Thursday, 5 June 2008

Perfume - the story of a murderous overdraft

I have to admit to being completely obsessed with perfume. In excess, it is a ruinously expensive habit but since I don't have an addiction to (illegal) drugs or (expensive) shoes, I can just about support it. Books don't count as an addiction, more as a necessity, and since I'm lucky enough to work in a place where they are at best free and at worst subsidised, I don't even include them as an expense. I have a wardrobe at home and at last count two of its shelves and one of its drawers were full of perfume bottles, meaning that the less important stuff (clothes) ends up crammed into a separate drawer and permanently in need of an iron. They subdivide into: summer and winter, daytime and nighttime, work and weekend, serious and tarty, and the immensely important Perfume That Makes You Feel Good/Clean/Fresh When Hungover*. I completely understand people who have one perfume and always wear the same thing, because it's the whole Proustian madeleine syndrome of "Ah yes a fugitive waft of L'Air Du Temps will always remind me of Kate" etc etc - and it fixes people in your olfactory memory. I can't do it, though, as I all too frequently find myself getting bored with whatever I'm wearing and have to wear something else. Usually other peoples' perfume is out of bounds, and I have had bouts of terrible guilt about this, i.e. the time I "stole" Mitsouko off my friend Catherine (not the actual bottle, just the wearing of it) - is it a sin on a par with actually stealing something real? Or wearing the same dress to a party? Which may be why I end up wearing more and more obscure perfumes**. My favourite pilgrimage, and I can't use this word too strongly, is every couple of weeks to the perfume hall at Liberty's. Selfridge's is too vast and has too much unnecessary tat (celebrity perfumes for those who want to smell like Paris Hilton - which is what exactly? Spilt booze and some bloke's aftershave with a base-note of grubby $100 bills??) - and Harrod's is a no-no as I won't willingly put a penny into the Phony Pharoah's pocket. Liberty's is my Mecca, my Garden of Eden, my Narnia. They have scents and potions you will, trust me, never even have heard of. I may have mentioned that I'm a smoker, and in a way this may be a blessing, as my sense of smell is already as keen as a bloodhound's, and if I hadn't dulled it to an acceptable level I would probably pass out in a swooning ecstasy on crossing the threshold.


*Clarins' "Eau Dynamisante", Penhaligon's "Bluebell", Philosophy's "Pure Grace", Annick Goutal's "Eau Du Sud"


** Ineke's "Evening Edged In Gold", Comme Des Garcons's "Rhubarb", Saira Schwarz's "Lucid Agony", Demeter's "Lavender Martini"

Yes, there really is a perfume called Lucid Agony.

10 comments:

Reluctant Blogger said...

It never occurs to me to wear perfume. I never have. Not sure why. I don't notice it on others either - well, not unless it is overpowering and unpleasant.

I'm trying to think whether G wears any perfume - I'm not sure. I suspect she might. I shall have to find out.

I am not keen on aftershave on men.

lucyfishwife said...

I'm sure it has something to do with the memory - when you smell freshly cut grass it fires up all kinds of things in your mind (I recommend "Laitue" by Roger Gallet to recreate this very sensation!! - just call me The Nose Doctor), and sometimes I want to smell of grapefruit or lilies for that reason, rather than as an adornment - not keen on aftershave much either but I once stalked some poor unsuspecting guy round Sainsbury's because he smelt like my first boyfriend (Eau Sauvage). Mr Fishwife doesn't like it either but since he smells quite nice anyway I don't try and force it on him..

mantua maker said...

I had to give up L'Air du Temps - memories of my mother blithering on about how it gave her nausea. (Also, I was brought up not to use the word "perfume" - some U and non-U thing, like toilet, tablet and gift, sigh). Now I get my *perfumes* (frisson of naughtiness runs through me as I type) from a little place in Avignon called something like "Instants du Sud" which I will be going back to this summer when we go to the Crusades conference (well, I won't be at the conference, I'll be shopping naturellement...)

lucyfishwife said...

I know, I also was brought up to say "scent" but it sounds too much like we're all being tracked and hunted by baying hounds.. Ah Avignon, en plein ete.. I'm very jealous. If you see a shortarse Donny Osmond clone strolling the Place de l'Horloge, kick him in the shins for me.

Brother Tobias said...

Where is a bloke supposed to wear it anyway? I usually dab it behind my ears from some visceral, maternally inherited instinct, but it feels...not quite right.
It's not something you can ask your friends (and as I remember, wrongly applied, it can't half sting).

lucyfishwife said...

BT - I think most blokes' stuff has an atomiser now, so you can either hose yourself frontally with it or spray it into your palms and slap it all over your face. But I can't claim to be an expert. And yes, if you're a shaver it'll burn like acid! One reason women never spray perfume on their legs..

Steve said...

Wow. I own one bottle of aftershave bought solely to impress an ex and hence never worn since. And yes it does burn when you apply it. Probably another reason I rarely used it. I like to smell nice but not at the cost of being in pain. Your perfume collection sounds highly organized... different smells for different moods. That's dedication. Can you steal a smell? Hmm. Tricky. Morally I think you can... but if the victim doesn't notice it's gone is it a crime?

lucyfishwife said...

Steve - it's an ethical bugger, isn't it. I lived in fear of her coming up to kiss me hello and recoiling with horror and betrayal. Obviously this never happened. Plus perfume always smells different on different people unless it's one of those Big Smells like "Poison" which just trails you round your workplace like a huge piece of loopaper stuck to your shoe.

JRSM said...

Re the whole perfume as memory aid thing: Andy Warhol was a perfume addict, and he'd wear each new perfume for a month, then never wear it again, but keep the part-full bottle with the date on it. Then, if he ever wanted to recall what he was feeling in, say, April 1980, he'd just take a sniff of the relevant bottle.

Charles J. said...
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