In her latest post on Infatuation and Perfume, Olfacta of Olfactarama was asking readers where they are along their own perfume "trajectory". She writes - with a nifty bodice-ripping analogy to evoke the "honeymoon" phase of fumeheads' relationships with perfume: "I’m no longer swapping madly and waiting impatiently for the mailman and the UPS truck or spending too much on Our Favorite Online Auction Site or ripping packages open when I’m barely through the door."
I gave her question some thought and replied in the comments to the effect that my own infatuation with scent has definitely peaked or plateaued, and that my acquisitions of full bottles or decants in swaps are much more selective these days. My existing - ludicrously substantial - collection gives me a sensation of satisfaction and "fullness" not dissimilar to someone patting their stomach after a delicious four course meal. In my comment I compared it to a feeling of maternal pride: "I opened the door of my perfume fridge yesterday and the beatific gaze with which I viewed its serried ranks of bottles and decants could be likened to a proud mother looking at her brood of children round the dining table and thinking that ten are probably enough now (more or less)."
So given that that is where I am at - and happy to be so - how would it be if my scent options were severely curtailed? For also this week, Eyeliner on a Cat posed the question: "if you had to choose, which 3 houses would rule your kingdom", hypothetically restricting our scent selection from now on to the ranges of just three perfume houses. Actually, that could still be a pretty large pool if you pick your houses right - don't go for Stephen Burlingham, say, or Isabey, with just one or two scents to their name!
Then the other day I was testing - on multiple skin sites, rather rashly! - a freebie sample I got in Holland on my recent work trip. It was Ed Hardy Love Kills Slowly, a fruity floral number of supreme forgettability, and I upset myself by imagining how I'd feel if this were the only perfume I was allowed. Would I even wear it? That is a good question, and the answer is a guarded yes, for it is by no means horrible, just cheap and a bit synthetic and nondescript. I actually can imagine quite a lot of "regular" men enjoying smelling this on their womenfolk.
Top notes: Apple souffle, mango, wild strawberry, ruby red grapefruit.
Mid notes: Freesia petals, watery muguet, linden blossom.
Dry notes (sic!): Warm amber, sensual musks, tonka bean, vanilla pudding.
Now it happened that around the time I was testing Love Kills Slowly, Katie Puckrik posted a video on her blog of Christophe Laudamiel talking about what makes a perfume smell cheap, and I mentioned the Ed Hardy in a comment, and how I had been trying to figure out wherein lay its cheapness. To which Katie replied:
'"Love Kills Slowly", eh? Sounds like you were speeding up the process with your multiple site approach.'
And this got me thinking about how too little choice could very likely kill one's hobby stone dead. As in "Kills Love Slowly" rather than the reverse. Yes, lock me up with just Jean-Paul Gaultier's range of scents for ever - or Hugo Boss, say - and I wouldn't be happy. I wouldn't give up on scent altogether, and would seek out the least uncongenial offerings from each range to wear, but I would be restlessly pacing my artificially imposed perfume prison cell all the while.
Which is not to say that there aren't days when the sheer size of my scent collection doesn't feel like a burden. That's when I go to pick out a SOTD and am paralysed with inertia, or when I worry about my bottles going off despite their temperature controlled habitat. But...any time I feel overfaced by the cornucopian contents of my fridge, I remember my local chemist and remind myself how lucky I am not to only have access to its paltry perfume range for the rest of time.
I should perhaps explain that while in most of Europe there seems to be a clearer demarcation between pharmacies selling drugs and drugstores (somewhat perversely) not selling drugs so much as cosmetics, toiletries and household cleaning products, in the UK our independent pharmacies tend to dabble in all manner of non-pharmaceutical lines, from body butters to hair grips, spectacle cases and rubber gloves. These tend to be very bargain basement brands, if one can even dignify them with that name.
So going back to perfume, when I say that my local pharmacy carries a "paltry" range of perfumes, I mean very poor indeed - as in sparse, and of very mixed quality.
Here they are:
CK Eternity Moment
Britney Spears Curious
Paris Hilton Heiress
Kylie Minogue Sweet Darling
A banded twinpack of Moschino Oh! and something else in a gold pack - a body lotion, perhaps?
Yup, that really is it!!!
The controversial Clinique classic aside, if that was all you had to wear for ever, it just might kill your love of scent pretty darn quick. For though having a great deal of choice is a double-edged sword, as a perfumista, once you have sampled "the drunkenness of things being various", to quote my favourite line from the poet Louis MacNeice, most of the time you never look back...
World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.
Louis MacNeice (extract from Snow)
Photos of pharmacy logos from national-pharmacy.net and nhs.dg.scot.nhs.uk, photo of bodice ripper novel from thesocietypages.org, photo of Ed Hardy perfumes and logo from ioffer.com and uptowngirlfashion.com, photo of hair accessories stand from emeliaaccessories.co.uk