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I love Perfume! I hate Perfume! June 10, 2018

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Rants.
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Some long while ago, I wrote a column about my love-hate relationship with shoes.  I’ve realized that I also have a similar relationship with perfume, so I think I’ll have at a rant on this topic.

First, there’s what’s to love.  There is so much creativity that goes into creating the ingredients and elaborate smell profiles of perfume.  Spices and florals and all sorts of interesting stuff. There is a website that I’ve found called Fragrantica where you can look up which ingredients are in each perfume, look up exactly what each of those ingredients is and where it comes from, and read reviews. Fascinating.

Smell takes me back like nothing else can.  Sometimes I’ll smell something that I have not smelled in years, and I’ll immediately remember where I smelled it before.  Or, you can mention a smell, and I’ll immediately be able to recall just what it was like.  For instance, for me Williamsburg smells like boxwoods.  I can bring that smell to mind right now, so vividly that it amazes me.  So many other smells come back to me just as easily, things I haven’t been around for years, like a freshly run ditto, violin rosin, burning autumn leaves, Play-Doh, or volcano fumes.

I also find it interesting how different scents interact differently with people’s chemistry.  Something may smell good in the bottle, but not on a specific person.  Or it’s initially pretty bad, then after a few minutes blossoms into something nice.  Or on one person it’s great, and on another person the same scent just smells like bath powder.   That’s one of the reasons I’m unlikely to buy an expensive perfume, unless I’ve tested it several times.

But my perfume collection is mostly things I’ve gotten from other people.  My sister gave me some partial bottles of Obsession and Vanilia, and a huge bottle of Joan Rivers Now and Forever.  My Mom gave me some partial bottles of Beyond Paradise and Tatiana.  And I have samples that I’ve been given over the years of several others.  From somewhere I wound up with bottles of Enjoli and Cachet from the 70s.

I have some interesting older bottles that I must have gotten from my Mom when I was young.  Mom said that perfume goes off when it gets older, but apparently that’s not always the case.  There’s a market on ebay for old bottles of perfume, that are either not made anymore, or have been reformulated and the new versions now smell very different.

I have a little bit of Chantilly from back when it was made by Houbigant, which apparently is quite a classic now:

And a big bottle of Midnight, by Tussy, that I can’t find a proper photo of online, that’s how old this bottle is.  For me, it smells like a classic musty-old-lady smell, the kind of smell your grandma would have worn, or maybe that teacher you didn’t like.  (I never wear this, but it’s interesting to have.)

And there are perfumes I remember vividly from years back that I don’t have now, like Love’s Baby Soft, which was a big thing when I was in high school.  Or the perfume samples from the Avon lady, that I thought smelled pretty much all the same, and uniformly awful.  I couldn’t imagine why people wanted to smell like that! Still can’t.  Ew.

There aren’t many bottles I have bought for myself.  I’m picky, and tend not to buy perfume very often.  I have a bottle of Cinnabar that I got back in high school, and still smells just the same.  This is probably the first perfume I got because I liked the smell, and not because someone had randomly given it to me.  It’s an oriental perfume, full of spices and incense, a lot like YSL’s better known Opium.

When I went to Hawaii more recently, I came home with several tiny bottles of pure florals: plumeria, pikake, and puakenikeni.  Each of those takes me right back to the islands.  And more recently, I realized that a bar of soap whose smell I had been liking was lemon verbena scented, so I got myself a small bottle of the oil, and it’s lovely.

But sometimes what I buy for myself are imposter perfumes.  Knock-offs of the expensive designer stuff that often smell just as good, and for a fraction of the price.  I have a copy of Obsession, one of Eternity, and just recently I’ve gotten a copy of the old perfume “Giorgio” that was such a big thing back in the 80s.  These copies don’t smell cheap, they just don’t have to cover the advertising budget of the big designers, so the price is pretty reasonable.

But now the hate part.  Number one on my “I hate perfume” list is people who wear too much of it.  You all know who I mean.  The person that you can smell coming.  You can tell they’ve been in a room, even if it was an hour ago, because they’ve left the air full of their smell. (There’s even a word for this effect: “sillage”.) If they brush up against you, you smell like their perfume for the rest of the day. One of them sits near you at a restaurant, and suddenly you can’t smell your food anymore, just the perfume bomb at the next table.  People!  Have mercy on us!  Stop dousing yourself in the stuff!  No more than one spray, ever!  If your perfume is really strong, spray one spritz into the air, count to five, and then walk through the mist cloud, and that’s probably enough.

And I sing in a really good chorus, where there is no acceptable amount of perfume. Imagine taking a big breath to hit a high note, and getting a lungful of Chanel instead!  Try that for two hours of rehearsal.  Now our members all know this, and are careful not to wear any scent when singing, but every once in awhile we have instrumentalists with us who didn’t get the memo.

Next on my hate list: perfume samples in fashion magazines.  Bleh.  I don’t subscribe to any of that sort of magazine, and those samples are part of the reason why.  If I did, I’d have to start by tearing out all of those pages first, and throwing them in the trash outside.  Those samples never smell like actual perfume, anyway, they just stink.  But perfume advertising is another thing I don’t like.  Since a commercial can’t show you what the product smells like, they do all of this flashy “image building” stuff, with no attempt to tell you what it smells like.  I’d rather see advertising that says “this smells like roses, orange blossoms and cinnamon,” that would be more useful.

Really, do you have any clue about what “Charlie” smells like from watching this?

And strongly scented products that don’t need strong scents, I don’t get those either.  I have a couple of stories about those.  Shortly after we got our cat, we tried a “fresh” brand of kitty litter.  The scent of it was not actually bad, but it was strong, and it lingered on his paws for a long time afterwards.  When I pick up my cat, I’d really prefer not to be reminded of his litter box visits, so we had to change brands.  Or, another time, I had someone hired to clean my kitchen, and she bragged about using only “natural” cleaners.  She cleaned our microwave with a lilac-scented cleaner, and the next time we used the microwave we were hit with a blast of the stuff.  It turns out that while lilac is a lovely scent, it’s really not compatible with reheated leftovers.  At all.  We had to scrub out the microwave again.  My kids still talk about that smell.

I asked UbiDubiKid#2 for her perfume recollections, and she told me about a particular smell that she would smell repeatedly in the halls of her high school,and even back to middle school.  She said it was probably not just one specific person, because it would show up all over the place. Last Christmas someone gave her a bottle of “gingerbread latte” lotion, and my daughters reaction was “That’s the same smell!”  It brought back a lot of her most unpleasant memories of her school years, and she won’t use the lotion.

So, when I do wear perfume, the amount I want to wear is just a trace, just enough that I can smell it, but not enough for anybody else to smell it, unless they are really near me.  Another gripe I have  is that most perfume comes in spray bottles, so you can’t get less than one squirt, and one squirt is often way too much for my use.  I mentioned the trick of spritzing into the air and then walking through the mist, but even that’s too much with some scents, and I’d also be getting it into my bedroom carpet and on my furniture when I do that.  So I’ve come up with what I think is a creative solution:

I dilute them.  A little grain alcohol in a dropper bottle, and then I add a squirt or two of the scent, and I get a much lighter version of the smell, in a form where I’m in control of how much I use.  You won’t know I’m wearing it unless you are standing right next to me, and then you might only get a subtle whiff of it.  Perfect.  Plus one bottle lasts me pretty much forever this way.


Anybody else have a story about a smell to share?


1. Nan - June 11, 2018

Interesting — and definitely an off-the-well-beaten-path — post!

I used to wear perfume in my younger days … tended to favor the lighter scents. Hardly ever used the highly publicized ones created by all those “famous people.”

Today, about the only scented product I can get away with is Victoria’s Secret body lotions as my other-half has asthma and heavy scents will trigger an attack. He can’t even walk through the perfume area of a department store!

I think most people enjoy getting a nice whiff of a pleasant scent, but as you indicated, too much is too much!

Liked by 2 people

Ubi Dubium - June 11, 2018

Oh, gosh, I forgot to talk about the department store perfume departments under “hate”. The salesladies prowling around spritzing people with too much of whatever the latest stinky release is. Bleah. Now if they were like sommelier’s for perfume, deeply knowledgeable about their subject, and working hard to find exactly what you will like, that would be much better.

Liked by 2 people

2. Quixie - June 15, 2018

I LOVE that site you linked – I’ve been looking up all sorts of frangrances.I have always wanted to know what’s in various perfumes. Fun!

I also wore Love’s Baby Soft when I was younger. In high school my favorite was Sunflowers (www.fragrantica.com/perfume/Elizabeth-Arden/Sunflowers-1701.html)

I’m not too big of a fan of that now – now I’ll wear a knock off Viva La Juicy (www.fragrantica.com/perfume/Juicy-Couture/Viva-la-Juicy-4410.html) or body spray that smells like white gardenia flowers.

One of my favorite scents is the smell of white lilacs. These don’t naturally grow most places I’ve lived, but the smell is intoxicating to me. I nearly moved to Portland, Maine after visiting because of the combination of the fresh sea air and white lilacs.

And teakwood, hot damn, is sooo sexy. I discovered it in a candle shop one day and tried to get away with huffing the stuff when no one was looking (I’m only mildly kidding).

There are some scents that are overwhelmingly bad. I can’t walk past a Bath and Body works without feeling olfactorily raped. It gives me a headache and makes me feel dizzy.

Liked by 2 people

SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ - August 18, 2018

HaHaHa! I like your analogy of “feeling olfactorily raped”, Quixie!

Indeed, Ubi, we often have very strong reactions to scents, whether they are wonderfully good or terribly bad.

I like your title for this post, “I love Perfume! I hate Perfume!”, which somewhat mirrors my post entitled “The Scents and Smells of Orchids” at https://queenslandorchid.wordpress.com/2015/05/30/the-scents-and-smells-of-orchids/

The post deals with the most heavenly scents to the most putrefying smells from the largest family of flowering plants on Earth, namely, the orchids. By the way, you probably already know that the scent of vanilla is from an orchid.

Happy August and may you have a lovely weekend!

Liked by 2 people

3. Daniel Digby - July 2, 2018

You brought back memories of Jungle Gardenia, which I liked at least as much for the person who used it as for the scent itself.  Thanks for introducing me to a new word.  Now I’ll never be able to notice a perfume aftermath without thinking of a barn and silage.
By the way, there was at least one ad that nailed the scent it was plugging – Compulsion by Calvin Kleen.

Liked by 2 people

Ubi Dubium - July 2, 2018

I have that Compulsion commercial on a video collection of SNL commercials. On an actual VHS tape!

Liked by 2 people

4. Shruthi Sathyanarayana - October 15, 2018

Oriental fragrances have been very popular in the Middle East and other parts of the country for a long time.These are great to lift your spirits up and give you more confidence while you head to a function. Check out some of the best oriental fragrances here: https://ajmalperfume.com/newlaunch.php


5. Martine Stoker - June 20, 2021

This one is self-explanatory. Perfume has traditionally been used largely for scent. It helps to keep unpleasant body odor at bay and keeps you smelling fresh all day.

To find your best perfume–GroomingWise



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