Friday, October 18, 2013

We'll Never Be Royals.

Internalized Criticism and My Perfume Collection

So one of the things I've been noticing lately is that I've been a little embarrassed about the way my perfume collection is settling out. I've stood in front of my perfume wardrobe, trying to decide what to write about, and I find a judgey little voice in my head criticizing my perfume choices. “Wow, you have a lot of this house, which isn't very well respected. Don't you think you should have more of that house instead?” I get dressed in the morning, and as I reach for something, this same voice slithers in. “Really? You're going to wear that, again? Isn't that a bit...pedestrian?”

Some days you'll only
accept the fanciest
of salads...
Yes, dear reader. I have a little perfume hater living inside me, and she is a critical little snipe who does not think my perfume collection is sophisticated enough, that I wear too many accessible and mainstream scents, and that I am not living up to my full perfumista potential. This same hater wants to know why I haven't gotten into collecting vintage scents more, why I haven't started studying French so I can really understand perfumery as an art and industry, and why I spent so much time running around the U.S. when I could just as easily be saving my pennies for a trip to Grasse.

Frankly, I'm kind of getting tired of the little hater. Sometimes I think she stands between me and my enjoyment of things I really like, no matter how widely accepted they are or how many supposed connoisseurs would turn up their perfectly trained noses at my collection. It's the same voice that makes me hide my affection for Taylor Swift and Lana Del Rey from my coworkers, to hide my Twilight fascination from my roommates, and to feel a certain reticence about telling people I write Young Adult novels.

 Frankly, I like those things about myself. I enjoy and admire Taylor Swift as a song writer, even if she is young and her work, right now, reflects that. I think Lana Del Rey has talent despite a bad early album. FN1. I find the entire Twilight fandom interesting and entertaining and I love YA literature. I love writing YA. I want nothing more than to be published. And I'm tired of feeling judged by others and worse, prejudged by some internalized version of them, for not being cool enough. You know what? I'm not cool. I have never been cool. And in terms of perfume, I just need to accept that I'm probably not going to be cool there, either. And that's just going to have to be okay with me.

...but most days you just want
carbs with nutella and
 bananas smeared on them.
This week I had a wonderful moment of olfactory delight when several people told me I smelled good. I spend a lot of time thinking about the way I smell and how I want to present myself from a scent perspective, so it's nice when people notice. Part of the winning combination this week is the addition of a new layer in my olfactory repertoire.

A few weeks ago, I broke down and bought myself two of the Jo Malone bath oils. I like them because, when mixed with water, the oils turn milky and don't leave a greasy sheen on the skin. I bought them in the two scents I tend to layer the most among the Jo Malone collection – Red Roses and Orange Blossom. My reasoning was that if these scents were layered underneath my perfume, even faintly, that it would be a nice combining experiment, and if I did not want to mix them, I could just skip the bath oil.

Three different people at work stopped me to tell me how good I smelled the day I layered Red Roses bath oil with a healthy dose of DSH Perfumes Hemlock. The result was strangely earthy and green, and yet also fresh, floral, and feminine. It walked the line between Red Roses primness and Hemlock's less traditionally feminine aspects. One of my coworkers, smiled, asked me if I was wearing something with roses in it, and then went on to tell me how his very first girlfriend had a rose body wash or scent and how he always associated the smell with first love. I love that. I love that he told me the story and I loved the slightly goofy grin he got on his face at the memory.

The truth is, I am a pretty simple person, scent wise. I have always loved the smell of roses. I am a sucker for a good vanilla. I generally enjoy sweet, foodie scents. Tobacco notes always remind me of my grandfather which I cannot get enough of, and I have a disproportionately high number of “beach-y” scents because I love the ocean so much that sometimes it's pull is like a siren's call I can't deny. In other words, I like a lot of scents traditionally marketed for women. I don't yearn for the difficult scents. I enjoy smelling them occasionally, and I appreciate their beauty, but honestly? I wear a lot of Jo Malone. I own a huge amount of L'Artisan, a disproportional amount really. I am very into ultra-realism, so I love CB I Hate Perfume and I have a scary amount of Demeter Fragrances which are an impulse shopping habit of mine. I am not embarrassed to own Stetson for Men, which I like wearing. I have favorite indie perfumes, and I tend to stick with them because I like what they do.

Someday, maybe I'll like Guerlain Mitsouko enough to own it. I do think it's a gorgeous scent. It took me a long time to like it, and then to love it.  And I do.  It's a difficult but beautiful scent.  I just can't imagine reaching for it often enough to justify buying it. But life is long. Perhaps my Mitsouko days are still ahead of me. And if they aren't? I still smell pretty damned good, even if my tastes aren't as sophisticated as other perfumistas.

And that little voice in my head? Well, it can kiss my massive bottle collection.

And we'll never be royals.
It don't run in our blood.
That kind of luxe just ain't for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz.
Let me be your ruler.
You can call me queen bee.
And baby I'll rule.
I'll rule. I'll rule. I'll rule.
Let me live that fantasy.

~ “Royals,” Lorde

FN1. It's not like she's the first artist to have a bad early EP/album while she was figuring out her musical and personal identity. Y Can't Tori Read was no winner, and I'll never stop loving Tori Amos.


Ellen said...

As with any other art form, perfume is all about what you enjoy, not what you think you ought to enjoy or what someone else tells you you ought to appreciate or enjoy. So go for it, whatever it is that speaks to you. Life is too short to spend your time trying to fit into someone else's box. If you really think about it, those boxes are created by all the people who adhere to the "standard" dogma of what they should enjoy, who just want to go along with the crowd and fit in.

Diana said...


Thanks for your comment. In principle, I agree with you. I just wish I could shut up the little judgy voice in my head. Maybe I'll spray her down with that tiny bottle of Charlie I keep for nostalgic reasons until she flees in terror. ;-)


Sarah Joseph said...

I am a walking, talking embodiment of high/low. I am a foodie who can differentiate between several stinky cheese by taste, but I still crave velveeta cheese. I am a serious reader who always turns to formulaic romance. I am giddy at the thought of Garth Brooks coming out of retirement. I say drown that inner critic in the cheapest, most mainstream scent you own. And then, own your tastes. You are now the tastemaker.

PS: I would like to argue the "I was never cool" statement... I thought you were THE COOLEST!! Ever since I was in 6th grade I thought that about you! I still do.