I love the period between Thanksgiving and my birthday in January. There are: holiday feasts (at home and in restaurants), suspension of calorie counting, shopping sprees, Christmas trees. I (mostly) enjoy it all, but sometimes imagining is better than reality!
Feasts require lots of shopping, food prep, cooking, laundry/ironing (all those napkins, tablecloths), non-stop housecleaning (cobwebs! were there really that many spiders in my house last summer?!) There are always menu "hits" and "misses." In my house, our after-party breakfasts consist of critiquing the dishes served the night before and placing bright Post-it® notes in cookbooks next to recipes: "NO! NEVER AGAIN!" or "YES! But add more sumac." Restaurant fare is often distasteful, involving bland foods laden with too much fat, salt and sugar, accompanied by weak cocktails. After such meals, while looking at the bill, I often think: "I could have bought an Astier de Villatte candle...or two!...for that amount of money."
Though I treat holiday calories as phantoms, meaningless numbers, there's always the shock in February when I attempt to wear a pair of pants and realize I can't zip them up (usually until April).
The ONLY thing guaranteed to give me absolute joy during the holidays is my Christmas tree (a fresh silvertip fir); my trees are encrusted with lights and decorations — heirlooms or ornaments bought on travels (almost any small object can be made into an ornament).
When Robin Here at NST™ asked we contributors what we wanted to write as a year-end wrap-up (a 2018 'perfume in review' post, if you will), I felt I had little to say...and zero excitement at the prospect. I'm this year's NST Perfume Scrooge (though more grumpy posts may follow). Jessica has deemed herself the Perfume Grinch and Angie expressed enthusiasm for critiquing 2018, too. Angie, how about a "Cranky Christmas Perfume Roast Chez Angela?"
In 2018, many scents whose PR would have excited me in years gone by (those ingredients! backstories! bottles!) made me yawn and think: "whatEVER." I don't feel we're living in a golden age of perfume. The amount of perfume produced is astonishing (and impossible to sample) but it feels more like a perfume glut, not a boon. When I hear friends plan their fragrance purchases (non-stop buying of samples, monitoring of retailers, online and off, for sales and coupons, bidding on eBay bottles, arranging perfume splits and obtaining the decant supplies needed), I get drowsy and stressed at the same time. I reach for another glass of ice-cold Lillet, a big chunk of chocolate and turn up the volume on Cher's "Dancing Queen" album: Mamma mia, here I go again...my, my....
Recently I began to think seriously about the contents of my perfume bottles, the chemicals. When reading inserts on candles and perfumes, I feel 'dirty': "This product may cause an allergic skin reaction. Avoid contact with skin and eyes. The ingredients are toxic to aquatic life and have long-lasting environmental effects on plants and animals. Avoid release into the environment and do not let children touch. Dispose of residual contents and the container itself using local toxins disposal regulations." !!!!!!!!!!! And this stuff is on/in MY body and flowing down my shower drain. If this is IFRA compliance...what's the point? Pick your poison, I guess...past or present! (You all know a new IFRA amendment will be out soon, right?) I also worry about all the plastic associated with perfume...the caps! (Plastic is a huge issue with all scented products: shampoos, bath gels, creams and lotions, on and on.)
Sometimes, after a day of sampling fragrances that have been sent to me, I think: "Have I smelled it all?" Has perfume become a boring habit with repetitive aromas scenting my life? I certainly experienced pleasant, well-made, perfumes this year but don't remember one earth-shattering perfume moment.
Other 2018 perfume musings:
PR: the lists of bogus ingredients and perfume hyperbole is taxing on the nerves ("This ingredient has never been used in a perfume before!") I don't trust one word of PR from anyone. And though I'm glad perfumers are getting their due at long last, 95% of what perfumers say in interviews is annoying and strangely 'familiar' (could be the interviewer's fault). How many dozens of times have I read that a perfumer came to love fragrances because his/her bejeweled mother, drenched in Shalimar or Chanel No. 5, and wearing a DIOR or other couture gown, used to kiss them good-night right before she went to a grand ball and, thus, inspired their love of perfume? Dear ole Mum and her lingering Shalimar! Or what about Dad's collection of vintage "Austin Healeys, Jaguars and Mercedes" that led to the creation of a perfume? Such name dropping and 1980's-style "extravagance" is retrograde, embarrassing in 2018. Anyone else heard about the dissolving ocean floor?
Skyrocketing prices: Recently I've smelled perfumes selling for $250-500 that are no better quality-wise and no more inventive than what you'll find at Macy's. And people are buying. In fact, if you "created" a drab little collection of scents that didn't sell — redesign your webpage and quadruple your prices...you'll be a success! When I went to Barneys New York recently (to buy travel sprays of Frédéric Malle Eau de Magnolia and Music For A While), I witnessed a hilarious exchange. I swear it's true! A couple (man and woman) had brought in a bottle of Kai (which they both "adore!") but wanted something just like it at a "higher price point." They were taken very seriously by the sales person who went looking, earnestly, for Kai smell-alikes. I hope they found a $300 version of "Kai." Me? I was ignored since there was no other sales person in sight. I left without my travel sprays; Nordstrom will get that business in January.
How have I spent my 'perfume year?' Restocking old favorites that haven't been reformulated beyond recognition and enjoying the aromas of soaps and candles.
What did I buy this year...for the first time? Tom Ford Santal Blush, Ortigia Lime di Sicilia (on sale), Cinq Mondes Eau Egyptienne ($18), and the inexpensive Fragonard Verveine. My best buy? A big bottle of Hermès Eau de Néroli Doré in spring that I powered through all summer; it provided me with oodles of pleasure (and a mental boost whenever my mood went south). I never got tired of it. Honorable mentions (that I smelled and enjoyed this year but didn't buy) include: Ex Nihilo Vetiver Moloko, Nishane Karagoz, and the new Hiram Green Hyde (to be reviewed in January). My refill purchases: Acqua di Parma Colonia Intensa and Querelle by Pierre Guillaume (author of the eye-roll-inducing quote above about his father's vintage cars).
I admit to still having a perfume "to-buy" list...but many of the scents may be discontinued or reformulated before I "need" to buy them. As usual, my perfume bottle runneth over.
To all my jaded perfume kin...and newbies who are going bankrupt with excitement and discovery...and everyone in between, being a Perfume Scrooge does not mean I don't wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and great 2019!