Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fiddling While Rome Burns?

Do you feel guilty?

Maybe it’s my imagination, but it seems that the traffic on the perfume blogs and discussion forums has lessened in the last couple of weeks or so. It’s been a little difficult for me, to go on deconstructing scents while the wet sand is sliding out from under my feet, as the wave we’ve all been riding returns to the sea.

Something tells me I’m not the only one.

I work as a consumer counselor. I take calls from people who need advice on how to deal with crooked car dealerships or non-existent customer service – at least that’s what I used to do. A year or so ago, the foreclosure calls started. Now, it's people who’ve just retired, thought they’d be comfortable and are terrified. It’s tough and demanding work, but it feels good to help; still, there’s not much good advice I can give them right now.

So I come home and spritz up. Like some people would have a drink. (Well, yeah, okay, sometimes I do that too.) Try not to watch the endless bad-news drumbeat. (The 24-hour news channels are having a ball right now, as this is a ratings wet dream -- hey, media boys and girls, why don’t you take a little societal responsibility for a freaking change and stop scaring everybody to death – but who am I kidding?)Don’t touch that remote!)

I love perfume, and always have. This world, this gorgeous olfactory phantasmagoria, is where I live half the time. Of course, back in the day I didn’t know my cassie from my cinnamon, just that something smelled good or it didn’t. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to afford this passion, at least since I found out about decants and swaps, anyway. I haven’t added it all up yet – somebody over at Basenotes once wrote, “never, never, never add it all up, nev-ah!” and I think that’s pretty good advice. If I’m swanning around trailing clouds of Carnal Flower, it’s because I have an 8 ml decant. I’m like a bee that goes from flower to flower, joyfully promiscuous.

But now I’m having trouble writing about it. Somehow it’s the writing, not the wearing, that seems frivolous. Like more serious matters are afoot. There’s a bit of Marie Antoinette in the going on about the various tuberoses and/or has Serge lost it when things feel like they do right now.

I’m still a relative newbie at this, although I’ve learned a lot. After 9-1-1, we all got real serious (but wasn’t it amazing, how quickly we got over that?) “Go shopping,” our Fearless Leader said, and we did. I don’t believe there was much of a blogosphere yet then, certainly not a perfume blogging universe all those (7) years ago – please correct me if I’m wrong.

I’ll keep on doing this, because I love to do this, but sometimes my prose might seem a little forced, because it’s not coming real easy to me right now.

I know a few of you other bloggers out there read this. How is the current crisis affecting you? And what about perfume fans, how about you?

Is it just me?


flannerygrace said...

Hi Pat, no it isn't just you, I'm finding I'm tuning out lots of things right now and having little havens of beauty and conversation about it on the net are one of those places I like to go :)

I love Wordsworth's poem -

"The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!"

I'm spending much more time sniffing beautiful scents, cooking simple but 'special' meals - making lots of breads and rolls - for my family and doing things with more of my favorite classical music and operas playing in the background.

I'd say we need perfume blogs more than ever, though I am sad that so many of them seem to have turned political and rather elitist. Do they not want someone of another political persuasion to visit them, I wonder? I hope not, we're all in this together and there are many things we can find in common appreciating beautiful things :)


Lucy said...

Yes, me too, it does feel a lot like fiddling while Rome burns. But as Flannerygrace points out, and others too, the world is still a richly beautiful place even if we are all feeling much poorer now. Beauty in all its forms is much appreciated as a break from all this stress.
We may be moved to find it in increments of far less than $250 a bottle though, going forward. If the economic shakeup results in some practical solutions so much the better. For one thing if the cosmetic and perfume companies start offering smaller less expensive sizes, that would be an idea whose time has come. We know about Perfume Court but the regular consumer does not, and it would be good for the luxury firms to get a little more realistic and offer some affordable luxury in smaller bites so that more could partake.
Also, I realize if everyone stops buying, everything will grind to a halt. I am also reminded of something Paul Klee said during the much darker days in Europe of WW2 --
something like --this war will be over someday, but chocolate and cigarettes will be with us forever...

Abigail said...

I've noticed that the forums are much quieter (POL, basenotes, MUA) too.

In the face of ongoing war and economic turmoil I, myself, need an escape.

I think what you're touching upon is that perfume seems frivolous, shallow or unnecessary and especially so in down economic times.

Perfume is not life sustaining, but it's a hobby of mine, and surely I'll keep it up as long as I'm able. To just allow myself to become swallowed in the negativity on the news and stop purchasing perfume altogether doesn't seem healthy.

I say keep doing whatever makes you happy as long it still feels good and you can afford to do it. If it's not hurting anyone else what's wrong with that?

Anya said...

I have noticed a diminished flow of posts for over a year now on the perfume blogs. Many have shut down, in fact. This emotional and financial crisis may just be a new wrinkle in the general general scheme of things re: people posting.

I have hosted a group on Yahoo for over six years, subject: Natural Perfumery. Many read but never post. The number of posts has a real ebb and flow. Sometimes over 1000 a month, others down to 400 a month. This is with over 1600 members. Many lurk. Occasionally they'll de-lurk to say they enjoy the group, but haven't had a reason to post previously.

The current crisis, combined with the natural cocooning time of Autumn is turning many people a bit introverted, IMO. However, that is not to say they're not, as flannerygrace is doing, cooking, baking, finding comfort and relief with beautiful scents.

The Paul Klee quote is so true - in times of stressful events, even a war - we need our luxury comforts and our addictions to be met.

Olfacta said...

Thank you ladies, and no, there is no chance of me giving up on perfume!

I remember the Wordsworth poem but haven't read it in a long time. I may transcribe it and put it on the fridge. And the Klee quote, I had never heard, chocolate, cigarettes, and, yeah, perfume: of all addictions, this one does the least harm and provides the most beauty, IMO.

I get a little freaked out sometimes because I'm actually talking to real people on "Main St." and so it is not a vague concept to me. I hear their stories, in their own voices. Sure, it gets to me sometimes. But it is wonderful to have support from other perfume-friends; this is not something that civilians easily understand. It could seem very Marie Antoinette-like to some of the people in my life, mostly artists of some variety. For them, economic struggles are nothing new.

I appreciate the kind words!

flannerygrace said...

Pat, there is no 'let them eat cake' attitude in my comments.

Life presents all of us with challenges, and I know well what it is like to be 'economically challenged'. I've been homeless in my lifetime and have had health challenges that affect every aspect of my life. I also know that often it is the most simple beautiful things that can make life sweet amid those challenges.

I too have worked counseling people whose problems have overwhelmed them and found that I could be at my most helpful when I was able to see things from a broader perspective. So it is important for anyone who works as you do to keep beauty surrounding you so you'll be even more capable of bringing it to others. :)


maisqueperfume said...

Dear Olfacta,
I wish I was facing your dilemma.
I also have a perfume blog in Brazil. it started only in portuguese. My goal is to form a perfume culture in my country. Brazilians buy a lot but never discuss perfume. i had to bring the English language so people abroad would start giving opinions!
I have the support of so many impotant faces of this industry, like the Fragrance Foundation...even so I find it very hard.
i keep doing it because I love it and I will battle to conquer this, but still I am also disappointed.
So cheer up dear, it is just a phase.
People will never stop dreaming. That is what is wonderful about fragrance, they make us dream.
So here is my full support.
Feel also free to blog in my space ;-)

waftbyCarol said...

Thoughtfl posts here...from my perspective I contine to write and love erfume as I have since childhood .
The rich mans wealth is in the city...
the poor mans wealth is in a holy place.
Bob Marley

I find holiness in the introspection about scent .

chayaruchama said...

I feel very much as you do.

I love my medication- my perfume-
But in my work I see so much suffering, and I see it everywhere.

Sometimes I want to shake dear friends and say:

"Honey ! This is not what most folks are worried about... get in touch, will you ?!"

Naturally, I can't say it, except to those of mutually deep affection.
But I think it, PLENTY.

Perfumeshrine said...

I disagree with some of the comments, although I agree with the spirit of your post which is excellent in its candour.

Perfume blogging has ebbed for other reasons: 1)because intense infatuation has a life-span of about 3 years (so psychologists say, backed up by anthropologists who attribute it to the necessary time for nurturing a newly-born after which the interest in the other parent kinda diminishes)
2)because people found what they like and have become bored with searching and testing more of the same
3)because they attained what they wanted to attain through those venues in the first place.
The perfume fora/boards work on similar principles: the very new members are coy and hesitant ~often lurking for years before they delurk~ then there is a rush of excitement as they become a little more "in the know" and maniacal posting ensues; then a period of spaced out appearences, dropping in to offer words of wisdom when they're considered "knowledgable"; and last a gradual disappearence, mainly for reasons #1 and #2, possibly also #3. Relapses do happen though...LOL!

And of course life intervenes sometimes and one can't post as often as they want to. This is the most valid reason of all.

Also there is the angle that in order to be considered "in the know" and among the "cool" kids you have to love the very elite things and usually those come at a price and who has all that money to buy these (even decants) now? Which poses an unpleasant spin on any post that is over-enthusiastic about's not easy.

Just my observations and no intention of offending anyone.

BTW, you've been tagged ;-)

Olfacta said...

Very erudite and interesting comments!

People, at least people I know, who haven't discovered perfume, or are just not interested (let's call them "civilians") tend to react negatively to this relatively new passion of mine, pretty much in congruence with their income level(s). In other words, an artist living hand-to-mouth isn't going to think much of discussions of Hermes vs. Guerlain, or so has been my experience. I've learned to shut up about it, or call if something like "a deconstruction of olfactory phenomena" which, for some reason, seems more acceptable (insert shrug and eye-roll here.)

And, of course, I'm one of those people who tends to feel guilty about things.

Re Helg's comments: I agree that no one could keep this level of obsession up for more than a few years without a break. But where do the new perfumistas come from? How does this population replace itself?

Hmmm...possible blog subject for another day.

maisqueperfume said...

to perfumeshrine:
I feel enligthed with your post. Thanks for sharing your opinion.
Simone :-)