For the last two years, I have practiced one annual perfume ritual: the wearing of Fendi’s Asja around Halloween. The caramelized fruit note of this discontinued fragrance reminds me of the pineapple fritters and cinnamon donuts my mother made for us when I was a teenager during the late fall. Unfortunately, my little lacquered rice-bowl mini of Asja was the only casualty of our last move. The stone tile floor of the house we left probably gave off an occasional whiff of fresh fritters for weeks. Halloween is over, but with our economies in tatters and the whole American political machine lit and shuddering like a carnival funhouse, many of us still have a case of the creeps. Who would blame us if we faced all this down with a comfort scent like Asja and, yes, maybe some of those midway mini-donuts, if we could find some? But I am here to lead you on a braver, smellier course: wear scary scents.
Of course, I must emphasize the subjective nature of fear. For example, I am terrified of balloons. (You never know when those darn things are going to pop! My heart almost stops just thinking of it happening.) The perfumes that scare me may be your treasured favourites, while your blood curdles at the thought of me cheerfully washing around in a tide of, say, Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune. Angela has a wonderful dismissive term she uses for certain scents she dislikes: they are too “Orange Julius”. Without ever discussing this with her, I believe I know exactly what she means: the scent is sweet and oily-creamy, aiming at the natural and familiar, but falling horribly short. But perhaps you’re sucking back a Tripleberry right now and you’re wearing Anné Pliska! This does not mean we can’t be friends. We just shouldn’t sit together at the food court. (Unless you also bought one of those big baked pretzels and you’re in a splitting mood. Then I could definitely overlook our differences.) One of the glories of this niche interest we all share is that, unlike politics or say, I guess, real estate investment, perfume generally creates common ground. It matters little whether cumin gives you the willies or whether I am disturbed by your enthusiastic sampling of Tom Ford White Patchouli; if we were able to meet over beverages of our own choice, I’m sure we’d be able to bond over having this hobby, which, as my normal friend once said, “seems to involve spending a lot of disposable income on smelling like something in the dryer has just caught fire.” Whether he liked it or not, if the Grim Reaper knew much about Diptyque L’Eau Trois, we’d be able to be friends — as long as he wasn’t packing any balloons.
So, five scents that scare me:
Parfumerie Generale Cuir Venenum: I confess I have a great deal of trouble with this line. Even the Parfumerie Generale scents I like — Aomassaï and Bois de Copaïba, for example — have moments that approximate drowning in ice cream topping. Cuir Venenum reminds me of a night when a high school friend of mine ruined both a Trivial Pursuit board and one of my good pairs of shoes after overindulging in Jell-O shooters and black forest cake. It wins a spot on the list because I’m just nostalgic enough for high school that I keep the vial for re-sampling. Bois Blonde was bagged and thrown away.
Comme des Garçons Odeur 71: This is one I wanted to like. But it smells metallic and smoky and oily and, well, alive. It smells like what I imagine the liquid metal T-1000 from Terminator 2 smells like — “what I imagine” because: a) T-1000 is a fictional character; and b) I have never seen the movie, as the only thing that freaks me out worse than balloons is Eddie Furlong.
CB I Hate Perfume CBMusk Reinvention: This is another one I feel badly about. I usually thoroughly enjoy Christopher Brosius’ work — how you can’t love a perfume named after a poem by the wonderful Stevie Smith is beyond me — and many people of good taste and breeding claim to find this comforting. To me it smells like sweating out fever dreams and then waking up with sour breath and greasy hair to smoke a whole pack of port-dipped cigarillos in the nude. I find this exactly as comfortable as it sounds, and fairly fascinating.
Note: image is Glow ["An Avon Sweet Honesty perfume decanter in the form of a black cat sits in front of a blown glass piece and a red Clarins Eau Dynamisante perfume bottle."] by nonky at flickr; all rights reserved and used with permission.