Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that this is your Scented Life these days: you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, and when you read Coming to My Senses: Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride by Alyssa Harad, you identified with every bit of her journey into perfumista-dom, and you now own enough perfume to scent yourself until you’re 211 years old, should you live that long.
And your friends and family have seen your perfume collection, and their eyes got round and they looked at each other in consternation and started talking about that TV show, “Hoarders.”
And when people ask you about your “number,” you fudge it. You come up with reasons not to count the backup bottles of vintage Emeraude, for example, or the old bottle of Victoria’s Secret Pink that you never wear anymore, or the decants, or the miniatures you bought in a lot on eBay, because, c’mon, they don’t matter, they were on deep discount or they were birthday presents or they’re not in the current rotation or you need them for reference.
Let’s just say. For the sake of argument.
“We’ve noticed that you seem to have a lot of perfume.”
“We’ve noticed that you often have difficulty choosing a perfume for the day. In fact, we’re sometimes late because you couldn’t decide which one you wanted to wear.”
“We’ve noticed that you sometimes get cravings for a particular scent in the middle of the day, so you wash off what you have on and put on something else.”
“And it’s time to stop. You need to downsize.”
Nooooooooo! you scream. No, I need all these perfumes. I need them all, they’re all different and I love them all and I want to be able to complement any mood, any weather, any occasion. I need them!
“You seem addicted.”
I can stop anytime I want to, you say. I can. No problem. I’m just enjoying myself. I’m not addicted.
Then they get tough. “We’re going to go through your cabinet. You can choose a dozen perfumes to keep, and everything else is going away. We’ll find good homes for them, don’t worry about that, but you need to decide which ones you want to keep.”
Nooooooo! I want them all!
“Stop behaving like a child. We know what’s best for you.”
“You will still have perfume! You can keep a dozen bottles.”
“Maybe we should make it fifteen.”
Yes! Or, or twenty! Or maybe twenty-five. I need to change with the seasons, don’t forget that. And some of these things are dressy, and some of them are best worn with jeans, and some —
“Yeah, we get it. Pick twelve.”
Twenty. I need twenty.
“No, twelve is enough.”
But what if I fall in love with something new? I could, you know. Very easily. They’re making new and fabulous things all the time. In fact, Uncle Serge is planning a new gardenia —
“If you want a new bottle, you must either finish one, give one away, or sell one. We are very serious about this.”
And when you bow to the strictures your loved ones place upon you, you pick twelve.
Seems like most perfume bloggers visit and revisit this topic from time to time: the Desert Island Frags. As in, Which are the ten perfumes you would prefer not to live without? Which ten do you love the most? Which ten would you sell a kidney, or a first-born child, for? (See this recent post at Olfactoria’s Travels to see readers come out of the woodwork to share their favorites.) I’ve always been a little annoyed with the “desert island” idea – very few of my favorites would do well in tropical heat – but I have a list, of course. Everybody has a list.
And of course, somebody always says, “I couldn’t do just ten, I had to bump it to twelve.” Or fifteen, or twenty, or fifty… And somebody else says, “Well, that’s my list for THIS week, but it’ll change without warning.”
Mine changes, too. But this is what it looks like at the moment, in no particular order:
Vintage Coty Emeraude parfum de toilette
Teo Cabanel Alahine
Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete
Mary Greenwell Plum
Serge Lutens La Myrrhe
Guerlain Shalimar Light
Frederic Malle Carnal Flower (of which I only have a decant, of course)
Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea
Crown Perfumery Crown Bouquet
Vintage Chanel No. 19 eau de toilette
Cuir de Lancome
There, that’s twelve. And I’m annoyed at leaving Jacomo Silences, Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Ete, and Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur off the list, but there you go – you cannot have everything. Give me another thirty seconds and I’ll have got this list to twenty cannot-do-withouts… F Malle Iris Poudre, Tableau de Parfums Miriam, Guerlain Chamade, Chanel No. 5 parfum, Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka.
There, that’s twenty. And I could keep going, but you get the idea, don’t you? And why on earth would I want a “signature scent” now? It would be like wearing the same clothes day in and day out. (I know, some people do that. Some people do fine wearing a uniform and don’t miss picking a sweater by the color and the weather. Whatever floats your boat, I say, but it doesn’t float mine.)
So: which bottles do you keep? Which do you reluctantly place in the “Goodwill Donations” box or offer to fumehead friends?