Monday, January 26, 2009

Perfume Identity

One of my best and oldest friends here -let’s call him T., has a long distance relationship with a beautiful, smart and funny girl from another country. Even though I know this friend for many, many years and he knows very well my passion for perfume, we hardly ever talk about it together. As a matter of fact, I’d never even asked him what perfume he is wearing, which is not very strange considering this is the sort of hobby that bores or bemuses many of my male friends. Most of the time, I just don’t bring it up, unless prompted. T. is a sharp dresser with a great sense of style, is always well groomed and has always smelled nice, warm and clean. His scent of choice (something by D&G as it turned out) was innocuous and pleasant, sexy but not in the least attention grabbing, so much so in fact, that I never even consciously realized that he’s been faithful to the same perfume for years. This week, S., the girlfriend from abroad came to stay for a few weeks and all of us having missed her, we decided to do something together this Saturday. A short round of hugs and kisses all around in front of the bar and there’s me, turning to T. trying hard to inject a cheerful, curious note in my voice that would hopefully mask the disappointment: “You’ve changed your perfume!”. Laughter on his side, and a sharpish look from S. “Uh, hah, yes, I did, how did you know?” I ignore this: of course I know, I mean, really. S. turns to me. “I can’t get used to it.” She says, and I can’t tell if she’s disappointed or just making a statement. Politely I change the subject and we go inside for drinks. Sitting down however, the subject comes up again unexpectedly half an hour later. They are both excited, smiling, completing each other’s sentences as lovers tend to do, while they describe meeting at the airport again after such a long time. “We speak every day, but it’s still strange to meet face to face after not having seen each other for two months! Then we spend an hour together and it’s as though we’ve never been apart.” Then suddenly S. becomes more animated, raising her voice slightly: “Yes, but he came there and I hugged him and he smelled different. I was like…. IS THIS MY BOYFRIEND???” and once more: “I can’t get used to it…”

This little snippet of the evening has remained vivid in my memory and has been popping in and out of my mind, raising the same questions every time. What does our perfume of choice mean to our loved ones? And what about those of us who change our perfume daily? Are we missing out on a secret signal, a secret form of recognition, a bond which we would otherwise enjoy? It is easier for me to accept that S. would be perturbed by T.’s change, for when living so far away from each other, every bit of familiarity becomes magnified in importance and of course, there’s no question that the sense of smell would play a leading role in that sense of familiarity. The change can be rather devastating, for in truth, the scent of a lover is something we take with us, like a memento, signifying some unspoken truth that will light up like a magic compass upon the next meeting of the bodies. Sometimes, it is the only important (or even meaningful) thing you can take with you when parting. But what about my reaction then? How disturbing and inexplicable that I would react with disappointment to the change. After all, I see T. every week without fail. And what is the message that friends subconsciously receive about those of us who change our perfume constantly? Perhaps we’re better off, never actually giving our friends the chance to associate us so deeply with a scent that it’d create dissonance the moment we decided to change it.

Have you ever had a signature scent? And if so, did you experience similar reactions from your friends when you made a change? As for me, I have in fact gone through stages of using a particular perfume almost exclusively or with such noticeable frequency that it becomes associated with me in the past. I’ve never really had a strange reaction from friends or loved ones, however, my boyfriend does always comment when I wear the perfume I used to wear when we first started dating. He gets this blissful look in his eyes and always exclaims I smell great. It makes me grin every time, because he never actually makes the connection fully enough to mention it by name.

Images: Flickr by bri v and Stefano Mortellaro


13 comments:

Suzanne said...

Hi Divina!

Fascinating post, as it made me realize that while I myself have never really had a true signature scent, I nevertheless am guilty of wanting to impose one on my husband. He rotates between four fragrances currently (Chene, Black Aoud, Burberry London for men, and Yatagan), and as much as I like all of them, I wish he would wear Yatagan, if not everyday, then at least steadily. It smells so amazingly sexy on him...I never tire of it.

Anonymous said...

I used to wear mostly floral (floral green or floral musky) perfumes in the past and kept wearing one until the bottle finished. Ever since I started reading about perfume online Ive been experimenting more, but my husband hasn't noticed anything! Or at least he hasnt mentioned it. I did get that feeling of disappointment you describe when he changed perfume however. He used to wear Lagergeld's Photo and then Eau Sauvage but lately he got Encre Noir as a gift. Like your friend, "i cant get used to it"!

Christine

Anonymous said...

I meant Lagerfeld sorry

waftbyCarol said...

I so appreciate the thought behind this post...that moment was brought right to us...for many years I believed in a signature scent...mine was YSL Paris for almost 8 years . All of a sudden I was over it and searched for another 5 years for a "new" signature scent .
Now , I have 3 or 4 faves and dozens of affairs...LOL...

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Hi Divina- I totally get the predicament. I used to wear a signature scent (Tresor when I was a teenager and then Stella). And I loved the idea of having a signature scent and being associated with it...

My husband has always worn Chanel Allure pour homme and I LOVE it. If he changed it I don't know how I would feel...

At the same time I am conflicted because there are so many perfumes that I love and would love to wear... I think the solution for me is to go with my mood. Which means I might wear a scent for months and then the next time experiment...

Phew! You made me think!

Anonymous said...

What an incredible post, things I have too pondered alot recently. When I met my husband he wore Dior Farenheight and it smelled so amazing on him I would go to the mall when he was away just to smell it! This xmas I decided to buy him something new, and he loves it...but it makes me cringe! It doesn't smell like him in the least! I don't know how to tell him... but I must!

Divina said...

Hi Suzanne! First of all lemme say your hubby has impeccable taste! Those are all really beautiful, sophisticated and well chosen perfumes. I am exactly the same by the way.. the bf rotates between 3-4 perfumes, but I wish he would stick to my favorite (which will probably not sound nearly as sophisticated, but damn, I *love* it) Blue Jeans. To me, it is just him like no other perfume can be!

Divina said...

Hi Christine :) Maybe your husband has noticed but has not said anything yet? I'd been burning some new candles at home and thought that my bf never took note but suddenly a few days ago he said that he really likes the new candles I am burning.. I was really surprised, lol!
As for Encre Noir, well, I think it is a fabulous perfume, but I totally understand that you want his old scent back! Valentine's Day is approaching, so why not gift him with a bottle of Eau Sauvage? ;) That might do the trick!

Divina said...

Carol dear, perfume affairs are so exciting! ;) They rarely end in heartbreak and they spice up life so ;) I've now reached an annoying point where at times I dont want to wear anything I already have, but keep wanting to wear something new just for the thrill of making my nose work. That can be rather irritating: it feels like my lovingly bought bottles look at me dejectedly as I rummage and rummage through samples!

Divina said...

Hiiii Daily! Wow, seems all the ladies' partners here have great taste. Allure pour Homme is another one I really like and think is very sexy. And another observation: It seems like its us girls who want to make the men in our lives stick to a signature! LOL! I didn't expect that...it might be a woman thing after all?

Divina said...

Oooh, Anon, I've done that TOO! It makes me feel like a teenager, but hell, having (and wearing) a little sample of the guy I love while he's away is a MAJOR thrill, especially if he's away for quite a while! *giggles*

And yes, you MUST indeed tell him! :) Once he knows how it benefits him *coughs* he will do it very willingly! ;) Oh dear, I am being naughty and it's only midday.

Z said...

How fascinating that this moment sticks in your memory so much to make it into this blog! Totally to the point and from the commenting I see you are not the only one to feel this.

A signature scent is something so intensely connected to the wearer that you have to think of that person when you smell it, even on another person. I have this many times, be it with gf, friend or even mother.

As usual, interesting subject, and very captivating writing.

//Z

Divina said...

Hi Z darling :) Love the new icon, almost superhero :D You've mentioned before that you can't help but think of the person who uses a particular 'fume as a signature when smelling it on the street. That's a mixed blessing, no? It can be devastating when the person is someone you dearly miss...