Oh, I know the holidays are about “joy” and “giving” and blah blah blah. At the risk of sounding like a real Scrooge, I dread this time of year. Sure, I love dinners with friends, fires, and long, dark evenings of conversation. But I loathe the obligation to appear to have a perfect life. Thoughtfully chosen gifts, gourmet dinners, flawless outfits, relentless cheer — all are expected to be delivered with a big smile, despite a crammed schedule, scowling crowds, and “The Little Drummer Boy” blaring nonstop from every storefront.
What I really want to do is stay home all December and watch old movies, but friends won’t let me. Besides starchy food and martinis, I find comfort in tiny moments, like decorating my Christmas tree this afternoon with an imaginative six-year-old who insisted on hanging a light switch he’d found in the basement. I depend on that, and on perfume.
Here are some of the fragrance categories I seek during the holidays, along with my go-to perfumes. I hope you’ll comment with your favorites:
Some fragrances soothe, either because they feel so much like “you,” or because they summon soothing memories, real or invented. The trick is to find a fragrance that comforts without putting you to sleep. There’s too much to accomplish this month to be stupefied by gourmand notes. Etat Libre d’Orange Like This has a homey feel with its pumpkin and immortelle, but it’s unpredictable enough to keep me interested. (Besides, I can imagine I'm as unflappable as Tilda Swinton.) I’ve also been loving the elegant, piney warmth of Rochas Audace, and for another sadly discontinued favorite, I’ll be using my last few drops of Jean Patou Moment Supreme Extrait this season. Its lavender revivifies, but the amber pacifies.
Memo Italian Leather is another perfume with an edge that keeps me alert — in this case, tomato leaf — and a thick, cozy vanilla and leather base to coat my nerve endings. Reminiscence Tonka is also super comforting with its scent that mimics pipe tobacco but feels like a puffy cashmere blanket. (Beware: this one is relaxing enough to put you to sleep, but it's perfect for nap time.) Molinard Habanita is a never-fail perfume for trying times, too, with its vanilla-tobacco-vetiver caress, although I can make myself sick of it if I wear it more than a few times in a row.
And then there are times when I simply need to power through. A good man’s fragrance can be helpful here, and Hermès Bel Ami is my top choice. I love it, and I appreciate its oily contrast with my girly appearance. Amouage Gold Man is another top contender for its Cary Grant sophistication. On the feminine side, Guerlain Shalimar gives me moxie. “Smell me roar,” it seems to say, while remaining queerly old-fashioned enough to put all those Angel clones to shame.
Last but certainly not least, I present the fragrances that help me pretend when I’ve lost heart. Hermès 24, Faubourg says, “I’m sweet and happy and successful, and my husband is outside parking the Lexus.” Chanel Cuir de Russie says, “I don’t have a husband, and what of it? People confuse me with Marlene Dietrich constantly. I yawn.” Yves Saint Laurent Yvresse says, “I’m chicer than any of the rest of you, and my skin is better, too. Refill my glass, please.” Vero Profumo Onda doesn’t say a thing. She doesn't need to. You smell her and instantly know she’s more fascinating than anyone else in the room.
What about you? What perfume helps you make it through the holidays? And for those of you with a more upbeat view of the season, I’d love to hear from you, too!