Friday, 5 March 2010

When You Don't Go To "Go-To" Fragrances - Try The Bonkers Way Of Picking A SOTD

So there is this phrase I come across a lot on the various perfume boards, namely a "go-to" fragrance. It's an American phrase, with sporting origins:

"Being a player on an athletic team who is relied upon to make important plays, especially in clutch situations: the team's go-to receiver."

When used in a perfume context, this term seems to have two meanings: firstly, a "go-to" scent is one that "is relied upon" because it will fit in with a particular outfit or occasion. I don't think there is such a thing as a "go-to" scent for ANY occasion, like a master key or universal screwdriver, though I may come back and revisit that hypothesis in another post...I have certainly heard perfumistas speak of a "go-to" scent for the school run, or for meeting the mother-in-law, seducing the husband etc. So I gather that some people possess an assortment of "go-to" fragrances for which they "reach" without hesitation as though they were a tried and tested Litte Black Dress or a comfortable pair of pumps.

Which leads me to the other nuance of "go-to" which I detect, namely that when selecting her SOTD, the owner of the "go-to" fragrance goes to it pretty smartly. Time is short and people are busy and that is the whole point of its being "go-to". If a perfume can be relied upon and has been proven to work in that setting in the past, there is no need to deliberate or agonize about what to spray on as a finishing touch - you just GO TO IT.

Now the concept of "just going to" anything is positively alien to me. I am the world's worst deliberater and agoniser. I recently accumulated enough matchpots in the selection of wall colours for our living room that I could have painted the Forth Road Bridge with them. As often as necessary. It is well known amongst my friends that in a restaurant I will have to ask at least TWO questions about the menu, before tentatively making my choice. I once famously asked in a cafe what exactly "Mushrooms on toast" consisted of, to be told with remarkable equanimity on the part of the waitress: "Well, that would be mushrooms and two bits of toast."

The thing is, I am terrified of making the wrong choice about anything in life. I am a market researcher by profession, and clearly hardwired to investigate and compare all possible options with the rigour of a consumer watchdog programme before saying: "I'll have the blue one." It is a most inconvenient trait, to be truthful, and whilst I may end up with a more energy efficient fridge, a longer lasting washing up liquid or a car with the highest residual value, I am sure the immense mental energy expended in studying the minutiae of these products is shaving years off my life and my own residual value.

And it is the same with perfumes. The concept of "go-to" fragrances in the reliability sense is not lost on me. I can readily think of one that would work well in a business meeting or down the gym, if I went. No, the problem is that I suffer from acute option anxiety when confronted with the plethora of perfumes that could fit the bill in any given scenario. There are simply too many "go-to" fragrances in any category, rendering the term instantly null and void, as I remain rooted to the spot, racked with indecision.

Empathetic to the stress of my constant dithering, Mr Bonkers came to my rescue the other morning and devised a whole new fun way to pick what I shall pompously dub an "Aleatory Scent Of The Day". I asked him what I should wear that day and he shouted out from the bathroom: "Top shelf, third row from the right, second one back." I rushed to the fridge and started counting. Unfortunately those precise directions led me to the cardboard box containing dozens of samples. I reported this technical hitch back to Mr Bonkers. Quick as a flash, he barked out new instructions: "Same thing on the next shelf down."

Well, that worked, but the chosen scent was Bvlgari Jasmin Noir, about which I had recently been taken to task when Mr B claimed that I had inadvertently stealth perfumed his jumper sleeve. Apprised of this unhappy selection, in no time at all I had been issued with alternative instructions.

"Okay, the one in front of that." That grid reference proved to be EL Sensuous, which I had worn only the day before.

"Right then, bottom shelf, original order - third row from the right, second one back."

"Are you counting minis in that?" I inquired, as I spied a 10ml of Micallef Hiver at the head of that row.

"Certainly not. You're going two back - full bottles only - and I don't care if it is tomato ketchup, that is what you are wearing."

Reader, I am delighted to report that it was Jasper Conran Woman, which I would characterise as an upbeat "go-to" business/daytime scent. Like Cristalle, or Omnia Crystalline, or Jo Malone Lotus Blossom & Water Lily or Infusion d'Iris, say. Or Armani She White, thinking about it. But that's the thing - I must stop thinking about it. I must just trust the coordinates - or go quietly mad...

Hold on a minute - I just looked up "mushrooms on toast" in google images and there were loads of different presentation styles - creamy sauces, parmesan, chives, chilli. So, perhaps bizarrely, it is mushrooms in the end which totally vindicate my mental condition of being overwhelmed by diversity.

And I'll let Louis MacNeice, the poet from my home turf of Ulster, have the last word, for he clearly feels my pain too...: - )

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.


MyPerfumeLife said...

Sounds like you have a stack of perfumes - I'm envious.

I like the sound of your husband's selection commands - the mornings here would be a whole lot easier here if I adopt the same strategy. Sometimes I don't wear anything for the whole day because I'm dithering about what kind of mood I'm in!

Jasper Conran Woman - not sure if I'm mad about it or not. When I first tried it I really didn't like it. I've come round to it a bit more. But don't think it's ever going to be a firm favourite. Have you tried Fleur du Matin? It's a much softer citrus and lacks the sharpness of JCWoman.

Vanessa said...

have an EU perfume lake that is starting to trouble me. If you ever find yourself half way up the M6, you are most welcome to come and paddle.

I do know Fleur du Matin and I am afraid I didn't care for it - it was a bit herby, a bit floral, a bit inbetweeny really, and didn't gel for me overall.

I am going to give Happy in Bloom a sniff on your recommendation when I am next in Boots. It sounds a bit like Ghost Luminous, which isn't at all bad as fruity florals go - by the same token, I recommend Vera Wang Look! if you don't know it.

Vanessa said...

PS I know what you mean about JCW - it is bracing all right, but I am a sucker for ginger and chuck it by the handful in stir fries, for example.

Carol said...

oh man, that mushrooms and toast looks soo good!

Love Mr. Bonkers' perfume selecting help.

Ginger!? Where where?!? I'll have to do some research on JCW now - though not sure to thank you or curse you...heheeee ;)

Thanks for the poem!

Vanessa said...

JCW is super gingery - I can get hold of cheap supplies over here if it turned out you liked it...

Yes, isn't it a revelation how differentiated mushrooms and toast can be? : - )

Anonymous said...

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Hebe said...

I always thought that "go to" meant the scent that you went for, straight off. I'm a bit saddened to know there's a sporting origin to this.

I misread your comment and am however amused at the idea of handfuls of JCW in a stir-fry :)

Vanessa said...

To the visitor above Hebe, I am happy to hear you are enjoying the blog, and apologies for not being able to type your name. : - )

Hebe, d'you know, my comment does read as though I am sloshing JCW around in the wok...

The Left Coast Nose said...

You & Mr. Bonkers are a stitch!! In our household, it's just the opposite-- I am known as the "Woman of Action", and Bazr, well, he's just like you. (He blames it on being a Libra-- I see that you are a Gemini, so that doesn't explain it. Twins born under some flickering star, perhaps?) Whether one calls it "dithering" or "deliberation" often depends on I am, and that is the determinant in whether I can find it *adorable* that he cannot make up his mind what he wants to eat.

Let me ask you this question: Bazr rarely, if ever, regrets his decisions, I've noticed-- Hamlet-like in the run-up, but sleeps sweet dreams after the fact. So I often wonder: why the anguish? If he knows that whatever he decides he can live with, then just decide already, and move on.

Some people are wracked by the 20-20 hindsight of what they "should have done." But he's not one of these. How about you? Is there some actual relief in the decision? Or does living with your choice continue to be anxiety producing?

Vanessa said...

The latter. I frequently make wrong choices from menus, paint walls and lay tiles in colours I soon come to regret, and of course many of my perfume FB acquisitions have been a case of "purchase after long agonising deliberations, regret at equally protracted leisure". The marketeers call it "post-purchase cognitive dissonance", don't they? Well, I guess they had my number.

I believe it is Librans who are noted for their ponderous decision-making, not Geminis. As sticklers for fairness and "doing the right thing", they are forever weighing up the pros and cons of all possible courses of action in those big scales of theirs.

Martha said...

Your post was delightful and made me giggle. It also made me try to choose perfume randomly this morning, but I was unsatisfied with every bottle that I randomly touched.

On decision making, I seem to have my own variant. For decisions with limited consequences - like what perfume to wear, what food to eat, what restaurant to go to, what movie to see - I don't have much trouble making the decision. But once it's made, that plan is _set in stone_ in my head, and I find it horribly upsetting to change it. Even though I didn't care much when I made the decision.

I know from long experience that if Himself suggests, "You know, I'd rather have dinner at the Chinese place after all" I need to offer a fixed smile and a "let me think about it while I get dressed" and then wait a few minutes for the toddler in my head to stop pounding her feet and shouting "NO NO NO NO NO".

Vanessa said...

I say, CF, your own particular tic of needing to stick to an agreed plan in fascinating - a shrink would have a field day with the lot of us! : - )

Anonymous said...

I'm with CF here - make a plan and STICK with the blasted thing, I say.

Unless, of course, I make a plan to be flexible. :)

Enjoyed this post, particularly Mr. Bonkers' contribution. Now I want mushrooms in white sauce on toast, with a sprinkling of fresh parsley and pepper...

Love MacNeice.

Vanessa said...

Yes, isn't his poetry good?

I must say that I have been craving mushroom dishes too since writing this post!

The Left Coast Nose said...

Thinking of you, because I just had the most *amazing* mushrooms-on-toast last night (with some Brie melted on top, just for good measure...!) Part of a menu fixe, so it wasn't what I meant to order, but so glad I had it, to be sure! Took a swell picture of it, wish I could post it here...

Vanessa said...

Wow, that sounds delicious! And of course every time someone comes across another "mushroom on toast iteration", it helps vindicate me for my gaffe in that cafe 18 years ago! : - )