….and the winner of the samples drawing is: Flittersniffer! Get in touch with me at the email address to the left and I'll get your samples out posthaste.
In the recent L.A. Times article "Embracing Chaos" mystery writer Denise Hamilton lets her readers in on a secret: she’s a closet perfumista. One of those who waits for late night to haul out her box of clinking vials, dabbing and sniffing while her family sleeps.
No mystery, really; we’re a club. Welcome to the closet, Denise!
So why are so many of us closeted?
There is always talk here, on the blogs and forums, about the perfume-averse and what makes them that way. As do many of the other bloggers, I believe that the no-perfume thing is a vestige of Puritanism. But is that really all there is to it?
I can only speculate about my own reasons for this. Who knows what subliminal lessons stick around forever? Insights come much later, I think; often they come only after no one who might know with any certainty is left.
So here goes. My mother was an odd mixture of American colonial and midwestern plainspoken. She grew up in Canal Zone, Panama, a mile-wide strip of Norman Rockwell’s America, stretched across an isthmus full of third world poverty and squalor. I don’t believe that her mother ever owned a bottle of perfume, given as she was to Tangee lipstick, modest rayon “house” dresses and short hair she never once dyed.
By the time I became a “perfumista” -- don’t like the word, really; what is the root? Fashionista? Sandinista? -- my mother was already gone. I wonder sometimes, though, what she would have thought about my fragrance hobby habit. I still have two of her perfumes, big bottles of Moment Supreme and Arpege, extraits bought in some Air Force base exchange store, as we were a quasi-military family. I’ve written about this before but not the later chapters, stateside, where the base exchange stores didn’t sell Chanel, or Patou or pearls, and then did not exist for us at all. We came home, and my mother put the fancy French perfumes away.
After that came lots of Avon. She must have had a friend who was an Avon lady, because I remember Charisma, and one called Here’s My Heart, I think, and some solid perfume compacts, and travel sizes of Flora Danica and Madame Rochas (which I hated) and, later, Moon Drops and Charlie. She wore those two for twenty years, while the good stuff remained, untouched, in the closet.
When I read the Jonathan Frantzen novel “The Corrections” a few years ago, one of the themes seemed to be the eagerness the grown children had to introduce their rock-solid, unpretentious parents to all the big-city “betters” -- better wine, better food, better furniture, better coffee, you name it -- in some convoluted pageant of Taste designed to do...what? Show them...what was it, anyway? How backward they were?
I had some of that with my parents too. I could tell, sometimes, that they were looking at my husband and me as if we had what my very Southern dad called “the gimmees.” It was a harsh judgement. I could see that “taste,” as I understood it, didn’t really exist for either of them. What we thought of as “Taste” seemed to be inherently suspect. Modesty was key, as was making others feel comfortable, no matter what. Money was something that was not discussed. Nice people were not openly aspirational -- there’s something so, well, grubby about that.
Nearly ten years have passed, and I understand this a little better now. There is something -- a lot actually -- to be said for modesty, as out of fashion as that concept is. And I’ve never liked people who flaunt it. I’m a bargain hunter, and I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone what I paid for my treasured little bottle of Amouge, but you know, don’t you.
Now I’m wondering about those of us who confine most of our perfume talk to the web, this, our secret society. How many of us lead our flesh-and-blood friends to the perfume cabinet? Not many, I bet, unless we’re lucky enough to have real-life friends who are (that word again!) perfumistas.
So, back to the past: I’m thinking that, once we got off the foreign-assignment circuit and resettled in our suburban town, the exotic French perfumes might have seemed a little, well, much to my mother, might have made her less traveled friends uncomfortable or resentful, so she never wore them. And maybe that’s why I keep my collection hidden: it just feels right to do so.
Here in our little clubhouse, we speak of wishing we could wear more or stronger fragrance, wanting to be a scented swan in a sea of lead-footed ducks -- but only a few of us do it. Something stops us. What is it? Fear of offending a perfume-o-phobe? Manners, self-consciousness, guilt?
Hamilton, when asked to reveal the size of her perfume collection, takes the Fifth. I tend to mumble something about yeah, having quite a few bottles, but I bought them all of ebay for a song, so, it’s, y’know, OK.
So...how about you? Do you make excuses?
What’s in your closet?
The drawing winner was chosen using Random.org.