Some lucky people have it all figured out early in life. They know that they want to be veterinarians or lawyers while they're still in high school. They find true love just out of high school, and they know by their mid-20s that navy blue doesn't do a thing for their complexions. Of course, they have cemented their choice in perfume as a young adult, too, and change it as they age for a graceful evolution in taste. They know, for instance, that they like subdued florals, and they stay on track as they grow older, choosing Caron Fleurs de Rocailles at 19 years old, then moving to Houbigant Quelques Fleurs at 25, then to Annick Goutal Grand Amour in their mid-30s.
Then there are the late bloomers, like me. In my 20s I worked a serious job and wore department store suits and occasional spritzes of Chanel Coco to testify in front of the Congress and sit in stuffy boardrooms. In my 30s I quit my job and reverted to part time work, writing, vintage clothes, and a whole world of perfume, from Chanel No. 22 to 10 Corso Como. Now I find my taste evolving further to where I like aldehydic, civet-laden scents and unfriendly green chypres. Worse yet, you should see my wardrobe. As I write, I'm wearing a green tartan cotton dress from the 1950s with rhinestone buttons, a 1960s orange and gold cable knit cardigan, and purple Chinese silk slippers, all misted over with Parfums de Nicolaï Mimosaique.
What happened? Instead of becoming more alluring, over time I've become, to put it kindly, a "particular" taste. My perfume, which is supposed to make me more attractive, removes me further from the crowd, and I find myself explaining why the evening's dabs of Lanvin My Sin are worth smelling when everyone else is coated in Calvin Klein Euphoria. When I wore Coco I never needed to convince anyone I smelled good. When I put on a skirt and blouse from Nordstrom I never had to worry that people would think I was freaky for wearing a late-1950s Lilli Ann of Paris suit.
For me, perfume hasn't been about finding the scent that would make me the most attractive, but about finding the scent that, at the moment, I loved best to smell. It hasn't been about pleasing others, but about pleasing myself. In that way, perfume has helped me plumb the depths of who I really am. And, hey, expensive as it is it's still cheaper than therapy.
Note: image via Images de Parfums.