Fragrant Fiction: Perfume as Literature

Happy New Year, queridos! I hope that your New Years involved champagne and was more exciting than mine. I’m not really sure how that’s possible, considering that I went to a “pirate show” with my parents, little brother, grandparents, and cousins. Actually, the six packs on those pirates were so impressive that it might as well have been a Chippendale’s show. And from this point onward, that is how we are going to say that I spent New Year’s Eve.

Oh, Orlando. You can shiver my timbers anytime.

Anyway, y’all, although I know (desperately hope) that in the future there will be more of you, at the present time I have exactly one reader who is not my mother. I love this girl deeply, but it has also come to my attention that she does not wear perfume, and therefore she has trouble relating to many of the perfume related posts. I love perfume. I love the clever tricks that perfumers employ to create new and pleasing combinations of notes; I love the nuances. However, I fully understand that for many people, perfume has no nuances. A perfume either smells good or it doesn’t. It is for my beloved solitary reader that I will try to explain the world of perfume in terms of a field with which most people are much more familiar: literature.

For example, a perfume like Aquolina Pink Sugar is the olfactory equivalent of the Twilight series- insanely popular for absolutely no good reason.

Actually, I just thought of one VERY good reason.

Chanel Coco Mademoiselle and Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue (both of which have been bestsellers for over five years) have more in common with the Harry Potter series- just as popular, but more deserving of their success.


Oliver Wood, the Gryffindor quidditch coach. The actor who plays him is named Sean Biggerstaff. The joke here should write itself.

Along this vein, there are perfumes such as Robert Piguet Fracas, which has been worn by everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Madonna to Martha Stewart. I can appreciate that Fracas is a great classic, but whenever I try to wear it I get the distinct feeling that I am being mugged by a gardenia. I got a very similar feeling when I had to read Jane Eyre in 10th grade, except instead of a gardenia my mugger was the stupidest book of all time.

Jane, that Mr. Rochester is nothing but trouble! Why don’t you marry that nice cousin of yours? You know, the priest. No? Okay then. Also, what is UP with those BROWS, lady???

Perfumes such as Chanel No. 5 and Guerlain Shalimar can be likened to “The Great Gatsby,” a book that is both widely beloved and a masterpiece (and one of my personal favorites, if you hadn’t figured it out yet). Those “Warm Vanilla Sugar” body splashes you can get at Bath and Body Works correspond to guilty pleasure reading, like trashy romance novels or (in my case) JHU Confessions, the Gossip Girl of Johns Hopkins. It is incredibly sad how addicted I am to this website, but how else would I know whether Hopkins students prefer “an Ugly who’s awesome in bed or a Cutie who’s totally lacking”? (General consensus is the Cutie, if there was ever any doubt in your mind.)

There are books, such as pretty much anything that Allen Ginsberg (author of the incredible but frankly depressing poems “Howl”, “Kaddish”, and many others) ever wrote, which I find fascinating but too disturbing to read all that often. Creed Love in Black is a good perfume match for these kinds of books. It evokes a patch of violets growing in a forest where dark things lurk.

Finally, we have the books that we read over and over again, our favorites, the ones that changed the way we see the world. A few of mine are: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisnernos, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, and my absolute favorite of all time, Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. These books correspond to the perfumes that we wear every day, with which we and others identify ourselves. Mine are Bond No. 9 New Haarlem and Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose. My hope is that even if perfume plays no role in your life now, reading this blog will help you to see it as a form of art just like a painting or a symphony.

By the way, y’all, I forgot to mention that the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has guidelines concerning blogger endorsements. Basically, if a company sends me free samples or pays me money to write a good review, I have to let you know. All of the perfumes that I have reviewed thus far I have either bought from Sephora or tested in stores. But in the immortal words of Biggie, “I gotta let it show, I love the dough”. I am a college student who does not currently have any time to work and therefore has no source of income. If a company did send me free samples or something to review, I would not turn them down. However, I can promise you this: I will never write a review that a product does not deserve. Pink Sugar has no glowing reviews in its future no matter how much money Aquolina tries to throw at me. (Although they’re certainly welcome to try.)

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