Tuesday, May 16, 2006

No Sample Today

I decided to take a break today and wear Clinique Simply (that fragrance nobody wears, according to my friendly neighborhood Sephora SA).

When I encountered the perfume blogs, I was so delighted to read the thoughtful and intelligent musings of people who seem so interesting, I decided to jump on the bandwagon, bringing my novice’s take on fragrance with me. And in trying to join the online conversation about perfume, I sometimes feel as though I am the equivalent of the person who, having dinner with a bunch of wine connoisseurs, announces that she also loves wine, and then goes on to describe enthusiastically how she just bought a great new white zinfandel that comes in a box she can keep in her fridge.

In the last month or so, I have learned so much about fragrance, and my brain is filled with information that’s leaps and bounds ahead of my actual experience, leaving me with an understanding of notes I don’t know if I am sniffing and so on and so forth. I worry that when a fragrance disappears on me, it’s because I have somehow applied it improperly. Did I not wait long enough after applying my body lotion (which basically has no scent)? Am I applying it to the wrong spots? Is my application method wrong? I’ve tried dabbing with the applicator or with my fingers. I’ve tried simply, say, tipping the tiny glass vial upside down against my wrist and sort of moving it around. (I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to do that, but the tiny applicator in the bottle doesn’t help, and I hate to think of the fragrance on my fingertips that I am wasting when I wash it off.) I feel such relief when I get to a sample that’s in a little spray (like tomorrow's sample, Ormonde Jayne’s Frangipani, which was the reason I got the sample pack in the first place), I cannot tell you.

But I have always loved fragrance. Some women feel naked without mascara or lipstick. I can go out without makeup, but I hate to leave the house without a little spray of something. And I absolutely hate it when I am running late for work and I forget to put on any fragrance. I feel strange all day, almost like I would if I forgot to wear my wedding ring.

I don’t know the notes of the many fragrances I have worn, but I carry with me the memories and attendant feelings that go with them. (After all, the ubiquitous “they” says that the sense of smell is the sense most connected with memory.) For example, although I wore Opium off and on though college and graduate school, it reminds me most of my years in graduate school when I was teaching, trapped somewhere between student and professional, trying to figure out who to be (okay, I still haven’t figured that out). But I also wore it because I wanted to be sexy (even though I am very firmly in the bookish girl-next-door category). Two fragrances I wore that were discontinued, Cacharel Noa (not Noa Fleur, which came later) and Giorgio’s Ocean Dream (the fragrance for which I received the most compliments, out of anything I ever wore) were fragrances I wore during the first year I dated my husband. I wore Elizabeth Arden’s Splendor when we got married. I wore Spellbound when I got my Bachelor’s and my Master’s; I wore Beautiful when I graduated from high school.

One of the best things about this new project I’ve started is how it makes me go back and remember all the fragrances I have worn, and what they meant to me at the time. Funny, but wearing a different fragrance almost every day, as I have for the last five or six weeks, has left me feeling a bit untethered, but not necessarily in a bad way. Because I have no connection to any of these new fragrances, every day is a blank slate. Silly, but I almost feel like I could be anybody. Today, though, I needed to just be me, so I went back to Simply, a fragrance I find very comforting and cozy, that I’ve worn through the last six months or so, which have been pretty steady, sure-footed. It’s not fancy, it’s not exclusive to France, but it isn’t exactly white zinfandel in the box either. When I run out, I may just buy another bottle.