Monday, July 12, 2010
The Last Ten Reactions to a Fragrance I Remember Getting
1. Movie Theater
I watched a local film with three friends. Two were a married couple. The third was a good friend of mine. He's used to the way I smell. Several times a week he visits and we watch trash TV, and along the end table between us are typically lined anywhere from six to ten fragrances. I make him smell most of them, even though his assessments ("vinyl raincoat mixed with cat pee" is one of my favorites) tend to break the lofty fantasies I'm trying to build around them. Many people I know are well aware that I'm "really into" perfume. I forget that some people have no idea. When we left the film we all stood outside to talk about how horrible it had been. The sound, the performances, the direction (what direction?), the lighting. "And some woman sitting behind us was wearing the stinkiest old lady perfume!" said my friend's wife, aghast. It was like she'd survived an incident involving a rather virulent nuclear leak. "That old lady was me," I told her.
2. Editing Suite
A couple times a week I've been working with my co-editor on a film we shot this year. Neither she nor her girlfriend seems to wear perfume. They don't even seem to wear oils. She knows I like and write about perfume; it shouldn't come as a surprise, as the film is thematically tied into fragrance. One day, she emailed me to discuss our work the day before. Her room still smelled like me, she said, meaning my perfume. I can't remember what I was wearing but because we'd been working so closely and it's so hot I probably went easy on her and used very little. She said she liked it, which made me feel good, because even better than having your perfume complimented is having its memory installed, appreciated, and associated with you.
Sometime last year--maybe the year before--I received an anonymous email. Whoever it was had signed up with an online service which basically allows you to insult people safely. Whatever you say can't be traced back to you. It's the loveliest thing. I rarely get comments on what I'm wearing. So it seemed strange to receive this notification. "Someone wishes to inform you that your cologne is unusually strong," it said. I know many people but like most of us I see the same several faces day after day, mostly at work. It was probably a co-worker, and I was annoyed that she couldn't just bring it up in person. I never heard about it again but have been paranoid ever since.
I work with three women. One never says a word about whatever it is I'm wearing. When I asked her what she wears she says Chanel No. 5, though only on special occasions. Another co-worker says something about my perfume only rarely. Usually, when she likes what I have on, I give her some. The third party tends to go into paroxysms of pleasure every morning when I make coffee. She doesn't drink it but loves the aroma. She also sneezes a lot in the other room throughout the day and I generally take this to mean that I've over applied. This might be a product of the aforementioned paranoia. I asked her at one point whether her nose is particularly sensitive to smell. She said yes. I then asked whether the things I wear bother her. She said they usually don't, although there is one thing I've worn that gives her a migraine. More paranoia. What could it be? Every morning I wonder: Is this the cologne she was talking about? The whole thing seems bizarre to me because I'm fairly conversant about fragrance and read the forums like crazy and know which ones are considered scent bombs and which are inoffensive (i.e. non-entities, if you ask me) and I've always been conservative, both in what I choose to wear at work and in how much I apply.
It's four o'clock and I have recently reapplied. I'm very likely wearing at least three different things, which must smell like a melange to everyone else. Me, I can only smell what I just put on. I go to the counter to get my coffee. One of the teenagers who works there whispers something about me to her co-worker, whom I know better. The co-worker says, "He ALWAYS smells good," and she smiles at me. This makes me happy but also paranoid. Writing all this, I'm starting to realize how afraid or anxious I am most of the time: afraid of offending, afraid of being smelled, being discussed as a stinker, wanting to stand out but afraid of it too. In a general sense the comment made me wonder how often people like something I have on and say nothing.
Recently, a friend got into my car and, after buckling in, said, "Your car always smells so nice."
When I first started wearing things--which is to say ten things at once--he would migrate to the back room for refuge. On several occasions he pleaded with me, or simply said my name urgently, because we both knew without speaking what he was getting at; essentially, "please stop." He never does this anymore. He never complains. I don't know what happened. Maybe he's desensitized. Maybe the behavior seems less compulsive now, more routine, and therefore doesn't bother him as much--or, cross fingers, at all. Every once in a while he comments on something I've sprayed. Who knows what, because when I'm at home I have at least five fragrances up and down my arms. He smells the little pools on my skin until we determine which one he likes. Last time it was Amber Ylang Ylang.
One of my best friends is a straight male. We work on movies together. He was always slightly bemused by my perfume habits, as if they were the behavior of some weird, unclassifiable creature from a parallel dimension, harmless but curious. Then I found out that he had a special bottle of Riverside Drive by Bond No. 9, which is hardly typical for a straight guy, making him something unclassifiable himself. When I found discount bottles of Armani Prive Bois d'encens, I brought it over immediately, knowing he'd be hooked. Later, we screened at a film festival in Chicago and I took him to Barneys with me, just to watch his mind get blown. He left with a bottle of French Lover. He often tells me I smell good. However, one day, greeting me outside a coffeehouse for a get together, he said, "You smell like tampon."
9. Friend's House
I visited a friend in Los Angeles after sniffing at Barneys, Saks, and Nordstrom. I had scent strips with me and forgot them when I left. My friend told me later that her cats had gone crazy for whatever was on them, rolling around the floor like they'd gotten into catnip.
I wore Bandit parfum extrait and lots of it to a friend's outdoor wedding. She and I often discuss perfume. I've given her: Nombril Immense by Etat Libre D'Orange, Nuits de Noho by Bond No. 9, Angel Violet, Marc Jacobs Violet Splash, Fresh Sake, and others I can't remember. I worried, before leaving the house, that no one would smell the Bandit, so I added some Azuree. When I left the wedding, I hugged the bride good-bye. "You always smell so good," she whispered in my ear.