Saturday, 13 February 2016

'What not to wear': thoughts on stress and perfume

Vintage (too big?) Principles suit!
In three weeks' time I will have been freelance for 25 years. It's a lifestyle characterised by long periods of inactivity, often spent 'constructively waiting' for promised projects to kick off, followed by frenetic bursts of busyness. If someone had told me back in 1991 that I would have to find enough work to last me 25 years, I would have been so daunted by the prospect I might never have taken the plunge! Yes, it has only been possible to keep going this long by not thinking about the future too much, and living - or latterly more like lurching - from year to year. I suspect that the rise of SurveyMonkey has a lot to answer for in terms of queering my professional pitch, as my particular school of 'qualitative' interviewing - with its open-ended and unstructured lines of questioning - is increasingly seen as an unwieldy luxury in this short attention span age of channel zapping and Twitter.

That said, I am currently flat out on a research project of the classic kind, setting up appointments with key companies in a variety of industry sectors. It is proving challenging, however, because - just like in the run up to my last US trip in 2010 - I find myself grappling with a monster database and have ended up researching each market from scratch, and generating my own lists of companies and relevant people within them. Which all takes time, so at the end of the first week I have just one appointment in the diary to show for my efforts out of a target of 10! Not great going, but very few people pick up their phones these days, assuming the switchboard will put you through in the first place. And the question you will unfailingly get asked eventually - 'I can give you his email address?' - is the kiss of death to my kind of inquiry, the success of which relies on the combination of a pleasant telephone manner and a soupcon of surprise.

Source: pinterest

And by mid-afternoon on Friday I realised that I had been so consumed by the difficult task in hand that I hadn't applied perfume all week, an omission that is completely without precedent. Even on my Californian project, I remembered to wear some before I went to bed:

"I have been so preoccupied and mithered this week that I have sometimes forgotten to apply perfume till late in the day - or even late in the Americans' day."

There seems to have been a crisis on the food shopping front, mind:

" is getting to the point where food parcels would not go amiss. Mr Bonkers has eaten all the pizzas in the freezer and is just starting on the boxes."

I had food in the house at least, but my fragrance failings troubled me no end. So I promptly dabbed on a bit of the nearest vial that came to hand, astonished that I could have been distracted like this on such a sustained basis.

Truffle, keenly aware that I could do with 'friends in high places'

As it happens, I have touched on the subject of when a person might not feel like wearing perfume in a couple of other posts on Bonkers, notably this one, where I cite the instances of illness, and the death of - or an argument with - a loved one. I also lobbed in a nuclear holocaust for good measure - on a purely hypothetical basis it must be hoped - notwithstanding all the Cold War-style posturing going on in Korea at the moment.

"I think if there was a nuclear holocaust I might also forgo perfume. I might even not get washed."

And I know there is often talk on the blogs of what perfumes you turn to to comfort and soothe in times of stress, but this week proves that sometimes you are in such a hyper state that any perfume risks being jarring and 'too much' - even if I had remembered I'd forgotten to put it on!

Source: pfitblog

Have you ever NOT worn perfume for 4-5 days on the trot because the balance of your mind was disturbed?

I would be interested to hear your scentless experiences!

PS All the best to Nick Gilbert, all-round fragrance guru and good egg, who launched his own freelance venture this week. He is nearly 31, which coincidentally is the age I was when I went solo!


  1. I've also written about this, back when I was being illegally evicted:

    1. Hi Louise,

      Oh, I say, will check out your post! Also from way back when, I see, like my death and holocaust one.

  2. Oh dear. Having been self-(un)employed for some nine years I can sympathise. On the upside, you have found my favourite brown jacket that I lost in 1989. X. Andy V.

    1. Haha, Andy. It is green actually - must be the way the light is shining on it. But it is very likely from around then!

  3. Anxiety can make me forgetful about things like perfume or make up. Often wehn that happened, Mael suggested to wear something soothing, and it does actually work, at least for a short while. Have you thought about keeping a specific scent or essential oil just for stress relief?
    And I have to ask, of course: Is that photo of you in that oversized suit for real?

    1. Hi Sabine,

      Oh, I would be interested to hear what soothing scents Mael suggests. I must say I haven't thought of earmarking a perfume for these occasions - assuming I remembered to wear it!

      That photo is for real all right. ;) I know the suit looks rather big but I don't remember it being all that oversized - I suspect the styles were rather long and boxy back then as well.

    2. Why don't you mix your own anti stress scent? Either with oils or a mix of perfumes you like and feel comforting? Also: I find incense incredibly helpful and uplifiting.

    3. Ah, because I am not the sort to dabble in DIY - of pretty much any kind, indeed - except in emergencies. Hence why I am looking for a home for my soap making kit.

      But I do agree about the uplifting effect of incense perfumes - they might well fit the bill, and I have quite a few along those lines.

  4. I guest-posted an article in another blog about the effect bereavement had on my desire to wear perfume, ie I could NOT wear perfume. I simply couldn't bring myself to apply any for months - because fragrance is a happy pleasure and I was in no mood to take delight in anything. Gradually the desire returned, although I think weirdly my taste has changed now, and I don't have quite the same obsession about perfume as I used to.

    Truffle is so adorable!


    1. Hi Jillie,

      Oh, I am sorry for your loss - especially if it was recent - and I would love to read that post. Which blog was it on? Bereavement does indeed represent the most extreme version of the state of mind we are speaking of and I can well understand that your mood was not compatible with perfume for a long time, and that you might emerge at the other end with a more muted interest in the whole subject of fragrance.

      Truffle is being a little tinker today, but thanks!

    2. Thank you for your kind thoughts. I don't if this will work as I am not very computer-literate, but here is a link to the post on dear Lucas's Chemist in the Bottle blog:

      Cats are all little tinkers!


    3. Great, Jillie, I shall check it out! You can't put hyperlinks in the comments on Blogger, but I shall C & P the link, no problem.

  5. I think you've done amazingly well over the years, V. Cold calling must be so incredibly hard to do and your success rate proves how personable you are. Most people wouldn't have lasted 25 minutes, let alone 25 years.

    If I am feeling anxious and don't have to leave the house I go scentless or wear something to review because if I write that can help. If going out I wear an incense. I have two full bottles: Passage d'Enfer and SL L'Eau Froide, the latter courtesy of Get Lippie's clear-out.

    I hope this rotten work assignment improves.

    Truffle looks astonished to have found herself atop a door!

    1. Hi Tara,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. To be fair, it's quite rare for me to do cold calling projects these days, though they crop up from time to time even so. It was a lot easier 'doorstepping' companies in this way 30 years ago, when I first started out in research. I sense that people are wearing more 'hats' and are generally busier and more stretched themselves.

      The job should be really interesting once it gets off the ground, though. A lot of variety between the different industry sectors - I am looking forward to the actual research phase!

  6. Oddly, I have just gone for a five day scentless stretch. Which must be the longest in the past five years or so. Been horridly ill with kidney stones, and with the combination of nausea and not wanting to associate a favourite smell with pain, I skipped all perfumes.

    (So much better now and up and about again, but good lord, I would not wish that experience on anyone.)

    I do wear perfumes when stressed, wound up, or in difficult times though--I have a few battle scents that can work wonders. Not as comfort but as extra spine stiffener, or as a reminder that there are truly lovely things and not *everything* is rubbish, however black-dog I might be feeling. And they don't seem to get tainted by that.

    Sorry you are having struggles getting through to people on the research side. I know that pretty much everyone I work with avoids the phone almost entirely if it's not a client calling; I feel rather sorry for those trying to reach them/us that way. But, if it's not a sales thing, emails do get answered, and calls do get set up. I think that so often now unexpected calls seem like an interruption or even an imposition.

    p.s. awww, truffle is turning from such a cute kitten into such a pretty young cat.

    1. Hi Crikey,

      Oh boy, kidney stones sound unpleasant and painful enough without adding nausea into the mix. Sorry you have been in the wars, and I am not surprised you eschewed perfume.

      I know what you mean by 'battle perfumes' - I used to use a couple for things like big presentations etc. I seem to recall Cristalle was one.

      I fully take your point about calls being an interruption in people's day. I am careful to always ask immediately if this is a good time to speak, in case the person is in a meeting or otherwise busy - or at lunch. Or taking the day off. I have rung people in the past and found them on the beach in the Algarve, with their mobiles still switched on. Once I called a chap in Hungary who it turned out had recently retired, and was relaxing at home watching daytime TV. In my experience though, 'cold emails' tend not to get answered from people or companies you do not know, so I find that the phone still works best, often followed up by an email after establishing that first contact. Unless an interview was really short, I wouldn't suggest doing it then and there.

      Thanks for your compliment about Truffle! Someone else said she was turning into an 'elegant young lady'!

    2. oh blimey, I really didn't mean for that stuff about my work to sound anything like an egg-sucking lesson. But it really does. Apolgies. I was just talking about the intense phone-avoidance in places like mine.

      Cuir de Russie sets me right for taking no prisoners. As does Rien, and First. (I don't think I have ever worn First casually.)

    3. That's fine - you were just stating how it is. If anything I'd say things are even more difficult, ie that a cold email is viewed no differently than a cold call, pretty much. ;( But there's nothing for it but to keep plugging away until all avenues are exhausted.

      Cuir de Russie sounds like a great fortifying scent. Predictably, I haven't worn anything today again...

  7. I love the shoulder pads, Vanessa! :D

    When I feel stressed, I tend to forget to wear perfumes. Never mind perfumes, there were times I forgot to wear shoes to go out!

    After my hubby passed away, I think I didn't wear perfumes for about 2 months. I sniffed from the bottles but didn't feel like wearing any. Bereavement does strange things. I guess I didn't want to contaminate my scent memories of him.

    By the way, where did Truffle want to go from there??

    1. Hi Yukiko,

      Oh dear, that suit. I can still remember myself wearing it...

      Forgetting shoes is pretty dramatic. I guess in Spain you can get away with that in summer maybe? You would definitely miss shoes in the weather here at the moment!

      I remember that you lost your husband fairly recently, and can well understand your general lack of interest in perfume - your experience sounds similar to Jillie above.

      Um, Truffle dive bombed onto the bed from there!

  8. Vanessa, I hope you'll get through that unpleasant phase of the project quickly and will get to the more interesting part.

    After I read your post I went and conducted a small investigation in my database: in the recent 5+ years there were several occasions (about 30, I think) when I skipped wearing perfumes for a day or two and just a couple of times when I didn't wear perfumes for 5 and 6 consecutive days. I was sick (5 days) and for 6 days I was experimenting to see if my persistent cold was related to perfumes (luckily it wasn't :)). Other than that I always either wear or at least test perfumes daily - it just doesn't feel right NOT to wear any perfume.
    Than shot of Truffle is priceless! She's adorable!

    1. Hi Undina,

      Thanks for your good wishes. As ever, I was impressed by your own perfume wearing stats, and am not surprised that you are pretty consistent in your wearing frequency. If you weren't, you wouldn't be able to test as many as you do! I know the rate has dropped over the years but I still think it's quite a remarkable achievement. ;)

      Haha, Truffle is 'adorable', 'door' being the operative word. ;)

  9. The Scentimentalist17 February 2016 at 07:39

    It's not so much your suit that looks big, Van, but your right hand? Curious.