I’m a very sensory person. I respond to how things smell, taste, look, feel, sound. I have very kinetic memories. The waft of just the right scent can change my mood immediately. And perfume, well, it makes me feel sexy. And sexy is just not an adjective I use to describe myself a lot lately.
I want to feel sexy, darn it!
I couldn’t find a bottle of perfume in my vanity. (Ok, I have one promotional bottle of Play-Doh scented perfume from Hasbro from a conference, but…) I didn’t even remember the last time I had used eau de toilette — before JavaGirl was born? Before JavaBoy? I became so excruciatingly sensitive to smells while pregnant, I may have banned perfume from the house. . . JavaDad has no sense of smell at all, which can be frustrating at times but does make him more willing to change the litter boxes; we have to count our blessings where we can.
In my usual, Type A style, I added “buy perfume” to my checklist and began my research. I started by asking friends for scent suggestions. Interestingly, many of my “mommy friends” had also stopped wearing perfume, and couldn’t recall when or why. Single male friends would get a far off look on their faces and say, “Oh, you should try…” and rattle off something that I suspect reminded them of an old girlfriend. Married men had no clue what scent their wives wore, if anything at all.
I wore Love’s Baby Soft until my senior year of college when my younger roommate, horrified by my less-than-cosmopolitan choice, insisted I switch to something more grown-up. Shugging my shoulders, I asked Gayle what she wore.
The name was as intriguing as the scent and it became my signature scent for years. Thought it was strong, I learned how to apply it lightly and on me, it somehow blended perfectly, and given my perpetual goodie-two-shoes image, I enjoyed the raised eyebrows I received when asked what I was wearing.
Today, I live a relatively unscented life – scent-free detergent, scent-free fabric softener — all of us in the JavaFamily are very sensitive to dyes and perfumes. That’s why it amuses when someone tells me I smell good and asks me what I’m wearing. “Uh… freshly washed hair? Clean clothes?”
Yes, clearly I need to bring my A-game back. Not for Java Dad, who might only notice a scent on me if I dabbed McCormick’s Pure Vanilla Extract behind my ears (which I considered…), but for myself. Perfume was always for me – not others. I think that is the way it is for most women.
So here’s something fun to do on a summer day — take your small children with you to a department store and try looking at perfumes without attracting attention. Or stay home and gouge your eyes out – either one.
Now I briefly thought about just buying another bottle of Poison, but apparently it is nearly impossible to find. Dior has launched a line of sibling (Hypnotic Poison, Midnight Poison, Pure Poison)– none of which smell remotely like my beloved liquid in the amethyst bottle. And while I can order it online, I figured it might be worthwhile to branch out a little and try something new. And possibly less expensive than $75 an ounce! However, as I walked through the maze of cosmetic counters at Lord & Taylor I suddenly realized I had no clue how to shop for perfume. After all, I wore Poison because Gayle told me to. The only other grown-up perfume I had ever worn was because a boyfriend had bought it for me, and that had been discontinued. I usually studiously avoided perfume spraying saleswomen, now I was headed straight toward them.
I tried to look casually cool as I walked up to the counter with my children yelling out, “Why are we HERE, Mommy? What are you doing, MOMMY?”
I didn’t want to spray scents on me — first of all I wanted to scientifically evaluate several scents and secondly some scents can literally induce an asthma attack. Not chic at all — an asthma attack right there in Lord & Taylor. I casually lifted a bottle to see if I could detect a scent and was immediately descended upon by the Bored Sales Ladies Who Wanted to Spray Me. When I explained that I didn’t want to be sprayed, they offered to spray themselves. I walked quickly away to another counter, where, thankfully, they had paper strips — reminding me that oh yes, this is how you first test the perfumes.
“Can I smell, can I smell?”
“Yes, darlings, but let me smell them first!”
Spray, sniff, try to evaluate without feeling like all eyes were on us. Hand to children. Try not to be mortified by children’s comments. This was my process.
“Oh, this smells like Clorox wipes!”
Laughing, I said, “Oh, you think it smells like a Clorox wipe?
“Not just one, a LOT of them!”
“And this one, this is yucky!”
“This smells like food!”
“This smells like a garden!”
“Okay, kids, let’s try to keep our comments to ourselves, please?”
More sales ladies, trying to help me. I try to explain to them that I’m a hopeless case — I hate floral smells, I don’t like anything overpowering, and I’m really sensitive. They smile and ask what I used to wear.
They stop dead in their tracks.
Yeah. Nothing compares to it. They gave me a few weak suggestions, all of which I hated. Some products had bottles so silly I couldn’t even bother to pick them up — I mean really, perfume is an experience and the bottle is part of that — I don’t want to deal with a ridiculous bottle, I want something gorgeous, functional, and yes, a little sophisticated and sexy. I finally decided I wanted to stop feeling like a spectacle and headed to Sephora.
An entire wall of perfume awaited me and I was looking forward to perusing in (relative) peace when Isam the sales dude approached me. I was doing my best to give my go away vibe, when he started actually being helpful. He patiently listened to why I liked Poison and what I didn’t like about other perfumes and the experience changed instantly. He would select a perfume, spray it onto a paper for me, and listen to what I thought about it. I clumsily explained with unschooled terms, “This is not quite right — it is too clean and I want something more complex, deeper, with maybe some vanilla.” He’d take that feedback and select another. “This is closer, but there is too much floral, I want something with more spice.” And so we went, almost like a wine tasting except with perfume. He consulted a computer they have to look at the “notes” of the original Dior Poison and compare it to other perfumes. We narrowed the selection down to two perfumes and he created tiny sample bottles for me to take home so I could try the scents out on different days — as scents change on an individual and throughout a day.
I blush when I look at the names and the descriptions of the perfumes. I’m not even sure how I’ll answer with a straight face if someone asks me what I’m wearing. Although my nose is looking for something along the lines of “I’m not wearing a funeral blanket of flowers” apparently I select scents that the perfumery designed with the idea of “watch out girls, I’m here to steal your man” in mind. Yes, though I’m a good girl at heart, when it comes to choosing an essential essence, I am apparently a complete harlot. Let’s review my choices, shall we?
The ad copy for my beloved Poison, “Some perfumes are born a myth. Heady, mysterious and revolutionary since its creation, Poison is Dior’s ultimate weapon of seduction. Its exceptional, exotic alchemy is created by a rich blend of spicy, fruity and amber notes warmed by honey and musk – an unsettling, charismatic and unforgettable fragrance.” Alrighty, then.
With Isam’s help, I chose Euphoria by Calvin Klein (“Euphoria is about sexiness, fantasy, and being captivating. Sexy and sensual, Euphoria speaks to the woman who has the urge to break free from everyday life – to provocatively be part of an exciting world filled with pleasure, surprise, and temptation…” ) and (gulp) Sinner by Kat Von D, (“Light, delicate top notes of orange blossom, refreshing mandarin, and fleshy plum create a provocative, sultry heart. Rich jasmine blends seamlessly with a white-flower bouquet, beautifully tainted by the spicy warmth of cinnamon, an herb associated with ancient rituals of pleasure. A dark, mysterious back of earthy vetiver, patchouli, and woods enveloped in creamy vanilla and sensual musk lingers on the skin.”) Completely appropriate for church and book club, don’t you think?
Actually, both new scents are quite wonderful and much more exciting on me than unscented fabric softener. Or McCormick’s Pure Vanilla Extract.
Yes, I can already feel the sexy coming back…
All products mentioned are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies. The photo of Poison by Dior is a promotional product shot found on several web sites.