Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Smell Me Later

Part II of today's 3-part series on why this was the best birthday ever.

Little known Marin fact: I have worn perfume almost every day since before I turned 12.

It's embarrassing, but like the story of why I sleep naked, I will cheerfully share with you the story of why I have worn perfume for more than 25 years.

[SUMMARY: Welcome to the AntiM story hour.]

Sixth grade, "health." The boys in one room watching one filmstrip, the girls in another room watching another film strip.

Ya-da, ya-da, ya-da.

The thing that catches my attention?†

"You may have to shower more often, as your body will develop new and occasionally unpleasant odors."‡

And I'll never forget the picture either. It was a girl, probably fourteen or fifteen, stepping out from behind a shower curtain, her chestnut hair piled on her head, a long left leg perched on the bathmat, her left arm coyly holding the shower curtain over her fun stuff... and a look of weary anxiety on her face.

I did not want to be that girl.§

[SUMMARY: I'm so this girl. I did not want to be *that* girl.]

So I spritzed perfume in my armpits.

And in a place I quickly discovered you should never, ever spray perfume.¶

And I worried. I grew as anxious as the girl in the filmstrip.#

[SUMMARY: "Chestnuts, springtime, rainbows is That Girl..." lalalalala]

So my perfume went with me everywhere. Honestly, I don't remember what that first perfume was. I remember it was Avon. I remember scuffling my feet and mumbling to my mother like I was asking her to buy me condoms when I asked for it from the catalog.

My second perfume was Charlie, a gift from a middle school friend.††

Mom got me White Shoulders,^ maybe for my 14th birthday. I wore White Shoulders until college. There I met Paintroller,$ who travelled blithely through the student union in a cloud of White Shoulders thick enough to drop a moose.

I *so* did not want to be that girl.

[SUMMARY: Sometimes it's easier to point out what you don't want.]

Obsession. No, not me,‡‡ the perfume.

I hated it, but Mom loved it and bought me a bottle or two through college. And... y'know... I *had* to wear perfume, but didn't have money for perfume, being a college student and all.

[SUMMARY: I've developed a new that girl.]

Over the years, I've honed my preferences and developed my scent palate.

For instance, I don't like vanilla. Something in my body chemistry takes the tiniest bit of vanilla and blows it up to the obliteration of every other note in any given perfume and I smell like a frickin' sugar cookie.§§

Amber is supposed to be sexy, but I find a lot of ambers turn to vanilla turn to sugar cookies.

Frickin' sugar cookies.

Aldehydes often smell like Barbie dolls to me.¶¶ Sometimes this is good, sometimes it's bad, but it's almost always too strong.

Apricot is one of my favourite notes for me. Scaasi (discontinued) and Fresh Fig Apricot have apricot, and Tresor has the shinier smell of peach and that works OK too.

Wood, but not sandalwood. Green, but not artificial Kool-Aid lime.

Patchouli turns me on in the most basic and literal way. It doesn't matter where I am or who's wearing it, if patchouli catches me unaware, I get all tingly.##

[SUMMARY: I'm full of useless information today.]

Anyway, cut to 2008. Through the grace of someone I won't embarrass, I started trolling a couple of perfume sites. I bought lyrically described oils from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. I bought perfumes I'd read about in Danielle Steele novels††† from Perfumed Court. I discovered perfume blogs.%

So when I opened the first part of eBeth's birthday present -- a copy of Chandler Burr's newest book‡‡‡ -- and she told me she'd found perfume blogs and would like to read the book when I'm done, the first thing I said was, "Ooooh... have you seen The Perfumed Court?"

Bless her, she kept a straight face.

[SUMMARY: We are now in the foreshadowing portion of our blogpost.§§§]

eBeth got me the Beginner's Sampler from The Perfumed Court.

I smell pretty.

Or sometimes like grave dirt.

Either way, I have my perfume to help chase away occasional unpleasant odors.

FOOTNOTE (crossed): It may be useful to keep in mind that I was a C-cup, had been shaving my legs and armpits for nearly a year and had learned first-hand the horrors of the bikini area. Most of this wasn't Nostradamus-level prediction, just facts of my own little life.

FOOTNOTE (double-crossed): I am not making this up. I wrote that sentence down and contemplated it daily for two years. I know *exactly* what the narrator of the filmstrip said, in her cheery Kimberly Clark voice.

§FOOTNOTE (swerved): OK, I wanted the chestnut hair and the long limbs. Just not the anxiety of new and occasionally unpleasant odors.

FOOTNOTE (paragraphed): "Baby, why you got your balls in the sink? That's nasty, baby."

#FOOTNOTE (pounded): Unfairly enough, I did not grow long chestnut hair and even longer legs.

††FOOTNOTE (ddouble-ccrossed): And I'm pretty sure cementing the idea that I smelled occasionally unpleasant and needed help.

^FOOTNOTE (carated): Some time later -- like in my thirties -- Mom and I caught a whiff of White Shoulders at the mall and I mused aloud on how it took me back, and how I'd read somewhere that White Shoulders was a nice fragrance for a little girl and how that had bugged me, since at the time I got it, I thought it was wildly sophisticated (I think I'd read about it in a book. Not a Danielle Steele book). Mom told me she'd always loved it and worn it until a fellow Army nurse told her White Shoulders was for teenagers. It's a small world (and it smells funny, for those of you Sisters of Mercy fans).

$FOOTNOTE (moneyed): So called because of how she evidently applied her eyeshadow.

‡‡FOOTNOTE (doubble-crossssed): Shut up.

§§FOOTNOTE (in a cloud of perfume): Brother has noted that smelling like a frickin' sugar cookie should not be a problem and may be wildly attractive to men hungry for home baking. If you know what I mean.

¶¶FOOTNOTE (two little spray bottles): Though Chanel No. 5 (a classic aldehyde) will always smell like Mom and Dad going out for the evening, and is accompanied by the phantom taste of lipstick as Mom kissed me goodnight.

##FOOTNOTE (pounded like a frickin' sugar cookie): I once *felt* my pupils dilate and my heart skip a beat at the jewelry counter at Nordstrom when some soccer mom wearing a very unsoccermom-like patchouli pulled up next to me.

†††FOOTNOTE (three stoppers, all in a row): Don't judge.

%FOOTNOTE (percented): I love this post on perfumes for Valentine's Day.

‡‡‡FOOTNOTE (frankenscent!): Chandler Burr is the scent critic for the New York Times.

§§§FOOTNOTE (whirly, swirly, floral and girly): It's subtler than usual. This isn't saying much.

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