A squirt is not a spritz

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The Sophisti-Cat with mini Hypnotique perfume by Max Factor

There is a fly in the ointment of my marriage. Or to put it more clearly, a wheel or two may have fallen off the stickiness of the marital wicket.

In so many ways, my husband is what P.G Wodehouse might have called a Good Egg. He is a wonderful cook, a charming and seductive companion and, crucially, he is tireless in tracking down rare fragrances on ebay.  Sure, he is a shade elitist about perfume houses such that a mild yen for a bottle of Cuir de Russie by Chanel is a lot more likely to produce results than say, an urgent whim for  a Max Factor Sophisti-Cat with mini bottle of Hypnotique cologne (pictured above), or even a desperate hankering for  Fabergé Tigress with faux-fur top (pictured below), but a woman learns to live with these hardships.

Fabergé Tigress with faux-fur cap

Fabergé Tigress with faux-fur top

What more serious thing could be wrong with the bliss connubial? I hear you ask. And well you might.

Every morning, my husband says these words: “Today, I’m going to have a squirt of  <insert some top-of-the-trees perfume name here>”.

I suspect that like the duchess’s baby, he just does it to annoy me. I think it is fairly uncontroversial that spritz is what is known technically as a good word to describe the application of fragrance in aerosol form and that squirt is bad word (all else being equal). But don’t take my word for it. Let us examine the evidence with three examples of usage culled from Google:

Squirt:

1) What on earth is a sea squirt?

2) How many ways can you make water squirt out of your mouth?

3) In Parra’s work the second Biot equation was extended to include the squirt-flow mechanism that was introduced by Dvorkin and Nur (1993)

Spritz

1) Facial Waters: Add 6-8 drops per ounce of pure water and spritz on the face. Lavender, Rose, and Orange EO make wonderful facial waters.

2) Uncover loaves and, using a spray bottle, spritz them with water and dust with whole wheat flour.

3) Spritz fragrance on your clothes and accessories, …

These hand-picked random samples show clearly that squirt is associated with gross things and daft boats whereas spritz is associated with bread, beautification and perfumedness.

In a perfect world, simply mentioning this painstaking research into how to speak good English would produce the required effect. On the other hand, he might just take to saying spurt. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A soliloquy for Luna, a doggy

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Luna, like the duchess she is, prefers to travel in style above the crowd.

My sister She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named (it’s a bit of a mouthful, so we just call her SWSNBN)  likes dogs. She seems quite normal in other ways, but there you are, everyone is different. It’s what makes up the rich pageantry of life.

She likes dogs so much that she even fosters rescue dogs. I believe that so far, she has saved fifteen or so from being euthanized. I think we can all agree that this is a Good Thing. I’m all for (other) people saving little doggies.

Currently, SWSNBN is on a break and has just her own two dogs, Luna, a beautiful toy dachshund, and Margot. And this is the thing, Luna is not going to be with us for much longer.  I have promised not to be sentimental but it’s hard, she has been such a faithful companion to my sister.  SWSNBN adopted her after she had been rescued from a basement. She was two years old and on her third home, so you might be forgiven for imagining that she was vicious or something. For what other reason would a little dog be abandoned so often, and so sorely neglected? But Luna had just been very unlucky. It’s the old shitty story, people adopt a pretty pet and just can’t be bothered to take care of it.

Sadly, much of Luna’s beauty is only skin deep.  She is both vain and devious. The first time SWSNBN told me this, I was disbelieving. I had just been telling her that what I like about children is that they are so honest, and surmised that her little doggies must have the same kind of straightforwardness. There was a doubtful pause, and then she said “Weeeeeelll, some dogs can be quite devious you know.”

Apparently, and I don’t know dogs but maybe you do, so tell me if this sounds unlikely,  Luna can be a nasty piece of work (and this is a direct quote from SWSNBN. I would never say something like that about a cute little doggie). Luna knows that she is quite lovely and she would really like everyone to believe that she is as good-natured as she is comely. On the other hand, attacking other dogs, an activity clearly forbidden to a pooch of good character, is quite a lot of fun… so what to do?

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Luna, a dog used to having her portrait painted, with my gigantic nephew’s gigantic feet.

If other dogs come to visit, Luna likes to lie in wait until she knows that no one is looking and then take one of her doggie biscuits and drop it in the middle of the front hallway. She then scuttles back around the sitting room door and lies in wait. She is aware that if she tries to peek around the doorway to watch what happens, her long nose will stick out and the game will be up. To avoid this, she tilts her nose sharply downwards so that she can peer with just one eye around the doorway.

If the visiting dog make the not-unreasonable assumption that the biscuit has been abandoned by its owner and takes it, then Luna will be perfectly justified in coming running round the corner and making a monumental fuss, barking and yelping at the horrible dog-biscuit thief.

It’s a good trick but it doesn’t often work. Either the dog biscuit is just not that yummy-looking or doggy etiquette includes a rule about territoriality as applied to discarded food items.

Beautiful though she is, Luna is not very bright. SWSNBN believes that being abused at a young age gave her some kind of brain damage. In the belief that another dog would help Luna feel safe, SWSNBN adopted Margot who was eight years old at the time. SWSNBN claims that Margot is a toy Yorkshire terrier but from where I stand (which is as far away as I can manage), she is a foul-smelling ball of matted hair. Seeing Margot and Luna together is a bit like watching two elderly people accidentally seated together on a park bench, one a gregarious bum and the other a ladylike, but slightly impoverished, duchess.

As you might imagine, Luna was totally appalled at her new companion. She watched disbelievingly as Margot scoffed her food down and made a mess, drank with water running down her chin and, oh dearie me, the smell.  Luna is a fastidious beast who smells (or so her owner claims) like vanilla biscuits.

Margot, however, is much brighter that Luna (not a terribly high standard, really) and doesn’t hesitate to use her wits to her own advantage. A while back, for reasons lost in the mists of time, Luna was actually in possession of her very own marrow bone. She prized the bone greatly and refused to share. Margot, clearly interested in requisitioning the bone for her own use,  strolled up and started ostentatiously playing with an old paintbrush (SWSNBN is an artist) as though it were the best thing in the world, miles better than a boring old bone. After a little while, she picked up the paintbrush and dropped it in front of Luna. Luna dropped the bone and picked up the paintbrush and ran away with it. Immediately, she realized her mistake, dropped the paintbrush and came back but it was too late. Margot had the bone and showed no sign of wanting to give it up.

Luna knew she had been tricked but just couldn’t quite understand how it had been done. She returned to the paintbrush and stared at it. It had clearly been used as part of an Evil Stratagem to steal her bone and she sat there trying to work it out. She knew, says SWSNBN, that the paintbrush could be used to retrieve the bone but she could not put together the sequence of events necessary to make it happen.

But make no mistake, Luna is a happy pup. She loves to go for a walk in the park and the chase rabbits. She loves rabbits so much that if there is a crow or two standing round, SWSNBN says “go get the rabbit” and off runs Luna. If the ‘rabbit’ is actually a sickly baby bird rather than a rabbit or crow, she occasionally even catches one (and then she sits there bewildered, looking at her mistress as if to say “Well, now what?”).

Crows are more of a problem. In an ideal world, a dog-respecting crow would fly off as Luna ran towards it, barking ferociously. In practice, crows don’t seem to be particularly impressed and Luna is forced to run in a big graceful curve away from the crow, as though to say “Sure, I was barking at you but I was actually headed in an entirely different direction all along.” If there is more than one crow (a murder, I believe), then Luna contents herself with barking aggressively in that general direction and then scuttling behind a tree. No point in take unnecessary risks, after all.

Luna is very fond of a nice piece of fish and she gets a lot of fish treats these days when her appetite is not good. She also, I hear, keeps her mistress’s feet admirably warm at night.

Seriously, my biggest problem with dogs is that they live with dog-minded people.  I slept at Luna’s home one night and she got into bed with me, sure of her welcome (so not intuitive, on top of everything else). All through the night, she kept shoving her pointy nose into my side. It was only the next day that SWSNBN, on hearing what a massive nuisance her pet had been, said “Oh, she likes to have her nose held at night. Didn’t I mention it?”  “No,” I said, with remarkable restraint. “you didn’t.”

 

 

 

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Books about smells and books that stink

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Several people (one) of my numerous readership (three) have asked me how I find out about the perfumes that I am interested in, and if there are any good books about perfume out there. I will answer the second question first.

There are a number of good books about perfume but the choice of a book depends very much on what you want to get out of it. For example, Fabulous Fragrance II, A Guide to Prestige Perfumes by Countess Jan Moran is quite a nice book if you like the work done for you. For each of the fragrances selected by the Countess (does that have to be capitalized? I never know), there is a nice description of the perfume and how it came to be made, a list of the notes and, where appropriate, a list of the famous people that wear it.

fabulousfragrances

I am not, myself, a big fan of this book. It’s all la-de-da and ladylike and full of cute insider anecdotes, but lacks some rather crucial information. For example, her description of Chloe (by Lagerfeld) is spot on (if a little fulsome) but she does not mention that it is no longer in production and that there are at least two other, lesser, versions of Chloe out there. She does not even mention that it will give you nightmares if you wear it to bed, but hey, I guess she is not a experimental researcher type like me, so I’ll give her a pass on that.

Just to prove to you that this is not an isolated example of seriously misleading/incomplete information, on the very same page as the entry for Chloe is an entry for Chantilly (originally by Houbigant, later by Dana). Does Moran mention that almost all the available Chantilly, including some that is very vintage, is by Dana and is considered to be only distantly related to the original? Nope. Perhaps the Countess has not noticed, on her weekly trip to Target to stock up on low-fat Pringles, that Chantilly is now a cheap and cheap-smelling noxious brew that you might hesitate to use to deodorize your toilet.

Still, I was prepared to understand that a book can only do so much. Moran chooses to present only the fragrances that she feels are prestigious so all the reviews are gushing with a decidedly “oh, darling” kind of delightfulness to them. I was still gamely pushing on, pretending that I didn’t find the whole thing painfully boring, when I came across the page and a half devoted to her own perfume creation, Fabulous. To compareChanel № 5, perhaps the most prestigious and famous perfume of all time, merits just over half a page of Moran’s page space.  I want to quote a little something from the entry for Fabulous but 1) I just ate and I don’t want to lose my lunch and 2) there is just so much self-serving pomposity that it is a burden to know what to choose. However, I am a slave to my readers, so here goes:

“How shall I describe the perfume so dear to my heart? Indeed, it is like describing the depths of my heart, of all I cherish and yearn to become.”

Regarding the challenges of bottle design:

“Once again, I listened to my heart.  I have a deep appreciation of fine jewelry; I love to design and collect unusual pieces, especially antique works.  [] I was thus inspired to immerse gemstones in my own fragrance, a rainbow assortment of purple amethyst, yellow citrine, blue topaz and red garnet. Suitable for setting, each stone is approximately one carat and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity”

I’ll just bet that made the fragrance extra yummy. Oh, and while I am on a roll here, prestigious? What kind of word is that to convey the quality of a perfume. Has anyone ever used that word in a sentence that includes an opinion about how something smells such as  “Oh my, that perfume is simply prestigious?”

scentandsubversion

A book that I like much better is Scent and Subversion, decoding a century of provocative perfume by Barbara Herman. Herman runs the Yesterday’s Perfume website and she knows her vintage pongs. What is delightful (the Countess is rubbing off on me, I fear), is that she presents the fragrances of the twentieth century by decade so you can see how the fashions evolve over time. For each entry, there is a short description and a list of notes. There are also lots of really charming pictures of print advertisements that give you an idea of perfume in the historical context of the role of women and women’s sexuality in society. Fa-sci-na-ting. Really.

Herman is in love with vintage fragrances but her reviews do not gush even when she is passionate. For Fille d’Eve by Nina Ricci, she writes:

“There is something very sexy to me about the idea that you would wear a perfume not to mask your own gorgeous dirty smells with aldehydic flowers, but to enhance them.”

Waaay more interesting that Moran, even if Fille d’Eve doesn’t sound like your cuppa tea.

The only thing about Scents and Subversion that I don’t like is that it doesn’t go far enough. I want Herman to team up with a sociologist or a specialist in feminist theory and relate the scents and advertising to contemporary events and the evolution of the feminine image in society. Damn. I need that book.

The last book I need to talk about is the one I am always droning on about: Perfumes, the A-Z Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. This book provides reviews for some 1,600 fragrances available at the time it went to press. So, no vintage brews.

I have discussed The Guide previously so I won’t repeat myself, but I hadn’t realized that so many people hate it. The participants of various discussion forums pan its excessive language and vitriol particularly if said vitriol is directed at a perfume that they themselves enjoy. In the land of let’s-all-find-something-nice-to-say, this is a terrible sin. The thing is, the authors love fragrance and give you their no-holds barred opinion. It’s likely that their opinion will not always mesh with your opinion. And this is the thing; its interesting to read the reviews of perfumes that you love and they love but it’s extra interesting to read the reviews where you disagree. How insecure are you if you can’t wear a perfume that is not universally loved? Or is it just that you are so involved in your fragrance that the pain of hearing it criticized is unbearable? This is art, not science, so like what you damn well please.

The Guide is opinionated in the most obnoxious way (one commenter complained about a review that surmised that even if you hadn’t washed for a month and were covered in fleas, you might hesitate to take a shower if the provided soap had a particular fragrance. I’m sorry, I have to paraphrase because I can’t remember which specific fragrance was being reviewed. Probably something by Creed) but it is incredibly funny and, if you can take the heat, incredibly informative.

I’ll admit I was mildly ticked by the review of Y by Yves St Laurent which I did not then own. It went on an on about how if Y were a woman, it would be Danielle Darrieux;  if it were  a piece of music, it would be the theme to Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and so on. “How useful is that?”, I thought. “I have no idea whether or not I am going to like the damn stuff.”  As it turns out, Turin was exactly right. That is a perfect description of the Y, a little old fashioned, a little melancholic but oh so very French and quite, quite lovely. So, The Guide and I are BFFs again.

So, to wrap up, there are a number of publications out there. I have read just these three (oh, and The Little Book of Perfumes which is a collection of the reviews for the top-rated fragrances in The Guide) but really, I go back again and again to the internet forums, Bois de Jasmin, Yesterday’s Perfume, The Non-Blonde, MakeupAlley and all the others. When I read something about a fragrance that catches my fancy, I read every review I can get my hands on before even considering whether or not to purchase it. As you read more and sample more fragrances, you start to know which reviewers are likely to have tastes that mesh with yours. And that answers the first question in my opening paragraph. You didn’t think that I would get around to it but I did. Have a little faith.

In other news, today is July 18th. That means there are only 12 days to go until I have my $10 ebay allowance for August. It is a sad reality that I usually spend my allowance on the very first day  of the month. Last month, I didn’t get even that far. There was this MIB (mint in box) bottle of Jean Naté (Charles of the Ritz) body and bath spray that was totally irresistible because it was unusually cheap, The auction ended on June 27 but that is clearly within spitting distance of July, right? Also, including shipping, it cost $10.50 so I was over budget too. Sigh.

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The Poor Baby: a research-based approach

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Munch’s famous study, “A Poor Baby”

This is generally a venue for talking about fragrance but today I am going to take a little time to talk about a very serious topic, the Poor Baby. I am raising the subject because a dear friend of mine has had an objectively filthy week and I think she needs some good, solid advice. A poorly executed Poor Baby is a crying shame and I live to see the day when we all work together towards a higher standard.

First, let us define the Poor Baby.  There is some leeway here but I think that it is safe to say that someone dying does not qualify as a Poor Baby. At the other extreme, just getting an indelible stain on your favorite frock in an isolated incident does not qualify either. A Poor Baby is a really nasty but non-lethal event on top of a series of more trivially depressing things.

When you have a Poor Baby, there are a few things that your girlfriends are required to do. Firstly, they have to gather round and say “Oh, you Poor Baby!” If a guy is involved, they will tell you that he is scum and that you are better off without him. It’s the commonly agreed upon standard.

Beyond that, there is just an awful lot of amateurish Poor Baby behavior out there. My friend Lisa and I perfected the Poor Baby 2.0 through exhaustive research and experimentation in graduate school and I am going to share our research results with you. I present these findings here in simplified form, but we are not yet published so please do not cite this work in any of your own research.

The opportunities for Poor Babies in grad school are numerous. The requirement for a generally miserable week is usually fulfilled by default because, at any given time, you are necessarily behind on both your research deadlines and grading for teaching assignments, you are over-weight/anorexic/bulimic (pick one) and coming down with a cold. Any more serious event that occurs on top of this, such as a romantic break-up or being turned down for crucial research funding, automatically qualifies you for a Poor Baby.

So, after the first storm of tears, just when the hiccupy sobbing is dying down, you  have to head out to a really expensive department store. We chose Nordstrom’s which was most conveniently situated (possibly store management had an arrangement with the university psychological services?). Once at the store, go to the lingerie department, browse diligently and, after mature reflection, purchase ridiculously expensive panties. Silky, crushed raspberry, lacy, impractical, borderline illegal… let yourself go because it is your girlfriend’s privilege to pay for the outing.

Realistically, you can’t do that much damage. There is an upper bound on the price of a pair of panties, however ridiculous the actual dollars per square centimeter amount may be.

Once you are done browsing and have made your purchase (and I am not guaranteeing that a single pair of panties will necessarily suffice. I remember one particularly horrendous lab presentation that required three pairs of panties and two bras), it is time for chocolate cake.

Now, chocolate cake is a very personal preference and it would be inappropriate for me to dictate to you in this area, but I think that it is important that the cake be extremely rich and unctuous (flourless might be a good way to go) and the portion should be generous but not gut-busting. Over-indulgence with the cake often leads to remorse and can negate all the good done by the Poor Baby.

I can hear you say, “Polly, what about alcohol? No Coquetel? No Mojito? No Prosecco? Can this really be called a Poor Baby at all?” Well, it is up to you, but our research indicates that for a typical Poor Baby, the amount of alcohol required to make you feel better will give you a just-kill-me-now hangover. The goal of a Poor Baby is to get you back on track so that you can gather yourself and, knowing yourself to be loved and supported, pick yourself up and get back to work. We recommend alcohol only for the celebration of joyous events and then you go, girl.

A really good Poor Baby as described here takes time. It just does. However, we have found that heading over to the coffee kiosk and sharing a Kitkat can really give you a fillip in an emergency Poor Baby situation. It’s not ideal, but in a pinch it will get you through the day.

I submit these findings in the hope that it will help Poor Babies everywhere. Again, thanks are due to my brilliant co-researcher, Lisa.

In our next special edition, I will discuss the Kicked Puppy: how to avoid it, why it will inevitably happen regardless of all precautions and how to recover (hint: alcohol is involved).

Today’s illustration is randomly filched from the interwebs. People shouldn’t leave these things lying around.

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Of Heaven and Hell

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One, ludicrously over-simplified, version of the fragrance story is that modern perfumes followed slow fashions over decades starting, if you will, with Chanel’s № 5 some time in the twenties. Things pottered along in a peaceful fashion until the 1980s when fragrances became (by all accounts), obnoxiously powerful. Sillage, the dimension of fragrance that hangs in the air after the wearer has left the room was extended in both radius and duration such that there are entire arrondissements in Paris today that still reek of Dior’s Poison.

In a natural reaction to this olfactory bullying, a reaction set in such that the perfumes of the nineties were apologetic barely-there watery, floral fragrances with a nice clean smell (L’Eau d’Issey is generally cited in this context. And is that name a pun on L’Odyssée? I never know). Since then, women’s fragrances have followed Thierry Mugler’s Angel into the domain of candied edibles and seem to be stuck there for the foreseeable future.

I was actually the very last person in the western world to not know what Angel smells like, so last Thursday, a little early for my weekly coquetel de l’heure heureuse with my buddy Heather, I wandered into Sephora and realized that this was my opportunity to become better acquainted.

As you know, my nose is a bit of a neophyte, perhaps even a philistine. It is about as good at identifying the individual elements of a fragrance as my ears are at differentiating between the eight tonal patterns of Cantonese Chinese.  Where others smell top notes, middles notes and basenotes, I smell yummy, or sometimes pongy.

Given the general lameness of my proboscis, the usual plan is to apply the juice and then take a sniff of my wrist at thirty seconds, two minutes, ten minutes and half and hour. At each sniff, I try to identify not the notes themselves, but the memories that they evoke. In this way, I am able to identify  such things as the vanilla in Shalimar (visions of apple pie), candied fruit in Egoiste (mince pies at Christmas) and caramel in the most recent incarnation of Miss Dior (toffee apples at the fair).

With Angel, I can’t identify what the specific candy sweet note is other than that it reminds me of the pick ‘n’ mix sweetie counter at Woolworth’s when I was a child. Unfortunately, Angel is so, so sweet that it is also painfully evocative of toothache. Ouch.

But Angel is not all sweetness and light. Something decidedly devilish going on in the background; a really weird salty note that slides its way past your guard. I don’t think I have smelled any fragrance as brazenly salty as Angel, not even my beloved Dune. It’s ironic that that during my childhood in France, I was forced to listen to a zillion French people explain in boring detail about how wrong it is that anglo-saxons mix sweet and salty notes in food and now, when I go to Paris, every damn dessert in the city is sprinkled with rock salt and every other woman wears Angel. People, I swear.

I can’t say I have any plan to wear Angel but do I tend to disagree with my sister She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named in saying that it pongs. At the very least, we might concede that it pongs in a way that is way more interesting than its innumerable descendants.

The other hellish part of today’s post is what my family did to my plan for an entertaining evening. I recently acquired a tiny bottle of Robert Piguet’s Bandit. Bandit is reputed to be a bad girl fragrance, a biker bad girl. It smells of leather and motor oil and possibly sweat. I decided that I would wear it for my Saturday night dinner party and take pictures of my guest’s disgusted faces. Ha.

With the exception of one person who is actually allergic to perfume, the selfish bunch loved it to a man. There is no point in trying to write an entertaining blog if people are not going to get on board and participate a little. I think you will agree that there is only one thing to be done. They started this and if escalation is what they want, escalation is what they will get. I am thinking of bringing on the vintage Calèche (“It smells of the woman who neglects herself”) and if that doesn’t work, I will be forced to go nuclear with Bal à Versailles by Jean Desprez  (“hot, hot sex”).

They made me do it.

 

 

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Small but concentrated

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I don’t do photos at breakfast

Currently, we have a house guest called Emily. She used to live on the East Coast but, having seen the error of her ways, has decided to move to San Diego. She is staying with us while she waits for her furniture to arrive in a big ‘ole truck. Emily has a couple of parents in tow but they do not seem to feel as they ought about fragrance so there’s not much point in mentioning them here. Very nice people, otherwise, I’m sure. Possibly.

When she first arrived, Emily and I were not immediately on speaking terms. I kept on doing objectively idiotic things like try to take her photo at breakfast or tell her that I liked the way her dress matches her shoes (well, duh) when we hadn’t even been properly introduced. Happily, she thawed considerably towards me once we discovered that we have a common interest in fragrances and chocolate and agreed that it’s really best for all concerned if I am polite and patient and wait to speak until I am spoken to, at least until she has finished her morning chocolate milk.

It turns out that Emily, who is 6 years old, owns her own bottle of fragrance (and while we are on the subject, I have deep feelings about a parent who helps her child chose a fragrance based primarily on reviews that complain that the stuff has no staying power. However, a parenting effort was made and I agreed to hold off on calling CPS. For now).  The fragrance is by Anthropologie, I believe, and is mostly harmless. Emily deals with the lack of longevity by spraying the stuff with what one might conservatively characterize as wild abandon.

On discovering her weakness for scent, I offered Emily a choice of three fragrances: Tea Rose (The Perfumer’s Workshop), Diorissimo and vintage Eau de Joy. Nice, flowery fragrances that a child might like, I think you will agree, but classy too (nothing less that four stars according to Turin). After cautiously sniffing the bottles, she selected Eau de Joy and, as good taste always deserves recognition, I got out the vintage parfum instead and gave her a dab on each little wrist. She inhaled deeply, and with great appreciation.  At a guess, (and like most perfumistas), this girl does not have a predilection for the “freshly-showered” category of fragrances.

The next day, I gave her the choice between Chanel Gardénia, Estée Lauder Gardenia Tuberose and Lagerfeld Chloe and she went with Chloe, a shameless and huge tuberose. Yes, I’ll admit it, I was a little emotional, perhaps a little teary-eyed.  At last, a woman in the house who understands that the true purpose of a floral scent is not to smell like a pretty posy but to evoke flowers in the richness of their diverse textures and representations.

I finally surrendered my heart yesterday, when Emily chose to wear Bois des Iles (Chanel) in preference to First (van Clef and Arpels) and l’Air du Temps (Nina Ricci). Tragically, when I returned twenty minutes later to discuss how she felt about the drydown, I discovered that her mother (loosely speaking) had smeared her with sunscreen, I was deeply, deeply shocked. Really.

Emily was not our guest long enough for us to discuss chypre fragrances  (what would she think of Cabochard, I wonder) or Shalimar, or even the appropriateness of Guerlain Vetiver and Chanel № 19 for day wear in the first grade, but I know that her heart, and nose, are in the right place.  Emily is clearly the next Germaine Cellier and I think that there is only one logical thing to do.

That should be CPS at the door right now.

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A peck of frivols

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The Seventh Circle of Hell

My first friend in the blogosphere is Kate over at Katezilla, (A Ferociously Frugal Beauty Blog, Rawr! ). She made a comment about something I wrote and I drifted on over to her blog to take a gander and the impossible happened; she managed to make beauty products sound cheap, for sure, but most importantly, she made them sound fun. I think I once owned a lipstick (but I may be wrong. She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named might remember) but suddenly, under Kate’s nefarious influence, I was dreaming of scarlet lips, perfectly applied eye-liner and tiger print toe nails (Apparently, tiger print nails become a necessity when your nails are a boring taupe).  So, Kate and I chatted a little, hindered only minimally by the fact that neither of us seems to have grasped that email is something that you “check” from time to time.

I think that you need a little context here.  I have never been good with the girl stuff. I just didn’t seem to instinctively know my way around cosmetics the way other girls did, as though I was left-handed in a right-hand dominant world. I knew for sure there was something a bit weird about me because for many years, I was incapable of using a purse. I had a backpack for my compy and other loose items and I carried a wallet in my butt pocket like any self-respecting dude.  Not to mention the whole academia weirdness. Seven or eight years ago, as part of an ongoing effort to behave like an adult, I slapped on some mascara, and a male researcher friend came over, peered at me very closely for a couple of minutes and asked “Are you wearing makeup?” in a very doubtful tone. Discouraging.

Then, several years ago, I was dopey enough to hurt my shoulder while rock climbing and I couldn’t carry the backpack and all the sundries that were stuffed therein. My husband, ever the humorist, bought me a delightful, teeny-tiny leather Coach purse with just enough room for essentials so that I wouldn’t have any significant weight to carry. These days (and I state this with some pride), I own several purses and I never leave the house without one. Given this evidence of maturation, I felt, reading Kate’s blog, that I was ready for bigger, girlier, things (no, not those things, I mean makeup).

Kate, who is one of those really nice people but Canadian so we are not surprised, actually gave me personalized advice based on my coloring and multitudinous sensitivities. I used my awesome research skills to determine the meaning of the more arcane technical terms in her email like BB creamand armed with her list of recommendations, I made my way to the local pharmacy.

Kate had given me several suggestions for the categories of mascara, lipstick, blusher, eye shadow etc. I thought Lip Butter, a Revlon product, sounded rather yummy, and I made may way over to the Revlon display. A couple of days later, after I had recovered from the trauma, I returned to the store and took the picture for this post. There was like a trillion things in that display of which exactly eight were Lip Butter and for each of the brands that Kate had mentioned, there was a similarly gigantic display, I kid you not.

I was brave though. You would totally have been impressed. I selected a Lip Butter (Pink Truffle) and moved on to the next item: mascara. Kate had some very sensible advice about mascara but there are a lot of mascaras out there, let me tell you, and it was hard to not be distracted. There are things to lengthen your lashes, thicken your lashes, twirl your lashes, nourish your lashes and possibly take your lashes for a nice walk to the beach.

I focussed and eventually found one of the mascaras on my list and even managed to find an eye shadow and then, cravenly, retired from the field of combat. Rome was not built in a day, you know. On the other hand, my purchases were refreshingly cheap so I count the whole adventure as a success.

Sure, the whole “put the makeup on” thing took a few tries (I can’t put eye makeup on with contacts because it tends to bother my eyes, impossible to take the contacts out because I can’t see where to put the makeup) but it looked rather surprisingly nice (and no, I am not going to post before and after pictures. If you want that kind of thing, go see Kate’s blog) and it was fun and I felt totally adventurous. Later that day, the barista at my favorite coffee shop handed me coffee and I noticed her beautiful nail polish. “Oooh”, I said, “I love your nail polish. Do you mind telling me what it is?” just as though we were like, bonded through a common love and knowledge of cosmetics. “It’s a Sally Hansen Gel”, she replied. I nodded, knowingly.

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