The Muse in Wooden Shoes

Exploring a Scented Life: a blog about perfume, cooking, literature, family

The Muse in Wooden Shoes - Exploring a Scented Life: a blog about perfume, cooking, literature, family

Be That Aunt

Christmas is a-coming.  And if you’re like me, there are nieces and nephews that need presents…

A couple of years ago, I ran across this post at Perfume Posse that caught my imagination, where March was talking about Dior Poison, and various commenters mentioned that their aunts or other special people had gifted them with that fragrance, and the discussion moved through an exploration of how often aunts seem to be the ones who ignite our passion for good scents. The concept stayed with me, especially after EauMG started doing her delightful “Holiday Gift Guides for Nieces and Teens” series (check out the 2012 guide here).

I only have one niece.  Just one, so far.  I have three delightful nephews, currently ages 14, 8, and 3.  And there is a slight, slight possibility that someday I may have another niece (or nephew), via my baby brother and his sweet wife, but I’m not betting on it.  And while it is very satisfying to give a nephew a scented gift – I gave Curiosity a mini bottle of Chanel Egoiste for his birthday in June – it’s more a matter of Preventing Axe Abuse than anything else, when you give a teenage boy a fragrance.

In any case, right now, as regarding nieces, Primrose is it.  She just turned twelve, and of course I gave her perfume. In the past I’ve given her various smelly stuff, like cucumber shower gel and vanilla lotion and Bonne Bell Lipsmackers in Dr. Pepper, as well as a mini bottle of L’eau par Kenzo (a watery fruity-floral) and one of Cynthia Rowley Flower (a pretty, clean lily scent).  This year, she got a Grab Bag of Joy, comprised of a pink sparkly notebook, pretty gel pens, some raspberry shower gel, some Lip Smackers, some hair things, some horse stickers, and a mini bottle of Juicy Couture parfum.

I had mixed feelings about choosing that perfume. I don’t approve much of Juicy Couture the clothing line, what with their propensity for splashing “JUICY” across the hind ends of people who really should not be wearing sweatpants in public, not to mention their propensity for encouraging people to wear sweatpants in public in the first place.  I’ve seen more JUICY sweatpants in airports than I cared to, y’all.

But the perfume is pretty nice. I admit, I don’t care much for the EdP, which smells like Watermelon Bubblicious to me.  Gah. I loved  Bubblicious when I was Primrose’s age, but I’m no longer Primrose’s age.  Haven’t been for a loooooong time… but I digress.

Back to the Audacious Aunt concept, though: I love what Magpie says on that Perfume Posse Poison post about her “crazy/fabulous aunt” giving her Je Reviens and Niki de Saint Phalle, which she can’t imagine being appropriate for a nine-year-old.  Then this:

 March Reply:
December 22nd, 2008 at 4:49 pm Let’s all say a prayer of thanks for crazy aunts.

sweetlife Reply:
December 22nd, 2008 at 1:41 pm It’s always an aunt! I’ve been working on a little series of posts about Other People’s Perfumes — the one magic bottle that my non-perfumista friends often seem to have lurking around–and in 75% of the cases to date it has been the gift of a crazy, fabulous aunt.I am now aspiring to become that aunt.

March Reply:
December 22nd, 2008 at 4:45 pm BE THE AUNT. I get regular emails that start off, “I’d like to get some Perfume X for my niece and her mother says blah blah blah inappropriate blah blah.” And of course I always say BUY IT. What the he** are aunts for?!?!? My 7YO niece already has a sample collection.

I can’t remember who gave me that 30ml bottle of Karl Lagerfeld Chloe edt when I was twelve, but did I ever love that stuff!  It left the Avon Sweet Honesty (a gift from my grandmother Sarah Lou when I was eight) in the dust.  Was it my grandmother Nell who gave it to me, or one of my three lovely aunts? I have no idea.  Nell’s gone, and so is Sarah Lou, and none of my aunts remember… I wore Chloe for a decade, dabbing it on wrists and behind ears so that I could smell it, and anyone sitting next to me could smell it, but so that anyone outside my personal space couldn’t. That one little bottle lasted me until shortly before I got married, and I loved it.

But the reason that perfume was so magic wasn’t just the smell. It was the feeling of it: the luxury, the beauty, the promise of womanhood it held. Chloe is a bosomy, flirty fragrance, ripe with peach and tuberose and jasmine, undergirded with a mossy-woody base, and for decades it’s been my concept of a womanly perfume.  Although my ideas of what constitutes proper perfume have expanded exponentially, Chloe still sits in the pantheon, smiling benignly down at me and giving me permission to grow up, to be a woman.

My darling Primrose is a girly girl, extremely so. She loves pink and purple and horses, and unicorns and stars and flowers and rainbows, and nail polish and and jewelry and sequined shirts and headbands… And books, she loves books. I adore her. And I’m looking forward to giving her that tacit permission to explore womanhood as well as girlhood, as the time rolls around.  This year it’s the tangy fruit and white flowers tied with caramel ribbon of Juicy Couture. By the time she’s sixteen, it may be, say, the greenery and honey and ripe florals of Amoureuse – or the incense and spice and roasty wood of Aomassai.  Or the outright sensuality of Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Lumiere Noire, with its rosy narcissussy patchouli. Or the reserved stern-librarian dry gorgeousness of Iris Silver Mist.  Whatever.

I’m going to Be That Aunt.

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  • Ari says:

    I love this post!!! Juicy Couture is a lovely perfume for a young girl, and maybe if your niece already owns the perfume, she won’t feel the need for their tracksuits!
    My aunt is NUTS (I only met her once, at her mother’s funeral when I was thirteen. She tried to bite me!!!), but I play Perfume Aunt to many wonderful friends who would otherwise never stray outside of B&BW or Victoria’s Secret. Nothing makes me happier or prouder than knowing that my friends smell good because of me!

    December 6, 2012 at 11:21 pm
    • Ari says:

      I should clarify: my aunt does not have a mental illness. She just does a lot of drugs and a fair amount of biting.

      December 6, 2012 at 11:22 pm
      • mals86 says:

        Mental illness would probably be easier to explain. But hey: family. We do the best we can with what we got.

        December 7, 2012 at 9:19 am
    • mals86 says:

      Isn’t that a great feeling? helping somebody you care about smell good? AWESOME. I didn’t address playing that Perfume Aunt role for anyone except younger family – probably because I have three wonderful aunts plus a niece and nephews – but you’re right, it could be for anybody you love. I like to think of that bold inappropriate perfume gift as permission to be somebody other than a sweet little girl, and I have plans for Primrose as she grows up…

      December 7, 2012 at 9:19 am
  • hajusuuri says:

    I’m a perfume aunt! One year, I took 2 of my nieces to Sephora and told them to sniff all they want, pick 2 or 3 perfumes they like and they will get one of the three for Christmas. They both picked Harajuku Lover (one got G of the Sea, the one got the one that looks like a superhero AND they also each got Jingle G). And since I am overachiever Aunt, they also got Coach key fobs and gift cards to their favorite stores ( I reserved the Coach bags for their birthday).

    December 7, 2012 at 12:11 am
    • mals86 says:

      You are a Crazy Fabulous Perfume Aunt!! You win the tiara.

      I think my aunts may have learned from the Christmas I was nine… I got one big box, just one, when my sister and my younger cousins were being showered with gift after gift after gift, and the big box turned out to hold an emerald green down jacket. I was so disappointed I cried, even though I did need a new jacket. (Bright green is definitely not a favorite color, either.) Aunts are for frivolity, I think. Or should be.

      December 7, 2012 at 9:24 am
  • breathesgelatin says:

    I really like Juicy Couture. I will fess up to even liking the “Bubbalicious accord” in that one. It’s just campy and fun. I’ve been intrigued by your remarks about the parfum, which I haven’t tried. At the grocery store yesterday, I saw a set with a small EDP, parfum, shower gel and lotion for $29. I admit it was sorely tempting. I really almost bought it.

    I’m an only child, so I won’t have any nieces on that side. But I married a man with four siblings. Good chance that his younger brother and wife will have a child in the next few years. Plus, his two youngest siblings are 9 and 13. The 13-year-old is a girl and I will probably be getting her fragrant gifts in the future.

    I have an aunt, my mom’s sister, who has never married, who was my role model all through growing up – very successful lawyer in NYC, world traveler, etc. She was definitely one who got me fun presents and allowed me to do things my mother wouldn’t have let me! Funny, though, she hates perfume, as does my mom! My grandmother wore a lot of perfume apparently, and turned them off from it. I wish I’d spoken more to my grandmother about perfume… ah well.

    December 7, 2012 at 10:24 am
    • mals86 says:

      I just can’t take the artificial watermelon flavor, just can’t do it! But then, I’m about to turn 45… I think it makes a difference. It sounds to me that your 13-yo sister-in-law is coming due for some really excellent scented gifts. Sometimes mamas object to really strong perfumes (my own mother probably hated that Chloe – she consistently hates BWFs), but shower gel and lotion and solids seem to scare them less. And luckily, Primrose’s mother wears and likes perfume, but she’s a signature scent kind of gal (Dune).

      I have one super-organized domestic aunt, one scatterbrained and delightful aunt, and one career-gal chemist aunt, who married later in life and had one child; I’m 15 years older than my cousin. (Incidentally, my aunts wear Beyond Paradise, Samsara edt, and Knowing, respectively.)

      Wish I’d talked more to my grandmother Nell about personal things. I did try, at least, with Sarah Lou, but any time I asked her a question about the past, the conversation was liable to degenerate into her remembering something painful – all four of her brothers died before the age of 35, in separate accidents, one work-related and the other three vehicular – and she’d cry and stop talking altogether. Well, either that or she’d get vitriolic about her alcoholic womanizing husband, who she divorced when Mom was two.

      December 7, 2012 at 12:00 pm
  • Suzanne says:

    Loved this, Mals. I’m a perfume aunt, too … and your post just reminded me that one of my two nieces absolutely loved the smell of Aomassai when I had a decant of it. I’m thinking now that might be a good Christmas gift for her. Thanks for the idea.

    And btw, Primrose is a very lucky niece indeed if you’re contemplating a bottle of Amoureuse for her in the future. Wow! Definitely … be that aunt!

    December 7, 2012 at 10:47 am
    • mals86 says:

      Oh, wonderful! I hope your niece enjoys her Aomassai!

      I’m now thinking Amoureuse would probably be a better graduation present. Pretty big-buck commitment there. My point, though, is that I don’t know which of her hidden personality traits Primrose will want to explore as she gets closer to womanhood, and I want to give her permission to explore them all. Right now, she is, as I say, extremely traditionally-girly.

      (Scene, my house, Thanksgiving three years ago: her brother and two male cousins have spent the entire morning in a pitched, every-man-for-himself Nerf gun battle, while Primrose went shopping with her mother. The boys, of course, were having a total BLAST. “You’re dead! I got you!” “Nuh-uh! I got YOU!” Primrose arrived and went upstairs toward Bookworm’s room, only to be shot several times with Nerf bullets as she passed through the line of fire. She came right back down, sobbing. “The boys… they sh-shooted at me!” We asked if she was hurt. No, it was just that they didn’t suspend the battle for her to pass by. The idea that they were having fun shooting at each other had not even entered her mind.)

      And who knows what she’ll grow into?

      December 7, 2012 at 12:11 pm
  • Dionne says:

    I love the idea of being THAT AUNT, but gifts from aunts wasn’t part of my tradition growing up, and I don’t gift my nieces and nephews either. It’s this way simply because of the sheer size of my family. On my mother’s side, I’m the oldest of 27 grandkids, and in the middle of 14 grandkids on my father’s side. When I was growing up the families drew names and got each other a family gift, so nothing individual.

    Both The Engineer and I have five siblings, there are 15 nieces and nephews on his side, and thus far 15 on my side as well, and my two youngest siblings want more kids so there’ll be at least a couple more. I recognize that this isn’t the norm anymore, but the lack of gifts is made up by the fact that our regular family get-togethers are an absolute blast.

    December 7, 2012 at 11:43 am
    • mals86 says:

      Well, a big family *would* make that particular gifting tradition difficult. There were only six grandchildren in my generation: each one of my grandparents’ four children married an only child (Aunt Becky did it TWICE, marrying another only child six years after her first husband died), and only my parents had more than one child. All three of my cousins are only children.

      The CEO has two sisters. He’s also got three first cousins, whom he does not see (long story, won’t tell it now), but even when we did see them at Christmas we exchanged food gifts only. And as I said, we’ve got one niece and three nephews. My parents have five grandchildren, and The CEO’s mother does as well. In terms of gifts, that’s much more manageable.

      But your family parties sound AWESOME!!

      December 7, 2012 at 3:26 pm
  • tammy says:

    I am definitely That Aunt, though technically speaking most of my “nieces” are in fact daughters of cousins and friends. I generally provide them with perfume, hats, awesome socks, music that doesn’t involve autotuned vocals and the Books of My Youth. I also start sending them flowers on their birthday once they turn 10.

    Like Dionne, I come from a huge family (113 first cousins on my mama’s side, 84 on Daddy’s side…yep, Southern) so I have plenty of aunts, all of them delightful. Well, most of them, anyway; all of them are quite colorful, though! It was my Aunt Chloe in New Orleans who started me down the rabbit hole, with a bottle of Joy at the tender age of 3. I sniffed it on her wrist, and apparently went absolutely giddy, so she sent me home with the bottle, much to my mother’s horror. ( the expense of the perfume given to a toddler moreso than the perfume!) She has kept me supplied for 46 years now, and I love the scent as much for the association as the fragrance itself. (It was also the first time mine eyes beheld the wonders of indoor plumbing, so New Orleans is wrapped up in all sorts of wonderful memories for me!)

    December 7, 2012 at 2:29 pm
    • mals86 says:

      That’s so terrific of you, Tammy!! I should have said, “Aunt” can be an honorary title and mean just as much. I want you as MY crazy/fabulous aunt, too… hats, now THAT’s a great niece present! I have done socks and books, but never music, mostly because my niece has an MP3 player and I’m still stuck on CDs. (‘Sokay, her former-DJ mom keeps her updated with music.)

      I’ve only got three first cousins. Love ‘em all, but I’m jealous of your cousinly riches. Your aunt SENT YOU HOME WITH A BOTTLE OF JOY??? Aiyiyi. But what a sweet, sweet gift and a sweet memory.

      December 7, 2012 at 3:15 pm
      • tammy says:

        Mals, go on and get her CDs! She can load them onto her player….well, I can do it with my iPod, anyway; I assume you can with the other ones? It’s done via the computer.

        Half of both my iPods are CDs and even albums that my husband burned onto a disc then loaded on to my iPod. Because I mean…how else was I gonna get to hear all my old Bay City Roller albums?! :P

        December 8, 2012 at 11:02 am
        • mals86 says:

          Bookworm puts our CDs on her iPod… (How many teenagers do you know that listen to Springsteen?) but honestly, Primrose’s mom is so much cooler with the music that I just don’t think I’d be able to do better.

          December 9, 2012 at 8:47 pm
  • Julie says:

    I hope to be that aunt, but I’ve got a few years to go. My niece (who I babysat just last night) is just 10 months old. And my friends with kids are mostly boys, and they are all very young too. I may end up trying to steer them away from Axe too, when that time comes! I didn’t have one of those aunts either – all our extended family was pretty far away so we never spent a lot of them with them and none of my aunts are eccentric, elegant or fond of perfume.

    December 7, 2012 at 4:43 pm
    • mals86 says:

      Yeah, you have a few years before your niece is old enough to appreciate the good stuff! And the boys – well, an attractive alternative to Axe is about all we can provide, but still, that’s SOMETHING.

      December 8, 2012 at 7:32 am
  • Poodle says:

    I’m that aunt too. My niece is like a younger version of myself. It’s wonderful really. When I shop for her I buy things I would want and I hit a home run every time with her. Her mom is kinda dull, no makeup, no perfume, so I make up for that I think. That’s what aunts are for.

    December 7, 2012 at 8:53 pm
    • mals86 says:

      Awwww, how sweet that you have a close relationship with your niece! My grandmother used to do that “give what you’d love to have” thing, but with her it was less successful. She did that with everybody, and it would puzzle my little brother to receive, for example, a transistor radio shaped like a hamburger. (That one STILL puzzles me, actually, and it happened in 1982.)

      Bookworm just read over this post and rolled her eyes some. Then she said, “Yeah, you adore [Primrose] because she’s girly.” Well, no. I adore her because she’s sweet and she’s herself. I adore Bookworm because she is sweet and she’s HERself. Do I wish Bookworm was more girly? Maybe just a tad. But that’s okay, I think – we have a good relationship too.

      December 8, 2012 at 7:36 am
  • ChickenFreak says:

    I love this. :) I’ve always thought of my goal for scent projection and sillage as being the scent that you smell when the cool aunt hugs you. I never had a Scented Aunt, though, unless you count Himself’s relatives. And if I want to be one, I’ll have to adopt honorary nieces and nephews.

    December 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm
    • mals86 says:

      That’s a great idea – “cool aunt sillage”! And I think you might enjoy having honorary nieces and nephews…

      December 11, 2012 at 8:25 am

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