Monday, May 17, 2010
One from the attic: Old Lady
The contest for the Liz Zorn samples ends tonight, Monday, May 17 at midnight US Eastern Daylight Time. Leave a comment to enter! I will choose the winner randomly and announce it tomorrow.
(Please note: the original Dec. 2008 comments aren't eligible for the new contest, so if you commented then, please comment again to enter.)
In the meantime, here's another old post from the archives, originally published in December 2008.
Are you an old lady?
I might be one, but judging from my fragrance preferences, I’ve been old since I was twelve. Of course, I didn’t know about the ultimate pejorative perfume phrase then. I just thought that the classics smelled like a world that didn’t fit me, yet, but I couldn’t wait to grow into.
Then I began reading the forums and the blogs.
“Smells like the inside of an old lady’s purse.” “Mothballs.” “Grandma’s bathroom.” “Fusty.” “Dusty.” “Musty.”
Here’s what. Older women scare people. Not all of those people are men.
I have to admit that, when I was young and dewy, forthright older women scared me. They laughed too loud, and their throaty laughter hinted at a whole lot of stuff I didn’t know (yet). They had deep voices, often from years of smoking. Occasionally, they regarded me with quizzical glances. Sometimes, I sensed a resentment of my youth; always, an amusement at my innocence.
These old ladies were my aunts, great-aunts, my mother’s friends, teachers or professors, older women I worked with. Some of them tried hard to disguise their aging with too much everything; makeup, manicures, helmet-hair, the works; some of them had even had work done. Others regarded that sort of thing with derision. All of them represented a very different concept of femininity from the glammed-out, platform-shod, tanned and shiny-haired ready-for-anything ideal of my time.
The epitome of the scary old lady is Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard.” Hiding in a rotting mansion, her face a stretched and made-up mask, paying a younger man for his time and his services. She’s terrifying. Imagine the bravery it must have taken for Swanson to play a grotesque version of an aging star much like, well, herself in those days. That’s the kind of chutzpah I’m talking about. The kind you don’t have until you’re forty, and then only if you’re lucky.
Here are some of the scents I’ve heard called “old lady”: Miss Dior. Chanel No. 5. Youth-Dew. Dioressence. Aromatics Elixir. Paloma Picasso. Mitsouko. Ma Griffe. Madame Rochas. Cabochard. That’s only a few. There’s a long, long list.
Most are Chypres. It would seem that the classic Chypre is the likeliest candidate for old-ladyhood in perfume. Is it the oakmoss? Could be. Powder? Maybe. Big mixed florals? Probably. So why does Mitsouko come out on top of all the perfumistas’ lists, year after year? It can be difficult and challenging…hmmm, wait a second. Maybe that’s the point?
As for the young ladies, what choices have our times given them? An endless parade of celeb-scents: Britney, Paris, Jennifer, Hilary, Sarah Jessica, Jessica Simpson. I guess that makes sense too. A couple of these, I’ve heard, aren’t too bad. I have trouble getting past the imaging, though. I hear they’re all pretty and easy; fruity, floral, synthetic.
If I was a young lady, I’d be insulted. But perhaps I’m not placing this within the proper context.
Let’s see what else these times have to offer. Hmmmm. Polyester baby-doll dresses. Tiny little sweaters worn with low-rise jeans so the bare belly hangs over them (this alone makes me glad I’m not young.) Brazilian wax jobs. Anorexia. Athletic pants with the name of the “designer” emblazoned across the behind, like a brand. Texting instead of talking. Facebook. Awful concoctions like the “chocolate martini.” Tattoos. The word “hottie.” Binge drinking. Hooking up. Endless reality shows. Celeb-worship magazines.
Do you know a young lady? Do her a favor. Give her an “old lady” perfume. Tell her what “classic” means.
She’ll probably go “eeewww” now, and thank you one day.
Photo of Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Blvd." from a fan site.