Monday, January 23, 2012

Too Much Love Will Kill You.

Is there such a thing as “too much of a good thing”?

Sure there is. I myself have eaten that last sushi roll or that last inch of sour patch rope, and thought, “I chose…poorly.” I’ve decided to stay in bed those last few minutes that move you from “barely on time” to “definitely late for work.” I’ve stayed in the shower those extra ten minutes, running the hot water just enough that you run out at the last minute and are freezing and tense instead of relaxed when you cut the water off and get out. I’ve taken on too many good opportunities at once until I didn’t have the time and energy for any of them. I’ve gone for that final third round on Space Mountain that moves your slightly tipsy disco ball delight to oh-lord-why-did-I-have-that-fourth-tequila-shot?

In short, I’ve done excess and known the regret of it. And that is what I think of, every time I see someone posting about “pairing down their collection” or “giving up all but their favorites” or “cleaning out their perfume cabinet.”

Have I got too much perfume? Have I gone too far? Do I really appreciate the perfume I have? Do I really want or need more? FN1. Would some of it be better off in someone else’s hands, someone else’s home, where it might be better appreciated? That is the sentiment that stayed my hand Saturday night when I looked at my bank account, looked at my computer, and then thought, “Okay, let’s go shopping!” As I began looking through my options – limited editions here, sales over there, decants verses bottles, samples verses either, the list of things I thought I wanted, the list of things I’ve got – I was haunted by the thought that maybe I had enough already.

Tonight in the car Rafaela, who has never been subjected to a stroll through Diana’s perfume collection, asked me how many bottles I had. I don’t know, I responded immediately. But you must have some idea, she pressed. You were just telling me that you redid your inventory spreadsheet today.

Truthfully, though, I didn’t know. I hadn’t bothered to look. Hell, I hadn’t even finished updating my excel file. I’d only made it through bottles, not decants or minis, and certainly not through samples, which remains untackled. Somewhere, somehow, I genuinely lost count of my perfume.

So tonight, I counted.

85 bottles. EIGHTY-FIVE. And this is genuine “this is not our sample size, you are buying some larger quantity of this perfume” bottles, which does not even include Demeters. Minis and decants? Another seventy-four. Samples? Back in September it was over 500, and I know that number is a measurable quantity larger now, but my recatalogue is not yet complete. This doesn’t count the two bottles or handful of samples I did finally order Saturday night, or the samples headed my way for review, or the bottle I gave away to LillieMae just because she liked it and I had more than enough. FN2.

Yet, I feel like I’ve only dipped a toe into the wide world of beautiful perfumes out there to smell. For example, I haven’t ever smelled Chanel No. 19. I think I’ve tried maybe three Le Labos, and none of them were the location restricted ones. My familiarity with Creed and Serge Lutens is (in my opinion) wafer thin. For every Caron or Goutal or Worth or Guerlain I have tried, there are four or five I haven’t. I haven’t tried nearly enough from Aftelier Perfumes or Frederic Malle or so many others I can’t think of right now.

But looking at my collection, I couldn’t deny it. I have a ton of perfume, and yet, I feel I owe it to myself to keep trying all the beautiful scents out there to try. But I knew I crossed a certain perfumey line when LillieMae was loving a particular perfume and, without hesitating, I gave her the bottle. I remembered the day Angela from Now Smell This! did the same things for me, handing off a bottle of S-Perfume %100 Love without batting an eyelash. She knew I’d get more out of it, and I did. I have almost finished the bottle. So maybe this is also the beginning of a new phase, a phase where I not only continue to explore perfume, but start to focus my collection, creating something that isn’t just a bunch of random perfume, but a beautiful wardrobe and art collection, so that I better appreciate what I have and some lovely perfume gets a more appreciative home.

So welcome to our season of spring discernment at Feminine Things, both perfume related and more broadly. I feel strangely excited about it. I hope you do, too.

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FN1. Okay, I always want more. Instead it’s a question of whether I should buy more and do I already have more than I know what to do with.

FN2. Because I know you people: I bought samples from DSH Perfumes and JoAnne Bassett. I would have bought some from Ayala Moriel Natural Perfumes but the site order system wasn’t cooperating; I bought a bottle of L’Artisan Dzongkha from the sale; and slumberhouse Mur from IndieScents because I am apparently probably their biggest fan, and I bought it in anticipation of warmer days ahead.

Editor's note: I got the loveliest follow-up email from Ayala herself, apologizing about the web difficulties and welcoming me back.  Not only was it the sweetest thing, it also completely underestimated my willingness to walk through fire for perfume as good as hers. :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I've been had and I've been held with the ghosts at bay...

Dear reader,

Some weird, wild stuff has been happening here on Planet Diana lately. Sorry I've been so delinquent in updating you about it, but I'm rounding out week eight of being sick, and about to head back to the doctor for yet another round of tests and pills. I'm starting to feel like subject zero for a weird super bug, so I hope you'll forgive me for being so absentee. Also, if I become a zombie, please kill me before I can infect others. You have my permission.

Weird, Wild Thing Numero Uno

Should I buy perfume? Books?
More bookshelves for both?
A benefactor of mysterious motives has gifted some money to me. Free and clear, no strings attached dinero. This money is not enough to say, pay off my student loans or change my life or anything, but it's enough that I am no longer sweating a potential cross-country move and thinking about saving up to buy a house in the next few years instead of a decade from now. It also creates a weird opportunity most perfumistas fantasize about that never really comes true: the opportunity to buy some truly and ridiculously expensive perfume if I want, or an EPIC amount of decants, samples, smaller bottles, whathaveyou. FN1.

The mind virtually boggles at the opportunity. I mean, who among us hasn't played, "What would I buy if I could by anything?" But this is real now. (Well, it will be when the check shows up later this week.) So what do I do, my dearies? Do I buy all the things on my "to be purchased" list? Do I buy a passel of samples to try lots of stuff I've never tried? Do I hit The Perfume Court with an epic order of decants? Do I set up a twelve month perfume budget?

I'm overwhelmed, honestly. The idea makes my consumer impulse sensors go Blue Screen of Death due to major system fault error. I'm sure I will ultimately do some multi-month combo of bottles/samples/decants in combination with sales and discounts and such (again, not a fool), but I wanted to ask you all: what would you do if you were me? What are you surprised I've never reviewed? What would you absolutely recommend trying? Hit me with your best shot.

One thing is for damned sure. I am finally going to feel brave enough to walk into The Perfume House which I have never done for fear that I would completely lose my mind and buy everything I saw, financially crippling me for decades to come.

Weird, Wild Thing Numero Dos

This is how I've felt for two months...
I have been sick forever. Okay, maybe not forever, but it feels like forever. Eight full weeks is a ridiculous amount of time to be sick. At this point, I'm on the verge of giving up on Western meds. Anyone have any homeopathic/naturopathic recommendations for viral head cold followed by bacterial bronchitis followed by return of viral head cold with remnants of bronchitis threatening to become pneumonia? Seriously. Home remedies from your great aunt the voodoo queen are welcome and will be seriously considered. I'm desperate.

This, by the way, is why I've been so scarce with new reviews. I haven't been able to properly smell for any consistent period of time for almost two months. I think of it as a special kind of torture. I have been trying things intermittently, though, so expect some reviews next week based on the handful of days I have been able to smell things.

Weird, Wild Thing Numero Tres

Foggy mornings --
 so inspiring!
I am currently waiting for my panel of eight readers to return their comments and edits on my book. Following one more round of edits based on their feedback which I hope to finish by end of February at the latest, it will be time to go a searching for an agent. I'm not really sure how I feel about setting myself for an intense year of rejection. It makes me feel like I should probably surround myself with a lot of nice perfume. (*Cough* Excuses! *Cough*)

Despite having written this blog for four years now, I never knew how much I would enjoy creating my own characters and worlds. I've done a lot of short fiction, but novel writing is so much better. Even if only my friends ever read my work, the joy I get out of the act of doing it is well worth the effort. People talk about feeling called to do things all the time, and I didn't really get it. I thought it meant doing something that came naturally to you, something you were good at. I didn't realize it was the act of engaging in work that inspires you, makes you happy, rewards you with a kind of inner light. Long form story telling is that thing for me. I am so grateful I didn't go my whole life without finding it.

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FN1. I'm no idiot; I'm adding 99% of it to my current meager savings in pursuit of homeownership. But even David thinks I should buy some perfume. He actually suggested it. Because El Hubs is awesomesauce.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

All the small things...

It’s the little things, sometimes.

Like last night I spent about an hour hanging all my earrings (well, okay, most) on a plastic organizer I bought for $15 at the Container Store. I’d been thinking over and over about how I didn’t like the way I had them stored and how hard it was to find the ones I wanted, how I needed to get on pinterest and etsy and craft blogs and see what people with not a whole lot of space did about such things. Then I was at the container store getting boxes so I can finally ship out the last of my holiday gifts, and there it was. $15. Infinitely happier.

Or there’s this apron Lillie made me that has a Ravenclaw patch on it and tulle around the bottom. It’s so pretty and geeky and wonderful and unexpected.

I don’t think anyone has handmade sewn me something to wear since I was in elementary school, but those are the clothes I remember best, a red and green velvet dress with bells for Christmas or a polka dot dress with three sets of ruffles for the skirt like I wanted. Life is like that, though. Things seem overwhelming or crappy and then out of nowhere someone does something small, like sew you an apron or have you help them make sugar cookies, and you think not of the act itself but that this particular act was one of those hardwired into you as a small child as the sort of thing people who love one another do for each other, and you feel loved.

Or there’s the tiny snowflakes falling outside my window right now.

Though they are too few to mean a day off from work tomorrow, they still make everything seem fresher and prettier, the air smells crisper and feels nicer blowing in through the open sliver in the glass. It would be nice to see the campus covered in snow one more time before we leave, especially since we could be moving somewhere with lots of snow (where it won’t seem so magical) or somewhere that never snows (where I’ll really miss it).

There are more things, too: handwriting a letter, finishing a good book, a cat huddled against the back crook of your knees to ward away the cold, a favorite movie unexpectedly on tv, a fresh hot cup of coffee, breakfast for dinner with a friend, having people actually show up when you call an emergency urban family meeting to discuss crisis resolution (with margaritas). These little things that make up a life and are inconsequential probably mean more than the big stuff I dread every day.

I’m a worry wart by nature, a byproduct of ingrained personality and a childhood shadowed with layering abuse meted out for a failure to anticipate. Life is too much like chess to me: don’t move until you see it, whatever it is, coming several moves ahead. Spontaneous movement means losing pieces you need or care about. Acting without forethought, and heaps of it, hurts people, and I did enough of that when I was young and angry and should have known better but didn’t. I hear it all the time, like vespers sang in some inner monastery: Lead with you head, not your heart.

I used to be all emotion, no reason, my feelings tying my tongue. Now sometimes I’m too much head and not enough heart. Luckily for me, that shimmering pool of feeling is always just there beneath the thin ice surface because I feel everything all the time, and so most of the time I think I’m both. Law school gave me the ability to make the argument my heart knows but cannot speak.

 Even if I don’t want to spend my life lawyering, that was probably worth the hundred grand. It was a tool I needed to be a more effective advocate for myself, to be able to say in a hot moment what I feel in a way other people can hear it. Again, a small thing, one not listed in the admissions brochure, but certainly a gift none the less, and one that makes me happier in the long run.

And it’s those small things that move my heart to music, that makes something inside me put a notch above my bed that says one day is good or bad beside the others. A small thing, like Papaya's sleeping face. Like a much needed hug. Like someone pulling a blanket over you in your sleep. These things show us the world is good, people are kind, and we are loved beyond our own awareness, sometimes without measure.

For all these things and more, I’m feeling grateful.

So let’s get back to one of those awesome small things now that I can smell again, shall we? Let’s talk about some books and music and perfume.