Thursday, August 1, 2013

Packing the Perfect Hunch: Perfume to Go

Almost every day I pack a bag the way a parent might prepare a lunch pail for a student. Theirs are full of baloney. Mine is full of perfume. Sometimes, a perfume from this rotating mobile cabinet carries over into the next day. Occasionally, it carries over into three.

I have a sturdy plastic bag - ironically, about the size and shape of a classic square lunchbox - and in this plastic bag I can fit usually eight to ten fragrances, depending on whether or not I keep them in their boxes. I make sure to include at least three boxed perfumes to give the bag some structure and padding.

On some days, I go without actually wearing any of them. That has to do with how busy I am and whose company I'm keeping. Am I in the presence of a sneezer? (You know the type. You pull out a bottle of perfume, uncap it, and already this guy's squinting his eyes) Do I have any time to spray something on my wrist and go off into a private pocket of space in my imagination? Will I have trouble skipping back and forth across the inside my head/outside my head continuum?

I don't always wear anything at all from the bag but it's rare I don't bring at least a few bottles out at some point to sniff from the atomizers. After having done this for several years now, I've come to understand that I'm essentially curating space, making an abstract to concrete art gallery of my day. Maybe at the beginning of the day you choose those pink pants in your closet because they can be relied on to influence your mood and govern your interactions in reliable, or predictably surprising, ways. Perfume, for me, is a different kind of plan, full of a lot more alchemy. How will this grouping of perfume transform my day? You can SEE the pink pants. What happens when you can't see something which is strongly influencing your mood and the moment?

To that end, I put some amount of time each morning into the selection process. I can't tell you exactly what the thinking is there. Some days, I'm rushed, and I worry, obsessively, that I'm making the wrong choices. Three Guerlains in one bag? What the hell was I thinking? That makes for a pretty myopic afternoon. Too many fruity florals? Feeling a little claustrophobic. Extending the lunch box analogy, I try to make sure all the major food groups are represented, there's some effort toward a healthy, edifying, nutritional balance. But I like the sugar, so I make sure to throw in a good desert.

Is this all just strictly OCD? Maybe. I decided a long time ago not to worry too much about it. If you're washing your hands obsessively, what's the difference, as long as you're not hurting anyone and your skin hasn't started peeling off?

In yesterday's bag, I packed the following. Don't ask me why:

Guerlain Samsara (older bottle, which has a quality approaching licorice)
Gloria Vanderbilt V (cherry almond on the cheap; okay, so it's always pretty cheap, that combo)
Lush Icon (Sassafras incense: Hey can you quiet the God stuff down in here? I'm drinking my tea.)
Mona Di Orio Cuir (suddenly the plastic bag goes leather satchel)
Avon Patterns (woody petrol floral)
Basile edp (spicy rose oriental)
Dana Emir (OMG: Have you tried this? I'm on a mission. Everyone must.)
Montale Black Aoud (Wee! Look at me! I'm on trend.)

When I do carry a fragrance over into double or triple days, it's often because I feel sorry for it. I didn't smell you at all yesterday, buddy. You know what? I'm giving you another day. Tomorrow is your day. Tomorrow it's all about you. Then, like a deadbeat dad I forget it all over again, passing it by for more exciting momentary pleasures. The record so far is Diptyque Jardin Clos, which struggled vainly for attention over the course of an entire week, before I finally removed it, quietly. It's a hard knock life for the calone cabal.