Saturday, September 20, 2014
The Ubiquity of Scent
Difficult to believe though it may be, I now find myself in the position of not being able to wear any perfume--for two entire weeks! I am caring for my mother's beloved shih-tzu while she is away on a cruise with her husband (my step-dad). This seemed like a good thing for me to do. The pup has Cushing's disease and is twelve years old, and my mom was seriously concerned that she might come home to a dead dog if she put her up in a kennel or in a ward at the local veterinary hospital. So here I am.
Deciding which perfumes to wear was a difficult task, as many other perfumistas have reported about similar scenarios in the past. It was a bit less difficult, I suppose, because the bulk of my excessive bottle collection is now hidden snuggly away in a storage space. I have been perfuming myself with a fraction of my collection selected primarily for hot-weather readiness--and of course general wonderfulness. It's actually a good exercise to find out which of one's bottles are really worth holding onto and which could be given away without undue strife. As I made my way through my storage space deciding on my summertime perfume wardrobe, I found myself drawn compulsively to Hermès. Basically every Hermès I saw I wanted to add to the pile to take back to my house. Ditto for the Prada, though that was in part because I own full-on jugs of both Infusion d'Iris and Infusion d'Homme, which are perfect for summertime with their clean yet sophisticated personalities. Same for the other Prada Infusions, all of which I own. (Yeah, I know.)
Over the course of the summer I have nearly drained my bottle of Creed Fleurs de Bulgarie, but I have a back up in storage, so no worries! I have also made inroads into my third bottle of La Perla La Perla (the old bottle with the ugly black plastic cap, not the new one, the contents of which I do not like). Rather than Hermès, the houses I've reached for most often over the past couple of months have been Miller Harris and Ineke. Poet's Jasmine appears now to be my favorite "wear to the library" perfume, despite its formidable sillage. I also continue to spritz my way through Le Labo Poudre d'Orient (now on bottle #2). Guerlain Chamade (also bottle #2) and Houbigant Quelques Fleurs L'originale (a twentieth-century vintage) have been worn quite a lot as well.
You might be wondering: Are those really hot-weather scents? They are chez moi, at least this summer, and especially after a bath and before bedtime, because I now own an air conditioner and use it to create a cool-weather climate to escape to when the space downstairs starts to feel like a steam bath. Thanks to my air conditioner, I have even managed to drink a lot of hot tea this summer!
So the trip. What to bring? I debated a few options, including to tote along only two or three bottles which might be drainable during the trip, after which I could toss the empty vessels. Of course, not all bottles are toss-worthy, but that seemed like a good idea since I am trying to tame my tendency toward "collecting"--what is now officially known as "hoarding". Apparently the latest (twenty-first-century) conventional wisdom is that we are now supposed to read all of our books and magazines on Kindle and watch movies streamed live. Anyone who persists in maintaining big collections of either books or DVDs must be pathological!!!!! Ditto for perfume, well, except that it is a pathology afflicting only about .00001% of the population. You know you have a problem when you expel a sigh of relief upon sighting a collection at Parfumo or Fragrantica even larger than your own--especially if it's double or triple the size! (Thank you, Action.)
That logic does not really work, of course. The fact that a person owns 1,000 perfumes does not make it any less excessive for me to own 400. I think that I may have more than that, but the stuff that I really need to get rid of--because I never, ever wear it--I no longer list anywhere.
I could not settle on two or three bottles, nor did it seem like the best solution to my predicament, given that I have hundreds if not thousands of sample vials and decants, and I know for a fact that evaporation is a much worse problem for those than for bottles. In the end, I gathered up a bunch of Histoires des Parfums and Tauer Perfumes samples, and packed them in my bag. Happily I flew on Jet Blue which still permits passengers to bring a bag large enough for a two-week trip without paying a fee! There are lots of other reasons to love Jet Blue (not a shill, just a fan!): above all, the spacious seats and friendly staff. They even provide snacks and never bitch or moan or snarl if you ask for something to drink or a second bag of chips!
Upon my arrival at my parents' humble abode in Boulder, Colorado, I learned that, in addition to her many other health issues, Jula is allergic to perfume! My mom has been seriously worried that Jula might die over the summer, and the last thing I want on my hands is a dead dog, so I promised her that I would not wear any perfume. And I have not.
Except that I have! During this "no perfume" period, I have begun to pay a lot of attention to stuff around me that is really very strongly perfumed. Take the Dial soap I bought upon my arrival. I meant to buy white Dial, which is my favorite body soap. I did buy white Dial Soap. Unfortunately, I did not read the fine print. The white Dial I bought is not the white Dial I like. It has a "Spring Water" scent which smells an awful lot like an aquatic cologne. It's really very strongly scented, to the point of evoking memories of Acqua di Gio and sundry other aquatics which make me feel a bit queasy if not downright seasick. I bought a package of 8 bars, having just run out chez moi, and knowing that I would have to buy some anyway upon my return to Boston. I debated taking the 7 unopened bars back to the store to exchange, but I'm not sure that they would. Plus it was on sale, so it did not cost that much to begin with. I probably should have just bought another package of the regular white Dial, but I have been experimenting on myself to see whether my attitude toward this particular scent will change with repeated usage. Will I become less or more intolerant of this scent, which seems clearly to boast calone? One thing is clear: I seem to be spending a lot more time rinsing than I ever did before...
Then there is the hand soap in my mom's upstairs bathroom. It, too, smells like some sort of aquatic cologne! Is this a conspiracy being perpetrated by Procter & Gamble? I ask most sincerely. The laundry detergent is "Free", that is, devoid of any added scent. Trouble is, the scent of unscented laundry detergent is not the scent of water. It's more like a kind of plastic, it seems to me.
There are lots of other scents here, too. Need I even mention that dogs smell like ... dogs? My mom took Jula to the groomer the day before my arrival. So for one day she smelled like freshly shampooed hair. According to my mom, the groomers use the only shampoo which Jula can tolerate, and it is very lightly scented, but not completely unscented, at least according to my nose. It does not smell like Bedhead shampoo, for example, which in my experience contains a full 100ml bottle of perfume in each large bottle of shampoo or conditioner. That stuff is seriously strong and will and does conflict with some perfumes, so it's important to plan ahead before using such hair products.
Which reminds me of a funny new trend. Hair perfume. That's right. Companies both mainstream and niche are now offering perfume for hair! This strikes me as funny, as so many hair products with functional benefits are already extremely heavily scented with full-on perfume. One glaring example comes to mind: Oscar Blandi leave-in conditioner smells EXACTLY like a jasmine soliflore. In fact, it is a jasmine soliflore, as far as I can tell. Why Jasmine Absolute is explicitly listed among the ingredients! (Apparently the Oscar Blandi company is not privy to the latest "scientific findings" of the IFRA...) But it also conditions the hair. I'm not sure about the hair perfumes being sold by Frédéric Malle, et al. Are they also hair products? I'll have to look more closely into that, but now that I'm on a rambling roll, there's no stopping for a Google fact-finding mission.
So dogs. Yes, dogs will be dogs, and dogs will smell like dogs. To dog owners, who are nearly by definition dog lovers--except for the small contingent of Hitler wannabes who upbraid their dogs for such crimes as, well, being dogs--the scent of dogs is probably a welcome one. To me, I have to admit: it is not. I do not like the smell of dogs. It's a natural scent which may overlap with dirty musk to some extent, so I'm not being a dog bigot here. It's a matter of scent preference, and I am on record as not liking dirty musk perfumes. So I'm not really picking on dogs. I just don't happen to like that particular scent. A chacun son goût...