Enrichment and Elimination

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Kitty separation anxiety: so much less cute than it sounds. I’m working in the Nordstrom fragrance department over the holidays to study the DC perfume shopper, and my unpredictable retail schedule is freaking Zelda out. She cuddles now, you guys. Cuddles! The minute I walk through the door, she plants herself on my collarbone and demands ear scratches. She sleeps by my feet! And only bites them once or twice! Significantly less adorable is her newfound tendency to, as the cat separation anxiety websites euphemistically put it, “eliminate outside of the litter box”. When “eliminating” on the floor three times failed to stop me from leaving the house, the fuzzy little terrorist went for the duvet.

Dr. Google’s recommendations range from kitty prozac (what’s that saying about pets starting to resemble their owners?) to various methods of making Zelda’s environment more stimulating. So far I’ve brought in a cat tower, which she completely ignores, and downloaded some cat-enriching videos. (“Duck Rush Hour” is pretty much cat Game of Thrones.) Then I remembered a favorite Now Smell This post about zookeepers using Calvin Klein Obsession as “enrichment” to keep their tigers mentally stimulated. Inspired, I sprayed four of my most intriguing perfumes and attempted to enrich the elimination away. In the name of science, and an unshat duvet, I present my findings.

Chanel No. 5: Zero sniffing, and Zelda pulled back her head when I moved the paper closer to her. I have raised a deeply uncultured kitteh.
L’Artisan Dzing!: Faint interest. Some sniffing, and one paw at the piece of paper. Zelda has clearly never read the dozens of Dzing! reviews describing it as “animalic”.
CB I Hate Perfume Burning Leaves: Intense interest! A good fifteen seconds of sniffing, followed by multiple paws at the paper. My hypothesis: Burning Leaves has a salty, meaty aspect that appeals to carnivores.

Displaying the highest contempt for the scientific process, Zelda wandered off before I could test the last fragrance, Gorilla Perfumes The Smell of Weather Turning.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the commission. I’ll expect my research grant shortly.

Notes on method: I sprayed the fragrances on four identical pieces of paper to prevent Zelda from being influenced by packaging. This would have been a lot more impressive if I had remembered to include a control. 

Diary of a Mad Perfume Blogger

Friday, May 18th: With my final final out of the way, I was finally free to visit my family in Bethesda for the weekend. Of course, no trip to Bethesda would be complete without a detour to Friendship Heights, a throng of luxury shops conveniently situated near the metro stop before Bethesda. I got to try a few new-to-me perfumes, including Frederic Malle Outrageous! (this smells suspiciously like my favorite Ineke, Chemical Bonding, which was actually released a year earlier) and Guerlain London (actually a very nice rhubarb fragrance, but unacceptably thin).

Our evening entertainment was Sacha Baron Cohen’s new movie, The Dictator. My parents protested, citing the terrible reviews it’s been getting; I ended up having to guilt them into it by reminding them that Sacha was a long-time member of the same Jewish hippie movement to which my brother and I had belonged. I am delighted to tell you that The Dictator is very, very funny, and that SBC remains one tall glass of water.

And mama’s thirsty!

There was also a preview for Anchorman 2, which thrills me to my very core. I ended up wearing Etat Libre d’Orange Bijou Romantique, which is working overtime to replace Guerlain L’Heure Bleue as my all-time favorite perfume.

Saturday, May 19th: I spent a good 2 hours playing around in the Nordstrom beauty department while my mom had about 20 outfits tailored. The trials of being a five-foot fashionista! While I was there, I sprayed on the new Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb. The first time I tried Spicebomb, I got plenty of warm spices and a virile leather note; this time around I got syrupy sweetness. I haven’t made up my mind about this perfume yet, although I do feel 100% sure that the grenade packaging is pretty freaking tacky.

In the afternoon, we went to see The Bloggess speak at the Gaithersburg Book Festival!

The Bloggess, for those of you unfortunate enough to have never read her tales of the giant metal chicken named Beyonce, is a woman named Jenny Lawson who writes about taxidermied animals and panic attacks (the two are unrelated). When Jenny walked up to the microphone, I swear that I just started sobbing. This is actually unremarkable, because I am kind of a total crybaby (my weakness is Subaru commercials), but it was just so exciting to see how successful this strange, brilliant woman has become. Jenny read through the colon-cleanse scene of her memoir, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, in her delightful Texas deadpan. She also graciously answered my perfume blogger questions (turns out she doesn’t wear any perfume, but she does occasionally wear Teen Spirit deodorant).

Later we ended up seeing Bernie, that new Jack Black movie in which he plays a mortician. I wore Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur, which I figured would go well with the vestiges of the morning’s SpicebombBernie was honestly excellent, although it really should have been named Did You Guys Know That Jack Black Can Sing? He Totally Can, You Guys! It turns out that not only can Jack Black sing (he totally can, you guys!), but he can play a mundanely sinister character to perfection.

We stopped at Barnes & Noble on our way home, where I got a Thor bobble-head to keep Captain Kirk company.

Because I wasn’t nerdy enough already.

I drifted off to sleep wearing Annick Goutal Songes, a generous gift from The Unseen Censer.

Diary of a Mad Perfume Blogger

Saturday, April 14th: After three months of relentless hazing (and by “relentless hazing”, I mean “being given a lifetime supply of candy and t-shirts”), it’s Initiation Day for our Pi Phi new members! But first, Drew and I must procure a bow tie for Monday’s “Pi Phis and Bow Ties”-themed date party. We try our luck in Hampden, a kitschy little town made famous by delightfully creepy director John Waters and his movies “Pecker” and “Hairspray”. We quickly find a perfectly respectable clip-on bow tie for $10 (and some Scooby Doo slippers for only $6! My Invader Zim slippers were getting lonely).

Jinkies!

With the bow tie out of the way, we can finally turn our attention to some far more important business: perfume shopping!

Our first stop is Kiss N’ Make-Up, a cute beauty store that claimed to carry the CB I Hate Perfume line on their website. They no longer had it (or any perfume, unfortunately), but they did have a gorgeous cat, Mrs. Puff, who guards the store entrance. If I had to guess, I’d say she’s a Maine Coon, don’t you think?

Yes, I am THAT GIRL who stands in the middle of the street to take pictures of a cat.

We have far better luck at a boutique called In Watermelon Sugar, which has the Tokyo Milk line! I’m won’t lie to you, I had a bit of a spaz when I saw them. I’ve always been curious about the Tokyo Milks, which are reputed to be creative perfumes at amazing prices. I thought that I would be all about the sweeter perfumes, like Dead Sexy or Let Them Eat Cake, but I somehow ended up falling for Gin & Rosewater. I don’t like gin or rosewater, but Gin & Rosewater smells like the most delectable gourmet rose-flavored soda. A new perfume and Scooby Doo slippers for only $36? I declare this shopping expedition a smashing success.

We head home just in time for my Initiation shift. I can’t tell you anything about the double-secret-probation ceremony itself, except that it involves white robes which were clearly intended for taller ladies. But I will tell you that I wore Cartier Baiser Vole. I thought that its fresh lily scent would be a good match for the ceremony (sorority ceremonies are all about purity and faux virginity).

After the ceremony was finished, our newly initiated members received YET ANOTHER ROUND of ruthless hazing (and by “ruthless hazing”, I once again mean “so much candy”). For this after-party, I switched to the more exuberant Gin & Rosewater. It just puts me in such a good mood! Now, it took us about an hour to set up these beautiful candy designs.

It took those savages all of thirty seconds to demolish it.

WHEN PI PHIS ATTACK!!!
It's like The Hunger Games up in here!

Afterwards, our newly initiated members passed around a cookie cake (and some chocolate-covered matzah, for the more observant of us) and shared their favorite part about joining Pi Phi. There might have been some muffled sobbing from my corner of the room. People always tell me, “You don’t seem like a sorority girl”. They’re right, of course, and if I were at any other school, I probably wouldn’t be one. But Hopkins can be an awfully isolating place. Most nights I do opt to stay in and watch Firefly with the kitteh, but it makes me feel so much better to know that if I ever do decide not to be so anti-social, there are a hundred girls who I could call.

Sunday, April 15th: This was a much-needed low key day. I had the most gloriously bubbly bath courtesy of a Lush French Kiss bubble bar. Did some reading on herpesviruses for Virology class (trust me, herpes is not as glamorous as the lame-stream media would have you believe), beat a gym leader or two in Pokemon SoulSilver. My SOTD was A Lab on Fire What We Do In Paris Is Secret, the perfect cuddly rice scent. It really does smell just like a sweeter version of the steam that comes out when you open a rice cooker. This is what Kenzo Amour should have been. I was all set to order a $32 bottle from Anthropologie when I made the incredibly dumb mistake of asking Drew what he thought of it. He didn’t like it. All of the heliotrope reminded him too much of almonds, to which he is allergic. Grumble grumble grumble. Why did I ever allow him to develop preferences?

In the absence of rice-scented perfume, I demanded fried rice for dinner. We go out for what will most likely be our last hibachi dinner in Baltimore (Drew is graduating in May). The nomz, they are bittersweet.

Monday, April 16th: On Mondays I have my favorite class of the semester: Women in Hollywood! Today we watched “Light the Red Lanterns”, a film about Chinese concubines in the 1920’s. You do not want to be a Chinese concubine in the 1920’s, y’all. I do like the movies, but the real reason that it’s my favorite is because the pleasingly eccentric professor brings her dog in to class. She’s a very cute dog, and remarkably well-behaved (far more so than Zelda).

I decide on the roasted sweetness of Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille to match the gold dress that I’m wearing to the date party. Drew shows up looking terribly dapper in his clip-on bow tie. To my delight, he’s wafting the Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensee that I bought him for his birthday. We were by far the best-smelling couple at that date party.

Diary of a Mad Perfume Blogger

A tender moment between a cat and her green bean.

Friday, January 20th: My beloved friend K, who is thinking about moving into my apartment when my current housemate moves out, comes over to determine whether she is allergic to the kitteh. To my amazement, Zelda conducts herself very nicely, with almost minimal biting. K and I enjoy some TOTALLY NON-ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES and watch Beverly’s criminally unjust elimination from Top Chef.

After a few hours of playing the green bean game with Zelda (the green bean game consists of throwing a green bean to Zelda and then watching her joyfully dissect it), it is determined that K is not particularly allergic to her. To celebrate the happy results of our incredibly scientifically rigorous experiment, we head out to the local pub.

Before we leave, I spray on way too much Prada Candy. I figure that it’s sweet and fun enough for a night out, but not so sexy that it implies I’m on the prowl. The pub has incredible fries, which are promptly commandeered by the men sitting next to us. Baltimore is a very friendly town, but I do sometimes wish that they would let me finish my fries for once.

The fry drama is eventually settled, mostly because there are no longer any more fries. We bid a not-entirely-regretful goodbye to the fry thieves and head out into the very first snowfall of the winter. We shriek at the snowflakes collecting in our hair, but I am secretly delighted. Baltimore always looks so beautiful in the snow. Everything is quiet and serene, except for our resident hobo Crazy Mike, who is loudly insisting that he killed my sister. I would probably be more concerned if I had a sister.

Saturday, January 21st: I wake up with a ruthless headache and several unusual items in my purse. These include a pair of sunglasses which do not belong to me, an Edgar Allen Poe coaster, and a phone number written in very messy Arabic. I have no idea what to do with the sunglasses, but the headache is easily vanquished with the help of a Satsumo Santa Lush bath bomb. Even more fun than the bath bomb itself is watching poor Zelda’s bewildered reaction to the pink water and the gleefully fizzy Santa.

Zelda watches cautiously from the shore.

For those of you who are just joining us, Zelda is closer to a jaguar than an average house cat. She is a savage, violent creature. Until recently, the bath tub was my last safe place. Not anymore. Now she can swim. But today Satsumo Santa and I reclaimed the bath tub, if only for a few tranquil minutes. Today’s fragrant mistake was Balenciaga Paris. I retry it from time to time, because it got so many great reviews praising it as “quiet” and “elegant” when it was first released. Unfortunately, today it’s just as high-pitched as I remembered it.

Sunday, January 22nd: I begin work on the essay for my intersession class about the Fitzgeralds. I’m writing about Zelda Fitzgerald’s novel Save Me The Waltz, and the symbolism of its many mentions of eau de cologne. Save Me The Waltz is actually a highly fragrant novel; Zelda mentions Coty Jasmine, Coty L’Origan, and an unnamed Elizabeth Arden perfume. I am convinced that if she had been born a few decades later, Ms. Fitzgerald would have made a fantastic perfume blogger. Although a cologne would have made more sense, I wear the exuberant hazelnut fragrance Parfumerie Generale Aomassai to keep my spirits up while I read the Fitzgeralds (which is harder than it sounds, because man those two were depressing).

Drew wants to have dinner somewhere fancy for Restaurant Week, so we choose a place down in Mount Vernon with epic salted caramel brownies. I decide that this is the perfect occasion to debut an adorable new Rebecca Taylor dress. However, the truly unfortunate happens: the dress goes rogue. It fit fine when I bought it only a week earlier, but now the damn zipper keeps splitting.

After literally half an hour, the dress is finally fully zipped. I’m a little freaked out, to be honest. I have gained weight recently. Most of the time I feel okay about it, but discovering that a favorite piece of clothing is now too small can still be disheartening. However, I am determined not to let the self-doubt ruin our night. I put on one of my favorite Star Trek episodes, “A Piece Of The Action”, in which Kirk takes on a hilariously bad Chicago accent. Shatner’s voice quickly works its usual soothing magic. I soon feel comfortable enough to put on a red lipstick, spray on some Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose (the fanciest perfume I own), and relish my salted caramel brownie.

Someone apparently decided that Star Trek needed more pin stripes.

Diary of a Mad Perfume Blogger

Saturday, January 14th: I manage to drag my father into a Lush store. This is significant because my father cannot smell. He lost his sense of smell after breaking his nose in a car crash before I was born. As a result, all perfumes smell the same to him, and he considers my perfume habit a bit frivolous and silly. He would ordinarily never accompany me into a perfume store, but I’m banking on Lush’s quirky image to persuade him. My father is an oddball. A terribly lovable oddball, of course, but he likes the weirdest things. He is currently trying to teach himself how to play the ukelele.

The Lush saleswoman very generously offers to demonstrate a bath bomb for us. She detonates a sparkly purple one named Phoenix Rising, which immediately begins merrily whizzing around the bowl. My father is tickled. Not surprising, considering that he is essentially a mad scientist. Okay, okay, “inventor”. He creates devices that detect breast cancer. I once had to help him radiate earthworms for one of his experiments. He goes home with a bath bomb and some wasabi-flavored Toothy Tabs. Victory!

The Lush saleswoman also compliments me on my new haircut. I have not in fact, gotten a haircut, but I go with it because nobody ever compliments me on my short hair (which makes me look vaguely like Snape).

SOTD: Lush Vanillary, a delicious caramelized vanilla, which I spray on while my father browses the bath bombs. Vanillary is even weirder than Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille- where UBV uses woods, a natural accompaniment to vanilla, Vanillary incorporates a dissonant jasmine note.

Sunday, January 15th: My boyfriend Drew is home from Iowa today! We have a delicious dinner with my family at Benihana’s. Like the hibachi fiend I am, I eat every damn grain of fried rice and find myself carrying a food baby by the end of the meal. I decide to name the food baby Jessamina, after my Italian great-aunt. My father (remember the part where I told you he was an oddball?) enthusiastically invites Drew to go snowboarding with him tomorrow. Sadly, we have to get back to Baltimore.

SOTD: Cartier Baiser Vole, the only perfume that I remembered to bring in my purse. Unfortunately, the lovely lily fragrance wilts in the face of the hibachi grill.

Monday, January 16th: It’s MLK day! I decide to watch an Uhura-centric Star Trek episode to honor Dr. King, who famously convinced Nichelle Nichols not to quit the show. Nichelle had gotten fed up with William Shatner’s demands for more and more lines and screen time (Oh, Bill, you absolute cad), so she had handed in her letter of resignation the night that she met Dr. King. As he shook her hand, Dr. King told her that he was a huge Star Trek fan, that it was the only show that he allowed his children to watch.

Upon hearing that she was planning to quit, he gave the kind of speech that only MLK could: “[Your role as Uhura] validates what we are marching for, because three hundred years from today, there we are! And there you are! In all our glory and all your glory! And you CANNOT leave!” The next day, Nichelle Nichols marched into Gene Rodenberry’s office and asked him to rip up her letter of resignation. (I’m not going to lie: I tear up every time I hear that story!)

SOTD: Comptoir Sud Pacifique Vanille Mokha. I haven’t yet figured out how to use my housemate’s fancy new coffee maker, so I figure that a coffee scent is the next best thing.

Tuesday, January 17th: Great success! I have figured out how to use the fancy new coffee maker. The rest of my morning is less triumphant. Zelda has decided that she is no longer afraid of water. While I am very happy for her, this makes my bath time somewhat less peaceful than it used to be. Normally my morning bath is when I catch up on my favorite perfume blogs, but today’s bath mostly consists of trying to fend off an unreasonably vicious kitteh. Why is my cat so scary, you guys? I am almost positive that she is not supposed to be biting me this much. I am thinking of having a DNA test done on her. We know that she is half Siamese, but I suspect that the other half is jaguar or cheetah.

Later, Zelda, Drew and I catch up on Top Chef. The other chefs are being mean to my favorite contestant, Beverly. I pray that they will be struck with karmic retribution in the form of undercooked risottos and overcooked fish dishes. When the show ends, I get started on my class reading for tomorrow: Sophocles’ The Theban Plays. These include the story of Oedipus and his daughters. They are kind of super depressing. Spoiler alert: EVERYONE HANGS THEMSELVES. Because my study methods involve creating crudely-drawn, deeply unfunny comics about the material, I present to you: Oedipus Comics!

SOTD: Escada Rockin’ Rio. I needed something mindless and cheerful after all of that everyone hanging themselves business.