Thursday, March 8, 2012

I disappear in your name, but you must wait for me.

A little fiction, a birthday reflection, a giveaway, & a review of EnVoyage Perfumes Go Ask Alice

First: The Fiction

"It's tough being an Alice.

Being an Alice is about being something more. People think there's no magic in the naming of things, but those people are wrong. Plainly, dumbly wrong. Alice is more than a name. Being an Alice means something.

Some people call it a curse. Some people call it 'a touch of destiny.' Some think the name chooses you, because the universe can see the spark inside you. Some think it's the name that brings you to it, challenges you to greatness.

Me? I think asking that question is like asking what came first: the chicken or the egg? The darkness or the light? The music or the misery? 

There's no point in it. Am I an Alice because I rose to the occasion of the name, or was I christened Alice because, from the moment eyes fell on me, there was no denying that's what I was?

It doesn't matter. Either way, I am one of them. Another girl in the world, one of the strange motley army of Alices, each of us a destiny, a point of fiery potential energy burning against the bleak emptiness of time and space.

No, for me it's not so much a question being an Alice as much as it is, what kind? 

Even the plainest Alice isn't normal. She isn't average. She can't hide in the shadows or fly under the radar.  She's no wallflower or shrinking violet.  It's all there in the name. I say, you hear: Alice. Then world thinks what it wants of me: saint, sinner, madonna, whore. 

I'll never be just me. I'll always be an Alice, some extreme version of the self. The human imagination is obsessed with us, archetypically speaking. Drink me to be tall. Eat me to be small. Either way, I fall out of proportion, my dimensions at odds with the world around me.

Will I be a naive and inquisitive Alice, chasing rabbits? Will I singing songs with the mothering, mean, menacing flowers and be surprised by my own revolutionary acts? Will the powers of the world call for my seemingly none-too-bright head?

Alternately, there's psycho Alice, a more recently embraced archetype. Will I be blood-thirsty and wield kitchen cutlery like accessories, their blades agleam with the reflection of my wild eyes? Will I try be strong and fight against those that would abuse or harm me and, in turn, be thought of as callous, murderous, a fiend?

And still, there are more choices: 

  •  Alice, the innocent, respectable and strangely silent in her woodcuts? She faces the unknown with her hands clasped demurely behind her back, as though she cannot forego the social grace demanded of her station enough to prepare for what might come next? 
  • Alice, the increasingly lost sensualist, a strange girl led down a bad road by a confusing drug trip, an escapist lost too soon who is only trying to feed her own head? 
  • Alice, the Lolita, too big for her tiny girl clothes and the object of inappropriately-aged lust and affection? The kind that inspires her own mythology more because of the perceived effect she has on a man than who she is as a person?
  • Alice, the warrior, her hardness offset by the creature she holds, implying both protection and threat? Is she here to help the rabbit, or help herself to rabbit stew?
When you're an Alice, the world will tell you which roles you get to play. It doesn't matter that the only Alice you want to be is you. The name says everything. 

 So you tell me: who do I get to be today? You kidnapped me, stuck a bag over my head, dragged me here. Now you claim its just for an introduction, but you knew who I was when you came for me. You already knew everything there was to know.

After all,  you knew my name.

~ ~ ~

The Review: EnVoyage Perfumes Go Ask Alice EDP

First, to the perfume. Then to the ranting:

Go Ask Alice is a wonderful scent, particularly for the Spring days growing warmer here. If you like patchouli, I cannot imagine you won't like this scent. If you think you don't like patchouli (I didn't when I first got into perfume), I challenge you to try this one. I'm still a little on the shy side when it comes to the mean green patch, and consequently I sometimes weed out scents that list it as a strong note.  Go Ask Alice is a unusual take on patchouli and one that challenges (me, at least) to reconsider where a focus on patchouli might lead to scent love.  Go Ask Alice was also the first-place winner of the prestigious Martha’s Vineyard Islander’s Choice Award, so you can feel confident it's not just my nose that loves it!

Shelley Waddington, perfumer extraordinaire, describes Go Ask Alice as a "unisex oriental-amber."  Go Ask Alice "con-temporizes the theme of the 1967 Summer of Love, a time when young Americans protested the Vietnam War, sold flowers, smoked pot, and trailed clouds of patchouli, and raises it to the level of a classy, wearable, and versatile perfume.” 

It has top notes of California orange peel, bitter orange Caribe, bergamot from Calabria, Sri Lankan black pepper, and orange flower laced with fresh raspberry and strawberry; heart notes of patchouli leaf tincture, mimosa blossoms, and rose absolue; and base notes of vintage patchouli Sumatra, sandalwood deux, cocoa, vanille, tonka, labdanum Spain, balsam Peru France, and beach-washed ambergris.

What I like most about Go Ask Alice is that, thanks to the patchouli-centered event it was developed for, it isn't an overly sweet or spicy "oriental-amber." It smells of amber, sure, but it also manages to be fresh and green, mildly herbal, pretty and softly sweet. Though it is a unisex and could be worn well by anyone, I find it deeply feminine. Donna at Perfume-Smellin' Things called it "silky smooth" and I agree with that assessment. Moderate sillage, so it was work safe for me and go lasting strength (~6 hours.) You can get .5oz of the EDP for $45.00 or .25oz of the parfum for $65.00 direct from the perfumer.

The mood of the scent is intended to be one of "joyous adventure," and I can certainly say that Go Ask Alice makes me feel pretty damned happy when I smell it. And that's good, because it's been a tough, sad few weeks here at Camp Wienergard. FN1. Which brings me to Part 3 of this post....

~ ~ ~

The Ranting

Sometimes life has a way of kicking you in the teeth when you least expect it. Some days are great. The sun shines, the birds caw, you sit in the warmth, feel the soft grass and warm sand under your bare feet and you think, "Things are going to be okay."

Other days are not like that. Other days you recognize, with a chilling clarity, that there is a good chance this is all there may ever be, just varying degrees of this, sun up to sun down, until there isn't another day.

If you're lucky, that is. If you're not, then someone may slut shame you in the national press for talking about birth control as hormone therapy. Because in case you've been living under a rock in the last two weeks, then the word you are most likely to associate with Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke is "slut." Rush Limbaugh led the charge against Ms. Fluke, calling her a slut and a prostitute as he stated plainly that she merely wanted "you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex." Then he suggested Ms. Fluke could repay the debt by posting pornographic videos online.

Despite this intense harassment and shaming, Ms. Fluke says she'd do it again. She'd stand alone, the only woman allowed to testify before Congress on the issue of whether religious charities and schools should be required to provide insurance coverage for birth control pills along side things like Viagra, if only so a woman's voice could be heard in the tizzying din that is the discussion of our bodies.
“It can be overwhelming at times,” Ms. Fluke told TIME from Los Angeles, “but what I am trying to focus on is my main goal in the situation, and that is continuing to advocate on behalf of women affected by the contraception regulation and making sure that policy is implemented in a strong way.”
Sandra Fluke makes me feel proud to be a feminist, an activist, and a fellow law school survivor.  I fronted a statewide choice campaign while I was a 1L to beat back a parental notification bill here in Oregon (we won), and the reactions I received to my own abortion story being (literally) front page news pales wildly in comparison to the horrible crap being slung at Ms. Fluke.  She has my deepest respect and admiration.  She is, in my view, a kind of superhero.

How does this relate to Shelley's amazing perfume or the fictional monologue I started with?

I've been trying Go Ask Alice scent over and over in the last few weeks, and it is impossible to try the scent without thinking about the pop culture calls to its name.  There's the Jefferson Airplane song, "White Rabbit."  There's also the popular work of fiction (though initially presented as a real diary) Go Ask Alice.  Both are inspired by Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland, which has inspired other songs as well as film adaptations and video games.

As I was trying the scent, I kept trying to decide which of many representations of Alice it most reminded me. While I was wandering around, ruminating on the various and sundry Alices, people vying to be the leaders of my country were seriously debating whether or not women's contraception should be legal.  And, because I'm me, this all became intensely intertwined in my feminist brain.

When I think about the Alices, it is hard not to draw parallels between their fictional variations and the archetypes the world is most comfortable with for women.  The most recent Alice in Wonderland remake by Tim Burton tries very hard to create an Alice whom, by her nature, means to confound expectations.  She is wildly different from the original Alice of celluloid, whom Disney made a revolutionary by virtue of accident, not intent.  My personal favorite is American McGee's Alice from the incredibly dark video game, a girl so twisted by the dark things that have happened in her life she makes it all the way through a return to Wonderland only to find the evil she seeks to destroy is the darkness in herself.

Awesome and brave
reproductive rights protester
at the Virginia State capitol.

But despite all these Alices to choose from, I never really found one I could relate to the scent.  When I asked myself why, I realized it was because I loved Go Ask Alice enough that I wanted to wear it myself. And I am not a two-dimensional character. I am a real woman, flesh and blood. I'm not a protagonist.  I'm no heroine. I didn't want to associate the scent with one of the Fabled Alices because I feel the scent is some  wearable part of me, and that isn't a cultural archetype.  It's a real person.

And as a real person, lately I've just been overwhelmingly preoccupied by how you have to pretty much be a G-D superhero to be a woman in the world at all, even if you don't feel like one.  Just to take it - the threats, the smears, the snears, the violence that is both dangerously outright and insidiously implicit - and still feel any sense of self-worth or pride? It is a miracle.  Every day.

To be slut shamed for talking about reproductive rights and insurance coverage for BCP as though it is an important part of healthcare for over fifty-one percent of the world's population, and probably ought to be covered accordingly. To accept that your elected officials want doctors to be able to lie to you about birth defects in the fetus growing inside you.  That if you get pregnant when someone rapes you, you should just "make the best of a bad situation," and no, that doesn't mean terminating the pregnancy.

As Libba Bray succinctly put it today: "Seriously, ladies, we better get our shit together and mobilize. The war on women is not just a catch phrase." Or to quote the lovely and talented Beth Revis: "I am continuously boggled by how what I often perceive to be equal rights is labeled as radical feminism."

A War on Women is happening right now, and all I could think about was how we, like the Alices, are an army.  We won't be stopped.  We won't be silenced.  And we are going to take and maintain control of our bodies, ourselves, whether you like it or not.

The Drawing

So who wants to try some Go Ask Alice? In honor of my birthday, which is today, I'm giving a sample away because I had two and I'm ordering some, as well as a few other samples.  Winners will also receive: a couple of mixed CDs of music that helps me feel strong, an issue of Bitch Magazine, of which I am a proud member of the Board of Directors, maybe a feminist button, general feminist-y whatnot.

To enter:  post here by 12:01 AM PST, Friday March 16, 2012. Say anything you like.  Open to everyone, both domestic and international.

FN1. When my husband and I were planning to get married, Wienergard was the joint name highly recommended joint last name meld suggestion from my students at my old job. They even threatened to crash my reception wearing t-shirts that said, "Reconsider Wienergard." These would have been the follow-up to the first round of shirts that said, "I Heart My Wiener" with a photo of me on them. I still have one.


lawgoddess said...

I'd like to enter the drawing.

I was posting about Margaret Sanger on an Internet board today, and the fact that she was getting arrested for counseling women on birth control in 1916! And almost a hundred years later, where are we?

I like patchouli. One of my "cheap thrill" scents is Jovan Fresh Patchouli.

Ines said...

Happy birthday !
And I hope it is a happy one as there seems to be many things around you to make it less than celebratory.
I have no idea what the h.. is happening to your country, BCP have always been on prescription list here (well, since I was a teenager, I know from experience, but before that too).
Add to that the fact that Croatia labels itself as a very Catholic country.
I can't help but wonder (again) what is wrong with the world (in other words, people)?!

solace said...

first off-

MAZEL TOV! may you live to be 102. (or roughly there abouts depending on your health and general desire. why do we say this to one another? anyway...)

there are men in the world who make me which i could cut it all off and start over. idiots.

i can only hope, pray and practice that these tyrants, these misogynists will be as decks of cards to be pushed over... that their roses of hatred can be painted over...

one of greatest heroines (for i have VERY few HEROS) is emma goldman-- and her staunch stand on the reproductive rights of women, and women in general. we haven't made much headway.

do these people think that by forcing women to use back-alley, unscrupulous ways of protecting the rights of their bodies will be SAVING on healthcare?


(oo. caps. i think i am getting worked up.)

where were we? ahhhh yes. Shelley Waddington. Thank you Shelley for donating to Broadway Cares.

Thank you for the intelligent posting on Alice.

Thank you for the draw.

Now, if someone would help me off this soapbox, i am terribly afraid of heights and i seem to have climbed quit high for someone without a womb.


karen! said...

I have to admit that I tend to avoid the news (unless I'm on one of my periodic NPR kicks) because it is always so horribly depressing to me. This Rush Limbaugh stuff is case in point. My husband (who's the one who helps me compensate for not paying attention to the news) pointed me toward a piece on how some figures who stand very firmly on the other side of the party divide are just as misogynistic though they don't get taken to task as much for it. sigh

Now to get back onto the topic of perfume: I'm really not keen on patchouli, but Go Ask Alice sounds like something that I should definitely try.

Also: Happy birthday!

Doc Elly said...

First of all, Happy birthday, Diana!

Second, this whole twisted craziness with Rush Limbaugh should serve to remind people that feminism and women's rights are not something that can be taken for granted, and that we all have to remain vigilant and politically engaged.

Finally, I haven't tried any of Shelly's perfumes, so would love to win a sample of Alice.

Maureen said...

+Rush Limbaugh is nuts, and I don't ever listen to him or his kind. I hope most people feel this way. Most news is awful anyway, so I read. I'd love to try this fragrance...I now have "White Rabbit" running around in my head.

Cymbaline said...

Whenever human behavior pisses me off - which, unfortunately, is too often - I kick back the easy chair, put Maynard the cat on my chest and settle into a serious pet session. It doesn't solve problems, but it certainly keeps me from throttling a few people : )

Books, music, perfume and human behavior are always interesting to me and I love the mix-tape of your blog, Diana!

Please enter me in the draw. I'd love a patchouli perfume that is work-friendly.

Elisa said...

Happy belated birthday! Very cool that you are on the advisory board for Bitch!

Christy said...

First off--happy belated birthday, dear Diana! Secondly--I really need to start reading your blog more frequently. I am always entertained/inspired/righteously pissed off. And I mean that in the best way. As you know, living in Texas can be...exasperating.

Count me in for the drawing. You've always had exceptional taste. :)