Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Wore This: Simply Right Hand Sanitizer

I work in an office with four other people. My nearest co-worker wears vanilla-centric florals: Burberry, Chanel Allure edp. She leaves to smoke and returns smelling of cigarettes and sheer vanilla. One other co-worker, who doesn't work near me in the building, tends to cough dramatically from the other room whenever I spray anything on. Out of annoyance if not courtesy, some time ago I stopped wearing much if anything to work. This means, for me, that I might spray the tiniest amount on the back of my hand, so discreetly that no one else without superhuman powers of smell would detect it.

She detects it. Friday, for instance, just as I was rubbing hand sanitizer over my palms, she poked her head in to tell me she liked the cologne I was wearing better than the other stuff I'd had on that week. To be fair, I'd sprayed on Boadicea Explorer several hours earlier, but not very much, according to my enforced custom. It doesn't take much at all to radiate a Boadicea fragrance throughout a large building, and I work in a small building; even so, the comment, this coded compliment half between praise and insult, occurred just as the smell of rubbing alcohol was at its most pungent.

I tried to decide at various points over the weekend whether the comment was any number of things: genuine, innocent, barbed, spiteful, underhanded. I didn't dwell on it, but I kept coming back to it, the way that a 9 to 5, however little it has to do with your inner life, spreads out into every available corner of your consciousness and takes root there, colonizing any sense of autonomy or self determination. That probably sounds dramatic, to those who don't work.

And in the resentful passive aggressive way you react to these imbalances and indignities, I entertained fantasies of atonement. I was glad, for instance, that I'd ordered a bottle of Etat Libre D'Orange Rien Incense Intense several days before. Knowing it was on the way, trotting along in some postal carrier's bag, felt like justice (in the form of armor) was imminent. Similarly, I thought of all the "colognes" I might wear that would create more barriers between me and others, keeping them at an impersonal remove.

Today I wore the tiniest spray of Lancome La Vie Est Belle L'Absolu; not for any particular reason, other than I wanted to smell it again. I'm sure she smells it, too. She might have an opinion about it or aversion to it. It's probably too strong. Was her comment a way of telling me that my fragrance in general, since it appears to tip on the disagreeable side of the scale, should be left at home?

Do I care? I keep trying to decide. I have decided, actually, but I wonder whether I'm being too immovable. I think it would be one thing if I were insensitive to the space of others. There are many scents I could wear to work, even tiny amounts of which would pierce the senses like a sharp knife: Giorgio, Poison, Paris, Serge Lutens Arabie, Tango, Rumba, et al. Out of courtesy I choose milder scents, and I spray the most minimal amount possible on my skin. To me, what this co-worker is saying is that because she doesn't like smell I should either pay attention to what doesn't seem to bother her and wear that, or wear nothing at all.

Frankly, I'd rather fire her.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I Wore This: Chanel Egoiste

You can tell a lot about a gay guy's ex boyfriends by the colognes he wears. They get passed along, or stolen. A guy smells something on his boyfriend, is reminded of him, wants to be like him, lifts the scent as a way to project the same ineffable qualities. To get closer or to swallow the object of affection whole. Isn't that what we essentially seek to do with those whose appeal we want to absorb?

I guess there was a time when everyone was wearing Egoiste. Women, too, as it has that kind of no brainer crossover appeal. There was a time but I don't remember it much. I was a little all over the place in 1990, when the fragrance came out. Even so; somehow, it brings back memories. It's instantly recognizable but I don't remember where the memories come from.

A few years ago I met a guy who'd stolen it from his ex. He wore it as I think fragrances should be worn - in abundance. It smelled amazing, and looked great too, if that's possible. Some fragrances are so distinct and such a part of the culture that they conjure some kind of hazy but emphatic image in your mind.

The first time I remember smelling it on him he was wearing a navy and white striped boat neck T-shirt, long sleeved. It seemed the perfect compliment to the scent. A navy and white striped shirt seems very femme and Parisian to me - "I know this is how sailors dressed but I'm not a sailor; I'm just attracted to them." The blue and white striped shirt is acquired as a style the same way your ex's fragrance was, as a way of assuming or inching toward a persona you wish to assert your right to.

Egoiste is for me a cousin to Caron's Third Man. It's a pretty boy scent. The guy who wears this theoretically and theatrically crosses his legs ("like they do in Europe," as I've heard southerners say, as if they wish to believe this femme-identifying posture was imported from other ostensibly less masculine lands). Both remind me of long-locked Tadzio in the film adaptation of Death in Venice. He wears a striped blue and white shirt so maybe that's where I'm getting all this from. Also because of him, possibly, I see this as a blonde haired scent, which might be saying Aryan? Dunno. In any case, if I'm being honest, I wear this and feel fair skinned and blonde and the center of some distant admirer's gaze. Because Tadzio's allure is, however unwittingly, remorseless, even cruel, I see Egoiste as having a practically brutal elegance. It's the scent of not having to worry as much about things as the people who wish they were you.

Egoiste is a blonde wood scent - so there's that, too. This really buttery sandalwood and tobacco with rose. And it's best worn by people who aren't blonde at all, as a way of screwing with your head and flipping the finger to traditional concepts of beauty. Says me. It's scent in the best possible way - fantasy enacted through drag and/or impersonation.

Monday, September 15, 2014

I Wore This: Amouage Interlude Man

I was wearing this last night while reading another Inspector Maigret novel by Georges Simenon.

I'm wearing it again today, doing a side by side comparison to Chantecaille's Kalimantan. Both were done by Pierre Negrin, and they're very much alike, I realized: I don't remember how. People just love Kalimantan but I've never warmed to it - not as passionately as others seem to; whereas, I knew the moment I sprayed Interlude Man that I'd be walking away with it.

In the mystery novels of Simenon (Penguin is re-releasing all of them, or so they say, one a month, to the bitter end - something like 50, all told) Maigret is always smelling the perfume people usher in or leave in their wakes. Just last night he smelled it on a middle class French woman whose husband had been murdered. Several days ago, in another one of these books, a Danish woman locked in her room by her one-eyed brother was constantly broadcasting her scent throughout the house, smelled and remarked upon by the Inspector, each time he entered the front door. Today, the mother of a criminal, herself no Polly Pure, sobbed dramatically into her perfumed hankie.

Did Simenon enjoy perfume? I've searched out biographical information on him but compared to his novels the story of his life... Well, no one is stabbed. He seems to have enjoyed perfume, because it makes an appearance in nearly ever Maigret mystery, employed like facial features and dress to convey character and background. Many a mystery novel excludes the mention of perfume altogether. I picture Simenon in a cafe, reading about a burglary in the paper, grafting its specifics onto a story he remembers about a brother and sister who are actually man and wife disguised as siblings, when an overstuffed woman walks in, radiating tuberose and carnation. All seem essential components of the mood.

I do love Maigret but I don't really get Kalimantan - yet it's similar to Interlude in many ways. They have the same basic structure, maybe. I guess other detective novels are similar to Maigret. Criminals, or their authors, can only come up with just so many plot lines; just so many ways to kill a widow in a darkened alleyway. A limited number of methods and settings for strangulation.

One little ineffable something or other makes the difference. Interlude has the woody amber foundation of Kalimantan, for instance, but substitutes juniper and incense for cinnamon, making all the difference in the world to me. Same writer, different stories. There's also the complexity of translation. The other night I realized I'd purchased two Maigret novels which are actually one and the same: the book was published under two different titles. I can get rid of one, I thought. Then I checked the first pages against each other and realized that two different translators had made the book two different reads probably. Would I like one just a little and love the other, like Negrin's two stories?

Later: The following night I wore Interlude to a party. It's been a little less humid, and I kept smelling it on myself. Is this too much or just enough, I wondered at one point. Outside on the patio a woman I was talking to asked me suddenly what was I wearing. I'm so unused to people commenting on my perfume that I immediately assumed she meant my clothes, though she could see them as well as I could and they were probably largely self-explanatory. Shirt, jeans, shoes, under-stuff. I almost started describing my attire. Then realized she must mean the Interlude. This was the first comment, let alone favorable one, I've received on a fragrance in longer than I can recall.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Scene from Paper Moon: Evening in Paris

When Addie's mother dies, Moses Pray, a former suitor slash john shows up at the funeral. The funeral is decidedly middle of nowhere, prairie in all directions, and other than Pray, and discounting the droning preacher, only maybe two people have attended: two elderly women who've made Addie their charge. Moses happens to be passing through and stops to pay his respects ("I know your backside is still warm," he whispers to the coffin), but the women seize his resemblance to Addie (same jawline) and while they can't talk him into parenting the nine year old they manage to con him into driving her to her aunt's house a few states away.

So the movie is playing on the whole It Happened One Night schema of opposites stuck in a small situation together, rubbing each other the wrong way; referencing dust bowl iconography (the photographs of Dorothea Lange, among other things), The grumpy adult child faces and curve ball verbal outlandishness of The Little Rascals, the history of road to nowhere movies, gangster films.

Moses cheats widows out of their deceased husbands' money, selling them never-ordered Bibles he's embossed their names on, after tracking their misfortunes in the obituaries. Your husband ordered this for you but I can see you're in a bad place so I'll just give you a refund, unless you want something to hold onto that memorializes him in death by contradicting the thoughtlessness that characterized him in life, etc. Addie turns out to be an even better con than Moses, jacking one sale up from his modest 7 bucks to 24 - so he delays the aunt situation indefinitely, and the two stay in various flops that dot the map between their bereavement destinations.

At one point, overnight in one of these motel rooms, after Moses has gone to bed, Addie gets up and quietly locks herself in the bathroom with a cigar box full of mementos from her mother. In the box are pearls, postcards, and what looks to me like a half ounce bottle of Evening in Paris, with its classic hourglass meets urn silhouette. The very best thing about this scene - aside from the idea of such a tomboy taking an interest in such a feminine perfume, aside from all the standard implications of a scent reviving memory, conjuring the dead - is the fact that Addie, posing in front of the mirror as her mom, douses herself in the stuff the way a man would the cheapest splash cologne, slapping it on her neck, her cheeks, and finally, for good measure, wielding the bottle like a salt shaker on either side of her face.

From this the movie cuts to the next morning, a tight shot of the front seat of the car Addie and Moses spend most of their time in. Moses keeps sniffing the air, wrinkling his nose like they've passed an animal carcass on the side of the road. He finally figures out it's Addie, who seems pleased to be noticed, like her mother was, for her perfume, to have magnetized attention this way, but she can't command it for long: Moses opens the window over the dash, airing out the cab, and Addie's face flatlines back into its frustrated childishness.