[Come summer heat, much of my blogging momentum melts away. Hence an experiment until Labor Day: fifty minimalist posts about whatever.]

Fragrant detergents, room fresheners, even perfumed soaps, are not for me, and not because we now know they contain (toxic) phthalates. I’ve always disliked them. They smell cheap.

I don’t like fragrances on men either, even the ones with expensive French names, although I have in the past bought them for beloveds because it seemed the romantic thing to do. Of course, they would then splash themselves generously for my benefit, which was actually counterproductive;  I’ve always preferred the smell of clean man to anything out of a bottle.

Nor am I wild about even a passing whiff from a perfumed woman. Here I’m apparently not alone. Two friends and one daughter-in-law claim an allergy to fragrance and have asked me to refrain when in their company. Of course, I comply.

Yet paradoxically, refraining leaves me feeling naked. Nakeder than naked — as I also wear fragrance, even when nothing else, to bed. It must come from my mother. When I was a child, her person and closet were always a delicious cloud of Lentheric’s Tweed. On my sixteenth birthday, she gave me Elizabeth Arden’s Blue Grass.

Like mother, like daughter, if not in the details. She moved on to Estee Lauder; in college it was Muguet de Bois (Lily of the Valley) for me. My first husband kept me anointed with Lanvin’s Arpege. Between husbands, I was a Balenciaga woman (Quadrille and Le Dix). After I began to earn lawyer money, I recklessly explored perfume counters: Dior’s Poison, Anais Anais, Un Bois Vanille (Serge Lutens), Dolce and Gabbana (the red box), and in summer, Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue. Then Bill and I began to travel. I discovered duty-free airport shops!

We don’t travel anymore, but now there’s Perfume.com. Well into my eighties and long since the dwindling of my income stream, two bottles continue to stand on my bureau: Caleche for every day, 24 Faubourg for feeling special. (Both from Hermes, if you’re buying.)   Male phlebotomists, physical trainers, nice men on railroad platforms still ask what I’m wearing, sometimes how to spell it (so they can buy it for their girlfriends), and that pleases me.

One last thought about all this: Just before cremation, don’t forget to spray me. 24 Faubourg will do.

15 thoughts on “WRITING SHORT: 28/50

  1. Your post made me think about how I’ve always been drawn to patchouli-based fragrance. My mother wore Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew…I’m sure that’s why. There is so much memory associated with scent. 💕


    • How long did it take you to find out? And now, when you smell his scent, what do you think? (Be warned when in intercourse with lawyers, even former ones like me: open a door, and they’ll walk right in.)


  2. This really hits home! An annual ritual of childhood summers in France was a visit to a Paris parfumerie so that my mother could stock up on her parfum du jour, and my sister and I could sniff samples to our heart’s (or nose’s) content.

    I too feel the need to wear perfume (or rather toilet water–an unfortunate term) even for a trip to the supermarket. When I first started anointing myself around age 15 with an “atomizer” bottle, Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps was my choice. (My mother hated it, calling it “cheap,” and when, for old time’s sake, I picked up a bottle at the airport a few years ago, I had to agree.) Then, in order of appearance, so to speak: Sortilege, Cabochard, Youth Dew (actually an Estee Lauder bath oil, sickeningly heavy), Rive Gauche, and, these days, scents from a “boutique” French firm called L’Artisan Parfumeur–Premier Figuier (day) and Dzchonkha (night). Oh, and I almost forgot–as a 13-yr-old, on a visit to the closest metropolis during summer camp, I once bought Evening in Paris at the five and dime because I liked the blue bottle. My mother insisted I throw it out.


  3. Jools

    In the shoulder-padded 80s my perfumes of choice were the heady Opium and Rive Gauche, in the 90s the equally overwhelming Jivago 24k (only available in the U.S., so my business trip purchase). Eventually I left the power perfumes behind and today I can’t leave the house without a waft of Chanel Chance or Lancôme La Vie Est Belle.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely post Nina! I’m a Chanel girl, as so many scents give me hay fever! My mother in law used to wear Youth Dew, and I hated it, as it permeated everything. Driving in the car with her was hell! I think she’d lost her sense of smell so applied too much.


    • Youth Dew was the worst! I could never understand why it was so popular (mainly with women older than I was, by twenty years or so). It was Youth Dew I was mainly thinking of when I said I wasn’t wild about whiffs from passing perfumed women; it could choke you to death, even if just a little bit was applied. Did you have a living father in law during the m-i-l Youth Dew period? What was his take on the matter?


  5. Your writing short idea is a very clever idea.

    I used to always put on cologne back when I worked. Now I put on sunscreen instead. The two don’t seem to go together very well. But I have two bottles of Caesars Man from… you guessed it, Perfume.Com. I think they’ll last me now for years.


    • Beware, Marty, of “lasting for years.” There is evaporation, even in a closed bottle. And increased (read excessive) pungency. Use it up now. Caesar’s Man in bed — what better place?

      Btw, I outfoxed myself with all this “writing short.” Good idea for readers; blog readers always like it short. But after the first few daily posts, writing them wasn’t so easy. Now it’s feeling like the Ancient Mariner’s albatross; thank goodness the end is in sight!


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