“What do I wear in bed? Why, Chanel No. 5, of course.”
You walk through the perfume section of Bloomingdales, Macy’s or wherever you choose to clog your credit card artery. You tell yourself you’re headed toward the glasswares department to pick out a relatively inexpensive set of plates on your friend’s bridal registry (after all, you’re just not made of moolah). And then, as you successfully bypass the salespeople who spritz the air and flag you down with scented cards, one woman wearing a black blazer and rhinestone-studded cat glasses pulls you close to her and saturates you with the latest has-been celebrity’s eau de toilette. She introduces herself as Frida and takes your hand the like that aunt of yours who finds it necessary to whisper every detail about her affair with her 85-year-old sugar daddy.
“Oh honey, you’re gonna love this one,” she says, slapping her chest with gusto and clouding your ego with compliments as she fills your nostrils with fragrance. You know she’s bullshitting you when she asks whether you’ve done any modeling even though you’re only five-foot-three, and asks if your handbag (the one you bought at Tar-jay for $20) is vintage. But you’re a sucker for scents, so you can’t resist when she tells you there’s a gift box special for $79.99. And even though she “adores” the ring on your right pinky—the one your three-year-old nephew “won” out of a quarter machine—you can’t help but smile at her and say, “Do you take American Express?”
You fork over your credit card and Frida the fragrance lady winks at you. Hey, she didn’t get those five gold stars on her lapel for nothing. Good for her. Now she can use those extra few commission bucks to buy her girlfriends a round of cosmos. While they’re all sucking down the drinks, she’ll be sharing the story of how she suckered you and other desperate, hopeless perfumaniacs into spending a small fortune on scented ethyl alcohol.
When the euphoria of the fragrance wears off, you glance at your receipt and cringe, knowing that you could have used that money for a month’s groceries or your annual visit to the OB-GYN. “Eh, screw it,” you say. Another quick spritz of your luscious new scent and life is pretty damn good.
Is the perfume-obsessed female a sexist stereotype? Well, I guess it’s really the way you look at it. Not all of us are going to skimp on our friend’s birthday or wedding shower gifts just so we can afford to smell like Coco Chanel. But some of us are willing to make sacrifices to smell as sexy as we possibly can. According to Lyall Watson, author of the book “Jacobson’s Organ and the Remarkable Nature of Smell,” “The vast majority of women say that they use perfume simply because ‘it feels good.’ ”
Take, for example, Singing Diva Debra “Debbie Broadway” Ente:
Perfume can have amazing effects on not just the nostrils, but also on the brain. Watson writes that “certain smells strike an ancient chord in our minds.” Particular scents really can take us back to special moments in our lives. It’s amazing how I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday, but I can remember the exact scent of my great-grandma’s perfume even though I was only a little girl when she passed away nearly 15 years ago.
Watson adds, “The ideas of life and breath and spirit and smell are intertwined in many cultures…in the Andamans they tie everything very tidily together in a tradition of communication by smell which they call ‘mineyalange,’ which literally means, “to remember.”(5)
Here are a few more of Watson’s discoveries about perfume:
- Legendary Chinese Yellow Emperor supposedly introduced perfume to the world
- The first perfumes were made of animal fats and soaked herbs
- Egyptians mass-produced these so-called “fragrances of the gods” in workshops
- Perfume was considered sacred because it was the frst smell to follow death (anointing of the dead)
- Women from the Italian region of Capua bathed in lavender water, which took the name from the word “lavanda”—one who washes
- “Top notes” are taken from the “sexual secretions” of flowers such as “magnolia, wisteria and orchids”…these contain oils designed to attract pollinators, whereas “middle notes” or “heart notes” come from resins/tree saps like frankinsense and myrrh
- Surveys suggest that blondes prefer fresh scents like those of mimosa and hawthorn, that redheads go for exciting smells (e.g. orange blossom or honeysuckle), that raven-haired ladies prefer “something more sultry, like orchids and magnolias,” and that brunettes usually enjoy scents ranging from lavender to violet
- It is said that Cleopatra wore a combination of jasmine, sandalwood and olive essential oils to seduce her lovers. Try visiting a local nature store and testing out different mixtures of essential oils. Sensual foodie Jennifer Iannolo, who happens to be one of our expert advisors, suggests sweet orange oil mixed with vanilla oil. Yum!
Watson also writes that “fragrances identify many people better than most people’s passport photos” (Watson 159). What’s your fragrance, and what does it say about you? Do you have more than one favorite scent? Let’s talk about it!