All The Single Ladies

[Editor’s Note: I forgot to publish this one!!! But I felt that the advice was still valid, even post-Valentine’s Day.]

As a certified weirdo, I have spent the vast majority of my Valentine’s Days single. And with only one exception, those single Valentine’s Days were all superior to those in which I was in a relationship. Nothing perplexes and enrages me more than the expectation that single women are supposed to spend Valentine’s Day sobbing into their Ben & Jerry’s while watching a Nicholas Sparks marathon. Please! We’re not Stephenie Meyer characters!

YOU GUYS THESE BOOKS HAVE SO MANY SPELLING ERRORS

I know that my single readers are absolutely fabulous women and men who no doubt already have equally fabulous Valentine’s Day plans. But just in case you really were planning on going the Ben & Jerry’s route, I’ve come up with some ways to spend Valentine’s Day single, each of which is infinitely more exciting than a dozen red roses and the same damn French restaurant. This list also includes perfume-related Valentine’s Day gifts to yourself, since Valentine’s Day is supposed to be all about giving to the ones you love!

The Plan: Going to movie theaters by yourself is so awesome that I’m not sure why anyone chooses to go with other people. No one to steal your popcorn or Sour Skittles. No one to make fun of you when you start crying during the “The Hobbit” trailer.

I JUST REALLY MISSED GANDALF OKAY

The trick is to NOT choose a romantic comedy. Of the movies currently in theaters, my recommendations are: Hugo, Sherlock Holmes, and, of course, the 3D rerelease of Star Wars Episode I- The Phantom Menace. George Lucas’ massive plot holes, now in 3D!

The Present: For perfumes that smell as vast and as grand as the plot holes in Star Wars, nothing beats this Amouage Mini Perfume set.

The Plan: Daniel Radcliffe has recently admitted that he struggled with alcoholism while filming the Harry Potter movies. We at Scents of Self recognize that alcoholism is a terrible disease, and couldn’t be prouder of Mr. Radcliffe for overcoming his addiction. However, I would be lying if I said that I will not be playing the resulting Harry Potter drinking game. This game consists of inviting your friends over for a Harry Potter marathon and having everyone drink each time you suspect that Harry Potter is totally drunk. Personally, my money’s on the classic “pincers” scene in Half-Blood Prince.

The Present: Boozy scents, of course! (Lord, I am a bad person.) “Cocktail” is one of the eight scents included in this Gorilla Perfumes sample pack. Lush is also British, just like Daniel!

3) A local cooking class is the perfect place to act out your Top Chef fantasies.

Someday, Padma... SOMEDAY.

These are offered both by individual restaurants and by cooking schools. The D.C. area is home to both L’Academie de Cuisine and CulinAerie, which used to offer classes taught by the delightful Top Chef contestant Carla Hall. Also, according to the movie Hereafter, you might meet Matt Damon there. I’m just sayin’.

The Present: La Cuisine des Nez, an aromatic cookbook full of perfumer’s favorite recipes. Olivier Polge’s smoked sea scallops sound truly divine.

The Plan: What could be a better choice for a perfumista than a perfume-related event? DSH Perfumes and Ormonde Jayne are two brands that offer one-on-one perfume consultations with the company founders; Guerlain and Ayala Moriel offer workshops that teach you about the materials used in perfumes and help you create your own fragrance. Bergdorf Goodman and Scent Bar also occasionally hold perfumer meet-and-greets.

The Present: Ormonde Jayne and DSH Perfumes both have divine sample sets. (Ayala Moriel has some too, but I have to say that I find the prices somewhat obscene.)

The Plan: Google your favorite older celebrities. There is a 65% chance that they have turned to live shows in order to pay the bills, which means that you get to see them in person! For example, Carrie Fisher is currently on her “Wishful Drinking” tour, William Shatner has an off-Broadway show, George Takei is about to start a Broadway show, and Patrick Stewart is always doing some Shakespeare play.

BEST SHYLOCK EVER

The Present: Someday I may stop finding the Star Trek colognes hilarious, but it is not this day. Available in Pon Farr, Red Shirt, Sulu Por Homme, Tiberius, and the delightfully named Shirtless Kirk.

I'm still waiting for the flanker, Shirtless Sulu.

The Plan: At any other time of year, this list would include lots of outdoor events. Unfortunately, in most parts of the world, February weather is not exactly conducive to spending time outdoors. A notable exception: hot springs. They are pretty much the greatest thing ever, and winter is actually the best time of the year to experience them. U.S. readers might be surprised to know that quite a few states have hot springs, including New York, Virginia, Georgia, and California.

The Perfume: When searching for hot springs-themed beauty products, I came across Israeli brand Ahava. Let’s set the record straight: Ahava, the “definitive Dead Sea cosmetics brand”, is a total sham. Their products DO NOT come from the Dead Sea, which is shrinking every year from the lack of rain in Israel. There is no way in hell that anyone would be allowed to extract or harvest its water or plants. That being said, Ahava is one of Israel’s premier brands and does have some very nice spa products! Their salt scrubs are fabulous.

The Plan: Your local zoo, aquarium, or animal shelter is an ideal place to spend Valentine’s Day. It is significantly harder to feel grumpy about one’s marital status when you are watching a dolphin do flips. The Smithsonian National Zoo is free, accessible by metro, and has baby pandas. You’re welcome, America.

The National Zoo's Tai Shan! Has there ever been a species so adorable, and yet so determined to be eliminated by natural selection?

The Present: Smell Bent has a Little Miss Panda perfume! There is also a Kung Fu Panda perfume, although I cannot vouch for its quality.

The Plan: Make someone else’s Valentine’s Day special by donating your unwanted perfumes and cosmetics, either to a women’s shelter or to the Beauty Bloggers for Charity auction. 100% of all winning bids goes to Doctors Without Borders. Please note: I ask that before you good-heartedly try to follow this suggestion by buying products sponsored by breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen, you read this plea for Planned Parenthood.

The Perfume: The Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Charity Drive donates the proceeds from several BPAL scents to some seriously exciting-sounding charities, such as the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and Bat Conservation International.

I WILL CONSERVE YOU, MY WATERMELON-LOVING FRIEND
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The “Help Ari Buy Her Boyfriend The Best Valentine’s Day Present Ever” Perfume Sale!

Please help me fund the ultimate Valentine’s Day present for my boyfriend Drew! I can’t tell you what the present will be yet (he reads this blog), but I promise to post all about it. All prices are negotiable. I will ship anywhere. All decants are $15 for 5 ml and $25 for 10 ml. All samples are $2 each and are manufacturer’s samples unless otherwise noted. (Someone bought the samples! Yaaaay!)

Full Bottles

Prada EDP Refill 75 ml – $45 (98% full)

Molinard Fleur du Chocolat 50 ml– $35 (sprayed twice)

Cartier Baiser Vole mini 15 ml– $25 (sprayed twice)

Balenciaga EDP mini 7.5 ml– $15 (applied once)

Love Chloe mini 5 ml– $10 (applied once)

Decants

Prada Candy

Estee Lauder Azuree Soleil

Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille

Guerlain Après l’Ondée

L’Artisan Safran Troublant

Cartier Baiser Vole

Yves Saint Laurent Yvresse

M.A.C. MV3

How To Buy Someone Perfume For Valentine’s Day

This morning, I received a desperate text from my long-distance best friend that read “[My boyfriend] says he’s going to buy me perfume for V-day. I need ideas!” Well, Scents of Self to the rescue, y’all. When you have finished reading this article, you will be a veritable master of Valentine’s Day perfume presents. Please try not to abuse this awesome power.

Step 1: Get a sense of your intended gift recipient’s tastes.

What perfumes has he or she worn in the past? Are there any connections or common themes between these fragrances? Perhaps your IGR has never worn perfume. In this case, we’ll have to start with the basics. What are his or her favorite smells? If he or she mentions naturalistic smells such as “fresh-mowed grass” or “the smell of the ocean”, you’re probably going to be looking at light, clean fragrances. If he or she says “a bouquet of [insert favorite flower here]”, we’re talking florals. If he or she salivates over “fresh-baked brownies”, you’ll do well to focus on gourmand fragrances. The website Basenotes provides a helpful basic guide to the different types of fragrances, with examples of each type.

Be sure to also take note of what kind of things your IGR enjoys outside of fragrance. Is he or she a label-lover who has never stepped a Manolo-clad foot inside a Walmart? You’re probably best off sticking to the big names, such as Chanel, Dior, or Prada. If, instead, your IGR is a tree-hugging hippie with a carbon footprint in the negative numbers, he or she might be happiest with a gift from natural or organic perfume lines. If you’re buying for a hipster who delights in the obscure, your best bet is a niche brand that only 5 people in the world have ever heard of.

From here, you have two options.

Step 2A: Take your IGR shopping with you and allow them to pick out a perfume for you to buy. I consider this the less romantic option.

Step 2B: Present your intended gift recipient with a collection of 5-10 samples which, based on the information you gathered in Step 1, you think he or she will like.

Giving your IGR five to ten choices greatly increases the chance that he or she will like at least one of them. DO NOT JUST BUY YOUR IGR ONE PERFUME. This has a much lower rate of success, and is quite likely to be returned. How will you get these samples? You have two choices: in person at stores, or online. I highly recommend the online option, but if you are short on time, here are some rules for in-store interactions. First, do not talk to the salespeople. For more information, please refer to this post. Your own nose will tell you whether what you are smelling is a floral or a candy-sweet gourmand. Do not talk to them until you are already sure of which fragrances you would like to have samples made of, and are ready to ask them to make or find those samples.

Here are the stores who will make you a sample of anything in the store: Nordstrom, Sephora, bluemercury, Lush. Here are the stores who will give you pre-made manufacturer’s samples if they have them and if you ask nicely: Saks Fifth Avenue, Barney’s New York, Macy’s (if you ask VERY nicely). Here are the stores who will not give you samples under any circumstances unless you have already purchased something, and maybe not even then: Neiman Marcus and virtually everywhere else. Feel free to add to this list in the comments, y’all.

If you are instead ordering your samples online, the process is significantly easier. There are three main websites from which to order samples: LuckyScent, The Perfumed Court, and The Posh Peasant. Each has their own advantages. LuckyScent is probably the best choice for beginners. It has the fastest delivery, and its website groups fragrances into many helpful categories based on fragrance family or specific notes. Each sample costs between $3-$5. The Perfumed Court and The Posh Peasant, however, offer a greater selection of vintage or discontinued fragrances. Many smaller perfume houses, such as Ineke or Andy Tauer, offer sample packs on their own websites. The samples will not come wrapped in anything more glamorous than bubble wrap, so make sure you have your own pretty wrapping supplies on hand.

Step 3: Observe your IGR’s reactions to the samples. Act accordingly.

Most likely, your IGR will have a clear favorite. Hooray! Buy that one! If your IGR does not like any of the choices, you can resort to Step 2A, start over at Step 2B, or give up entirely. Frankly, I would give up entirely. Some people are more into the idea of receiving perfume for Valentine’s Day than the actual perfume. Buy them a nice book or a coffee machine instead. Take comfort in the fact that you have at least learned not to talk to perfume salespeople.