joy into my home and permitting her to stay, effectively giving her license to take over the space, leaving traces of her blood-red lipstick on my glasses, clods of dirt on the floor, and a filthy bathroom to boot? My vexed visitors were long gone, but now, having in exasperation altogether abandoned my pretensions to armchair anthropology, I came to the realization that Joy's visit would have to be curtailed, before anyone stopped by to spend time with me or dropped by under whatever other pretext.

In my defense, I must say that I did try for a short time to come up with a way to make it work, but eventually I detected the scent of the rotting carrion of a dead mouse in the kitchen, at which point I had no further choice. I pulled myself together, mustered up the courage and showed her the door. Yes, I threw her out.

It wasn't that she violated the four-day house guest rule, smelling like old fish forgotten in the fridge and unable to recognize that she did. No, the sad truth is that she had become habituated to her own odor, what was from day one an off-putting amalgamation of dirty underwear, sweaty stockings, and old crusty make-up applied from tubes acquired decades ago. She seemed even to be carrying a huge corsage of dead flowers in her bag—no doubt from a jilted lover in her checkered past.

To my amazement, Joy managed to produce a roomful of smells strong enough to offend even some vintage perfume lovers. Yes, I'm talking about those who revel in the scent of sour, dead floral top notes and wait patiently—dare I say it? religiously—for the ecstatic moment hiding somewhere amidst the gooey, gummy drydown.

Joy was just too much for everyone who came in contact with us—albeit unbeknownst to them. Enough was enough, I read her the riot act, packed up her bags and placed them outside on the curb. On the off chance that she had stolen one of my keys, I even called a locksmith to change all the bolts, and, yes, cruel though it may seem, I scrupulously avoided answering her calls for years.

With time, my memory of Joy's visit, as of all negative experiences, slowly faded. No longer did she appear in my mind as a haughty, bawdy harridan, a veritable hurricane wiping everything and everyone out in her path. Now, with the benefit of distance and the smell long gone, I began to wonder, whether I had done her wrong in throwing her out. Did I base that decision on my own hyperosmia of what only to me seemed to have been her nauseating concoction of scents?

I knew from my testing of perfumes such as Frédéric Malle Musc Ravageur, that I was certainly not anosmic to musk, but was I perhaps a bit too sensitive, too touchy to the scent of Joy—what would perhaps be truly enjoyable to precisely the sort of person who revels in Musc Ravageur (to say nothing of Serge Lutens Musc Koublai Khan...).

So, yes, I had second thoughts about the whole affair, wondering whether I had blamed her when in fact I was at fault. As the wheels whirred, my thoughts began to multiply, ultimately culminating in pangs of compunction, until I could no longer sleep well at night. I had invited so many other new friends into my home, and none of them had offended me in the way in which Joy had, and yet somehow I sensed that what I had done was wrong.

No, I could not stop myself from agonizing over and over again about who was ultimately responsible for the debacle that her visit had become. Was I not in fact the sole author of this clash? Could she really be blamed for my wishing that she was other than who she was? When I looked at Joy, did I want nothing more than to see a reflection of me?

From there, I began to wonder whether I was not attempting, like the tyrants of the past, present, and future, to create the world in my image. Should it really be peopled only with people like me? Anxiety was now commingling with my long incubated dread of hypocrisy as I lashed out at myself, crying to no one but the walls and God (or reasonable facsimile): No, No, No! How preposterous could something be?!

To calm my frazzled nerves, I prepared a white porcelain cup of sencha tea, foregoing my usual afternoon mug of coffee. I stared into the citrine-peridot green liquid in search of an answer, and at last it emerged, as usual, in the form of a series of questions:

Did I not need to be a bit more open to lifestyles and personalities—and scents—very different from my own? Was I attempting to impose my own values upon the world, excluding anything which deviated from my parochial notion of what is good and fine? Did I not need to expand my horizons, look beyond the little pond in which I lived, like a goldfish bumping up against the edge of an aquarium while resolutely denying the reality of anything beyond the glass?

I concluded, at last, that it was time to invite Joy back, to see if it was not too late for some form of reconciliation and damage control. I must confess that I feared, on some level, a reprisal of what had happened before. To preclude such an unpleasant possibility, I determined that this time we should meet at a secure, undisclosed place, where no one who knew us would see—or smell—us together.

This rendezvous, up until now, was our little secret: only Joy and I knew. In some sense, I freely own, the trial was therefore risk-free. Nonetheless, deeply relieved at the outcome of this tale, I here openly avow that Joy did in fact accept my apology, and we have agreed to disagree about our differences, mutually respecting our divergent perspectives on the world.

I share my little story now with you, O Gently Scented Reader, in the hopes that you, too, will learn from my mistakes. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Is that Sephora I espy, off in the distance?


Friday, November 16, 2012

What happens at IFF doesn't always stay at IFF: Gottlieb and Grojsman face off

Of Vats and Vaults, Toilets, Truffles and Top notes

As a part of my admittedly quixotic quest for olfactory omniscience, I have made it my mission to watch every single film with any perfume or scent reference. (Please leave comments with any suggestions you may have!) Using perfume as a search term in my library's database, I recently happened upon an obscure PBS Nova miniseries episode produced back in 1995. The Mystery of the Senses: Smell is not a feature-length film but a 56-minute educational video intended for people like me who are interested in learning about scent.

Even knowing all of this, I must confess that I found my thumb hovering threateningly over the eject button of my DVD player's remote control as I watched and listened to the cringe-worthy opening of this production. The text is narrated by Diane Ackerman, author of The Natural History of the Senses, in a truly annoying tone befitting of a junior high school biology teacher. For your pleasure, I provide the text and a few images from the opening scene:

We're about to embark on a journey through the world of smell. And we're going to start at the Statue of Liberty, of all places, where a real smell-celebration is in full swing.

The fireworks are for Champagne, a new Yves Saint Laurent perfume.

This is Champagne's gala coming out party—the perfume, not the drink.

It's amazing how much sensing happens at a snazzy shindig in the dark. There's lots of conversations to hear, and sights to see, and there's plenty of tasting ... to work off. There's touch.

This is a fabulous party, 
and all for the sake of a smell!

That should suffice. You always know that what you're watching is really lame when your eyes shunt back and forth between the minute counter clock on the DVD player and the screen. Nonetheless, I decided to stick it out. How bad could it really be? I asked myself as I calculated the remaining 53 minutes left to endure. In the end, I was very happy to have invested just under an hour of my life to learn what I learned from this film.

It wasn't watching male cockroaches attempt to copulate with a rod just dipped in female cockroach hormones which redeemed The Mystery of the Senses: Smell. (Sorry: no screen shots, as I have a deep fear and loathing of insects and also prefer not to draw entomologist traffic to this site. Porn enthusiasts already flock here in search of “group orgy”, “prostitutes”, and the like. Believe it or not, such search terms bring more new visitors to the salon de parfum than even “Luca Turin divorce”!)

Nor was I especially smitten with the smart scene where Ms. Ackerman, in her bright red dress and facial foundation two shades too light, sashays into a steam room and does a quick twirl toward the camera amidst several hairy-chested, virile-looking, towel-clad men to proclaim, after drawing a deep breath through her nostrils: 

It really does smell good in here!

Nor was I particularly impressed by the scuba diving clip in which Ms. Ackerman dodges sharks while she explains, with increasingly irritating and inappropriate voice inflections (anyone who has ever listened to AM radio knows what I am talking about...) in a didactic and corny narration along the lines of the above, that undersea creatures such as the lobster which she brings up to eat for lunch are capable of navigating their course underwater by following scent trails.

I felt that the segment on drug-sniffing dogs working for the Feds at an airport and a shipping dock could have been edited out without loss since on the day of the filming the dogs found nothing, making it all seem rather anti-climactic, especially given the suspenseful musical score playing in the background.

An olfactory scientist's ability to literally wave his nose back and forth over the opening of a Chanel no 5 perfume bottle was, I own, mildly amusing. He apparently has extra muscles in his nose or has somehow trained it to move as though it had joints!

I confess, too, to having enjoyed the repeated and graphic demonstrations that skin chemistry is very important to scent perception. 

A brief segment on olfaction instructs viewers as to the process by which we recognize scents: it's a matter of molecular shapes inserting themselves like keys into receptor “locks”.

I enjoyed traveling with a Bedouin-like man by camel over desert terrain to find gnarled trees in which frankincense is hidden. 

He harvests some of the blobs of this resin and then returns home to negotiate a price with a big frankincense dealer. 

This segment was truly educational to me, as I did not formerly know that frankincense was a resin tapped from trees like sap. 

A short excursion to Oman, the true source of the current oud fad  (pace Pierre/William/Ammar) is equally rewarding.

But the undeniable highlights of this film are three. First, the segment featuring a perky little sow on the hunt for truffles, which—I had no idea before this viewing—are sought because they happen to bear the scent of boar musk within them!

Yes, believe it or not, female pigs burrow into the ground to dig out truffles because they believe themselves to be finding a mate! What a revelation. I honestly had no idea. 

A friendly French farmer preparing a truffle omelette slyly confides with slanted eyes that truffles have aphrodisiac effects upon human beings as well!  Ooh, là, là!

All of this excitement and talk of pheromones naturally got me thinking about the possibly biological basis of the age-old “Cats or Dogs” dichotomy. Perhaps it really does come down, in the end, to pheromone receptors! The people who dislike cats often love dogs, and vice versa. Some people, of course, go both ways.

The second big eyeopener of this little film involved a visit to a factory where fragrances are produced. I have often referred to “vat-produced chemical soup” in my negative reviews of what I find to be unwearable fragrances (not worthy of the name perfume...), and in The Mystery of the Senses: Smell, all of my suspicions were confirmed about the various kinds of errors which may arise when factory workers mix together perfumes in large vats.

Ever wonder about batch variations? The nearly infinite possibilities for mistakes are revealed in a few snapshots of the inside of one of the places where fragrances are produced in bulk volumes. All it would take would be one tiny error: a mix-up on the tank, the spigot number, the measurement line for the proper amount to add, a distracting cellphone call, a foreman's illegible scrawl...

After this incredibly insightful look at the inside of one of these fragrance factories, I realized that it's very nearly a miracle that any two different batches ever smell anything alike! 

Small wonder that big perfume houses feel that they can reformulate with impunity. Mistakes are and can only be made! Oh well.

The third, and by far most important part of this educational film, for perfumistas, is the rare glimpse which it offers into the behind-the-scenes workings at International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF). 

Viewers are treated to such exquisite sights as a perfumer and his manager arguing animatedly over a toilet about whether a new cleaning scent contains too much pine—and (because the manager thinks that it does) what to do about it.

Again, a perfumer and his supervisor hover over a freshly shampooed head, which, they come to agree, smells too sophisticated, too floral, and needs more fruit to be able to appeal to younger consumers! 

So there you have it, my fragrant friends: the ultimate source of the fruity-floral tsunami of fragrances being put out today. These supervisors and managers working behind the scenes at IFF—and elsewhere, I presume—are requiring perfumers to modify their creations to fit prior shared conceptions of what toilets and young women should smell like!

La crème de la crème of The Mystery of the Senses: Smell is without question the portion devoted to perfumer Sophia Grojsman as she struggles to compose a perfume which will please fellow perfumer Ann Gottlieb who, rather than working as a perfumer, wears the client's hat, as she is representing the company for whom Grojsman has been enlisted to produce the perfume on behalf of IFF.

Grojsman expresses manifest frustration at having been asked by her employer to produce a men's fragrance, given that she specializes in women's floral accords. She also complains at one point that the powers that be at IFF have decided that she works better under pressure, so now they all “step on my neck”!

That what Grojsman says is indeed true becomes clear in the scene in which she and Gottlieb face off over Grojsman's fragrance submission. Gottlieb has the power in this relationship, representing as she does the company who will have the final say on whether Grojsman's new composition will be launched as a perfume. 

Gottlieb complains that Grojsman's fragrance needs a fresher top note, and she provides a liquid example of what, as she puts it, “we'd like to see built into your submission.”

All of this takes place on Friday afternoon. The group comprises representatives from both sides: the client, led by Gottlieb; and IFF, with Sophia Grojsman as the target of criticism for having produced a perfume (gasp!) unacceptable to Gottlieb! The group decides to reconvene to evaluate Grojsman's modified submission on Monday afternoon at 2pm. The Friday meeting is thus adjourned and, from there, presumably all of the bureaucrats and Tzar Gottlieb go home to enjoy the weekend. 

Meanwhile, Grojsman toils away nonstop in her laboratory, assistants by her side, attempting to produce Gottlieb's desired fragrance by the looming deadline.

Grojsman's weekend struggle is ultimately for naught, as the fragrance is rejected and the formula relegated to the vault of perfumes composed but never launched, an official failure. Why? 

Because the client rejected what Grojsman produced for having failed to be what the client wanted it to be.


In The Mystery of the Senses: Smell, Gottlieb comes off looking like something of a villain, towering over Grojsman and browbeating her into producing what Gottlieb wishes to smell. Given this derogatory depiction, I feel obliged to observe here that I myself am in fact a fan of perfumer Ann Gottlieb, who was the nose behind two quite original creations: Sarah Jessica Parker Covet, a bizarre lavender-chocolate fougère, and Calvin Klein Contradiction, an oddly indescribable and equally appealing eucalyptus-fruity-oriental perfume. 

Both of these compositions are admired and even loved by me and, perhaps precisely for their sheer eccentricity, both have been discontinued. Gottlieb created these innovative and challenging perfumes and obviously had the gumption to stand up to her clients. Covet and Contradiction, albeit now discontinued, were in fact launched. Alas, these perfumes fell prey to the tyranny of the market, to whom the companies which produced them are beholden. Businesses, lest anyone forget, are intrinsically profit-seeking entities.

In the scene in which Gottlieb appears in The Mystery of the Senses: Smell, she is the boss, exerting near tyrannical power over Grojsman, whom many, however, regard as a better perfumer. Certainly, Grojsman's résumé boasts far more success stories: Estée Lauder White Linen and Beautiful, Calvin Klein Eternity, Yves Saint Laurent Paris and Yvresse (originally launched as Champagne, the perfume being celebrated at the opening of this production), Lancôme Trésor, Bvlgari Bvlgari pour Femme. The list of Sophia Grojsman-designed bestselling perfumes literally goes on and on and on...

I must reiterate that the face-off between Gottlieb and Grojsman presented in this video was very surprising to me, as I have always regarded Sophia Grojsman as the perfume artist par excellence, if any perfumer is an artist at all. That is, in effect, the question pointedly raised by The Mystery of the Senses: Smell, and it makes the short film well worth any perfumista's time to see the reality of what perfumers are doing when they agree to work for clients who have the final say on whether a new creation makes the grade, deserves to be launched and therefore exist.

The fact that Ann Gottlieb, a considerably less well-known and less well-regarded perfumer than Sophia Grojsman should be able to issue a fate-sealing judgment on one of Grojsman's creations constitutes a serious reality check for those who persist in insisting that perfumery is an art. Watch this film, please, if you can find a copy somewhere—anywhere—and then ask yourself whether the kind of pressure under which Grojsman is placed, forced to modify her creative output to reflect the values of other people—and ultimately to please their, not her tastes—can properly be considered artistic creation. To me, this little film provides an iron-clad, definitive proof of what Bryan Ross over at From Pyrgos has been saying all along:

Client-commissioned perfumery is design.

What all of the perfumers at IFF are doing—whether they work in the toilet bowl cleaner area or around the shampoo sinks or in an elaborate workshop such as Sophia Grojsman's, where iconic perfumes are born—is the same. Yes, scents for toilet bowl cleaners and shampoos are created in the same way, with negotiations and concessions being made by clients and contracted perfumers. Should we say, then, that all of the perfumers working at IFF are artists?

One thing is clear: if the word artist is to mean anything, then it must delineate a contrast class. The question becomes: who are the non-artists among all perfumers? If, as Chandler Burr ("The Curator") suggested in an interview for a piece at the Daily Beast regarding his new "olfactory art" exhibit (at the Museum of Arts and Design), even the person who created the scent for Coppertone suntan lotion is an artist, then it starts to sound as though anyone who produces new scents is automatically an artist. In the case of this naïve—or ignorant, if you like—use of artist as an emotive form of approbation, the term simply refers to anyone who produces something which we appreciate. What many in the "perfumery is art" camp fail to grasp is that the question of whether perfumery is art is not a question about whether perfume is a good or worthy thing. It is, rather, a conceptual question.

If every perfumer is an artist, then why not every chef and gardener and wine producer? Are candle and soap makers and bakers also artists in this sense? Well, then why not everyone else who does anything else we value, too? Why not farmers, civil engineers, school teachers, and heads of state? All of these people apply their intellect to generate creative solutions and reach certain goals: crop rotation, irrigation systems, interdisciplinary classroom curricula, five-year plans. Are these all supposed to be artworks, too?

We should not blind ourselves to the implications of this sort of promiscuous application of the term artist to everyone and his mother, brother, sister, father, cousin, niece and nephew.... In the end, if everyone is an artist, then no one is an artist. The label has been evacuated of all meaning. Why not, then, simply honor the perfumers who excel at their trade by identifying them as “great”?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Blonde was a Bimbo

Blonde was a bimbo, no one can deny, but she stole many hearts all the same. The moment she entered a room, she'd strut her stuff, swinging left, right, left... swaying just a bit forward on the ball of her feet, and then back on her heels. Her hip bones would jut as she shifted her weight from side to side, sniffing like a supermodel, tell-tale white powder residues lightly dusting the tip of her nose. No one could fail to take note when Blonde arrived: her reputation, as her scent, preceded her by miles.

There were those of course who called her a slut, but what they really begrudged her was that she had left them in a rut, which they themselves had dug, having misconstrued the nature of their short-lived relation and come to believe that she was The One. They fervently clung to the image of their construction, mistaking it for an oasis, a veritable heaven on earth, illuminated by the light which they had finally seen, an unmistakable sign of the divine, a halo seemingly cast by the whites of her eyes! Where silence had reigned, now the sweet song of paradise was being sung by sprites, who had been hiding for so long and somehow sprung up all at once as though beckoned by Blonde—or so it seemed at the time.

Until, that is, the mirage vaporized before them, like drops of water from a sprinkler on a black asphalt street in the blazing heat of a late summer's day. Yes, she left them while they were still reeling, enraptured in the sweet throes of passion, still basking in the warm glow of desire, having discovered—or so they thought—that she was precisely what they had sought all along. At last, their knit-picking rejection of more orthodox, kind kinds—too boring, too plain, too conforming, too small-minded, and probably dumb. Not enough leg or breast, or too much of both, and certainly not good enough for them.

None of this could, in truth, be said of Blonde. Defying stereotypes at every turn, Blonde was as smart as they come. Those who set their sights on her could only aspire to capture this beguiling wonder, unaware that she was really Medusa in disguise.... No, it seemed to them, the wait was over, the search complete. These would-have-been suitors had all been seduced to believe that she, too, thought that they were The One. That somehow, miraculously, the planets had been aligned just right for the very first time, so that the only person whom they had ever found to be worthy of their esteem felt precisely the same way about them, and to the same degree.

One after the other, they began planning in their mind the home which they would fashion of a house, with Blonde by their side, little munchkins and dogs playing outside on the grassy green lawn in the backyard on warm sunny afternoons in a rural area of up-state New York. Manhattan was no place to raise a family, though they'd continue to commute there occasionally to make business connections and perhaps some weekend shopping trips to Dean & Deluca, Henri Bendel, Bloomingdales, and the like.

They imagined Blonde in a lush pink velour bathrobe baking croissants and brewing up mugs of dark-roasted Green Mountain coffee each morning in a kitchen shimmering with shiny silver appliances somehow magically rendered fingerprint-free. Sunlight would stream into the dining room through the shutters and blinds hanging before big bay windows, the whole place most tastefully decorated in purple and teal. There'd be a wine cellar and a sauna; a library and a music room; everything they needed would be right there within reach. As more and more gadgets and things were added to their ever-lengthening acquisitions list, their dreams became filled with ornate details of how what had begun as a romantic tryst would be seamlessly transformed into a model of marital bliss.

Alas, Blonde did not play the monogamy game. No, Blonde, unlike those who chose and chased her, was free. Free to leave, they all learned one way or the other, sooner rather than later. She left them all, one by one, they were serially discarded, like used haute couture dresses worn once for show and then no, not sold or put up for auction: she never deigned to stoop so low. Blonde donated her once-worn clothes—her silk scarves and jewel-encrusted sheaths, dead animal skins with the heads still attached, pairs of crocodile shoes and python bags dyed to match—to this or that charitable cause (presumably not PETA), where naturally the stuff was pilfered by bureaucrats, much like the CEOs of NGOs who drive Mercedes and pose as altruists while the people doing all of the work are volunteers.

Blonde was oblivious to all of this. It wasn't that they fooled her but that she really didn't care. She did not need those discarded things anymore, and what became of them was no matter for her concern. Never one to judge, Blonde was far above the petit bourgeois fray, their endless moralizing chatter, their pathetic excuse for a life. Blonde, unlike them, was not molded by the mercurial forces of capitalism bearing down from all sides. She knew what she wanted and got what she needed and no one would—or could—stand in her way.

Blonde was tough and mean, making her break cold and clean when it came time to leave, never turning back, never offering excuses or explanations, never even saying goodbye, and certainly never suffering compunction or guilt for what she had done. Why? Because she never lied.

Blonde was a bimbo, no one can truly deny. And though she had many critics and naysayers, the deep, dark secret was betrayed by the slight twitch at the corners of their eyes, the quiver of their lip, even as they condemned her in the harshest of terms, the hair raised on their forearms, their inability not to shiver just a bit each time that her memory flittered to the forefront of their mind, a jumbled collection of emotions welling up inside as they attempted yet again to sort out the source of their short-lived relation's demise.

The truth was that they all wanted in their heart of hearts nothing more than to be just like her. She was the image of what they had never become, not for their strength, but because they were weak. They were forever shackled by the manacles which they had created and attached to their wrists precisely in order to protect themselves from their very own beliefs. Trapped in prisons of their own making, after so many years of pandering to please others, their feet were planted to the mud-encrusted floor of dark caves of delusion, having come to believe even the lies which they had devised to fool the others with the paltry aim of achieving the trivial objects of their desire. As time progressed, they became anchored, and then began to sink ever deeper as though into quicksand, their life dwindling away, as their once abundant reserves of energy were steadily, inexorably depleted.

She was free, what they would never be, and though they might grow old and wrinkly and gray, outlasting her by decades, the price they paid for the very scrupulousness of their prudence was the failed promise of what they might have been, what they never became, and all of the things which they wanted to do but never did. Blonde lived fast and furiously and though she is physically now a part of the past, her memory lives on, lingering in the minds of all those fortunate enough to behold one of the few creatures ever to have been totally free, what her detractors and jilted suitors will never be.

Blonde died young, but no one can say that she did not lead a richer, more beautiful life than those who survived to tell tall tales, regaling alleged events said to precede her departure, directing all of their energy and intellect to dismantling her legacy through libel and slander which would have made her scoff and perhaps does as she gazes down haughtily from the heavens, knowing full well the cause of these sorry slobs' ressentiment, and the true reason for all of their lies.

Blonde was a bimbo, no one can deny, but she, unlike the others, chose what she had become and never regretted a single thing that she had done, having lived each day as though it were her last, They, in contrast, saved up small change to buy RVs and ugly condominiums in south Florida, waiting until they were too old to enjoy their remaining time, like all of the wage slaves before them who had squandered the best years of their lives only to sit, bored, playing Bingo and Sudoko, dead skin cells flaking from their decrepit bodies while they waited to die.

An epicurean through and through, Blonde was acutely aware that we're all going to die, which was precisely why she conducted herself in the manner in which she did. She refused to squander her precious time on lost causes, utter nonsense attempting to please others who might or might not appreciate who she was or anything she ever did or tried to do. Blonde lived her life for herself, no one else, like a cat, and that was both the secret to her greatness, and the best explanation for the disparity between who she really was and what her rancorous, regret-ridden survivors now say.