The other day, when I was picking a perfume to wear, I caught myself actually feeling excited by the huge choice at my disposal. As I pulled out various bulging gauze bags from the beer chiller, spilling dozens of samples on the carpet, I felt a warm proprietary glow. I fingered each 1ml vial in turn, and took pleasure in my imaginary wearing of it. Imaginary because there is simply not the time to get round to most of them. As my signature on Basenotes reads: "So many scents, so little skin!"
What was interesting is that on this occasion my overriding feeling was one of pleasure and well-being. I found the size and variety of my collection comforting, as my father used to do with books. Towards the end of his life, these were stacked from ceiling to floor in every room of his small flat, including the bathroom, and though completely entombed and with barely anywhere to sit or lie or put things, he always referred to books as his "friends".
I, on the other hand, flipflop between feelings of pride and accomplishment: "I built this collection from EL Intuition up!" "I am lucky to own all these lovely perfumes - I am really spoilt!" and feeling "spoilt for choice" in a negative sense. In other words, "option anxiety" weighs heavily some days, and I fret about things going off (which they are starting to do), and after some listless rummaging I end up wearing any old thing that comes to hand and start the day on quite the wrong "note".
Now... nothing changes from one day to the next, yet I may feel differently about my collection. It is a prime example of "glass half empty or half full" syndrome. Or in the case of my perfume fridge and drawers: "well stocked with a great selection" versus "ram-packed to overflowing and on borrowed time". Hamlet's famous line also serves my purpose of ethical relativism rather well: "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so".
Years ago, I took my mother on holiday to Crete, and it rained all week except for the day we travelled home. It was the "mother of all wash outs", a deluge of Biblical proportions - the worst rain the island had ever known since the 1920s. Fishing boats and public transport were grounded, there was a thriving black market in pac-a-macs and wellingons, and holiday makers were soon confined to their hotels, having run out of dry clothes and shoes.
One afternoon, the two of us were lying on our beds. My mother was knocking back miniatures of Metaxa brandy and reading Henry James, while I was looking forlornly out of the window at the lashing rain. Suddenly Mother piped up out of nowhere, in a bright, Pollyannah-ish voice:
"Ah, but think how the plants must be enjoying a good drink at last!"
At the time, clearly I wanted to punch her. But recently I have been giving this incident some thought, and reckon that there is a lesson here, namely that my attitudes towards my perfume collection correlate with how I am feeling generally. When I cannot see the computer screen for a fringe of post-it notes, and as fast as I cross things off my to do list several other items appear, hydra head-like...on such days negativity and pessimism tend to infiltrate every corner of my life.
On the day of which I speak, when I was feeling upbeat and positive about the wealth of choice at my fingertips, I suddenly came across a sample I didn't know I owned, called "Gratitude" by Zorica of Malibu. It is a 100% perfume oil, containing just oils of grapefruit and vanilla.
On the accompanying card, it says:
"Carry it in your purse and experience Gratitude every day."
I'm not a big fan of grapefruit, as regular readers may recall, and the overriding impression is of an artificially flavoured foodstuff of some kind. A reviewer on Fragrantica puts her finger on it by likening Gratitude to an "orange creamsicle". Without even knowing the meaning of "creamsicle", this sounded very apt to me. I started to imagine frozen cream soda flavoured with fruit - then I looked it up to find that it is in fact the American word for an ice lolly with an ice cream centre. Aha - so we are talking about a lolly like Wall's Solero. That is bang on.
There is a sickly confection quality to this scent, and an oily texture - which it can't really help I suppose, being 100% oil. If someone out there remembers giving this to me in a swap, please don't be offended, for it has taught me a lesson, which I will put into practice on the days when I don't feel quite so upbeat about the humungousness of my perfume collection.
"Experience gratitude every day that you own many perfumes other than this."
Or possibly: "Be grapefruit for small - or in the case of my collection, quite substantial - mercies."
Glass half empty mug from zazzle.com
Photo of Gratitude by Zorica from Fragrantica.