Monday, October 12, 2009

Rambling: Perfume and Being a Girl

I've never been Girly.

It started with clothes. I'm one of those people on whom shirts untuck, linen spontaneously wrinkles, piles pill, wool willingly provides a buffet for moths, food charges headlong at anything white, matched separates cheerfully turn different colors in the wash, and so on.

Combining that with the lack of an Audrey Hepburn figure, I pretty much abandoned any interest in clothes altogether sometime around junior high. And, along with them, makeup, jewelry, haircuts beyond a basic trim, and fancy skin treatments. Pretty much, the whole Girly Arsenal.

In fact, I recently declared a wardrobe strategy that can be expressed as: "Black." This way, everything matches and nothing can stain. My clothes do their best to foil my efforts by changing color in the wash, but there's really a limit to how much black can clash with black.

But... perfume came along. Perfume snuck in not by the closed girly door, but by the wide-open gluttony door. Food and perfume have a great deal in common. Flavor is scent, pretty much; those paltry four (or five, if you accept umami) tastes are barely the beginning. And of course, perfume has huge geek appeal. It makes perfect sense to me that one of the biggest figures in the perfume world is Luca Turin, a biophysicist that used quantum mechanics to explain our sense of smell - and wrote a perfume guide in his spare time.

But with the perfume came the Girly. Perfume is a wearable that doesn't wrinkle, stain, or fade. It has no size. It can go out of fashion, but once you go beyond a few well-known names, how many people even knew what was in fashion? Perfume gives me my Girly Membership Card, after all these years. It gives me something to do at the cosmetic counter. It lets me carry out gilded bags with fancy boxes nestled in colored tissue paper. It means that my response to the phrase "free gift with purchase" is sometimes "Ooh!" instead of, "Great. Something new to Freecycle."

So my accelerating Girly Focus is all perfume's fault.

Because under the influence of all those fragrance fumes, I noticed that, y'know, scarves also have no size. And while they technically could wrinkle and spot, they don't seem to. Rather than joining the war waged against me by the rest of the garment world, scarves seem to like me. Maybe they enjoy the undiluted impact that they have on all that black.

And there's a dangerous trend in shoes. Just a few pairs, and I mostly just wear (black) flats, but the presence of short (black) suede boots, and a little pair of thirties-style (black) heels, suggests that the Girly Onslaught is progressing. I even have a pair in (gulp) green.

And there's a little bit of velvet and angora in the expanse of black clothes. And the black velvet wrap that somehow persuaded me to take it home has a midnight blue reverse. And I actually got a proper haircut. Once. It's grown out, but I'm considering a repeat.

All of this leads to the most dangerous sign of all. The other day, to go with that black angora, I put on a little bead choker that I kidnapped from my mother's jewelry box I don't know how many years ago. And it looked sort of nice. There is now a book on collecting vintage costume jewelry making its way to me from Amazon.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. I am.


  1. What wonderful posting!! Ah, I feel you, sister in failed femininity... I look more like a drag queen in frippery than most men do!!! But if I'm reading your latest posting correctly, you, like me, are finding some solace and some integration with the feminine in perfume-- isn't that a lovely thing?

  2. Thanks! Yes, it really is lovely. I would have denied that I felt bad to be isolated from the whole girly world, but I think I would have been lying. It's nice to have a pass to part of it - entering through the men's and unisex scents, and making cautious visits to the more mature and smoldering side of feminine.

    The ruffly side will never be expressed outside the garden, where I have a strong preference for the overblown-pink-cabbage-rose type of flower. (Though even there, my favorite flower is the minimalist and unsurpassably elegant Honorine Jobert, which is probably the floral equivalent of Chanel No. 19. Hmmmm.)

  3. Love this post. What wonderful writing, and how honest you are. It's very thought-provoking.

    Among perfume's other virtues (in addition to having no size you have to fit into and not wrinkling), it really doesn't have a gender, either, in spite of marketers' attempts to assign them.

    And it is like food — without the calories.

    Thanks for the post!

  4. Hey, Perfumaniac! Thanks very much!

    Yes, that's a big advantage, too - I don't have to commit to being Girly, just to smell good. On the other hand, I can apply Girliness - Jasmine White Moss, for example, makes me feel feminine no matter what I'm wearing.

    And the calorie-free gluttony is a very fine thing. :)