I'm 38 and looking for a new perfume for date nights that somehow makes sense of conflicting streaks in my personality. I was born and raised in Louisiana, but have pretty much gone native in San Francisco. My Southern heritage is always muttering in the back of my mind, "Be tasteful. STAY CLASSY, dammit. Go put on some Chanel. NOT TOO MUCH! You need to smell like a 'lady'. Now go smile and make nice, okay?"
Then the part of me that has spent 15 years in San Francisco is busy going, "Hey! That smells good! It's totally gender-bendy, but like SEXY! Of course it's indie/niche. We don't support the mainstream corporate behemoth by buying from the big brands. Rock on with your feminist-sexy and so-hip-it-hurts self! Husband thinks it smells weird? TOO BAD. It's art."
Meanwhile, I'm married to a man who likes vanilla ice cream and sugar cookies -- and wishes I would smell like dessert on date night. (He also likes caramel and cinnamon. And cheesecake. So you know, it could be a BURNT cookie, with cinnamon sprinkles on top, with a cream cheese filling.) His pick? Hanae Mori eau de parfum. He thinks it smells like "a cookie”. I don't hate it. But...isn't there something better?
I try to stick my fingers in my ears and go "lalalala" and just focus on what smells nice to me, but you know, it's noisy in here. Is there anything that smells classy-vintage-modern-sexy-intellectual-interesting all at the same time? And SIGH (I can't believe I'm saying this) -- a little bit like a baked good/dessert for my man?
Here are a few things I like and wear now:
Chanel 31 Rue Cambon
Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere
Frédéric Malle L'Eau d'Hiver
Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d'une Fête
Dior Eau Sauvage
I feel like I'm missing something. My toddler-mama self would still like to feel foxy. In a ladylike way. That's also smart. But approachable. And smells like...dammit...a cookie. The closest thing is probably L'Eau d'Hiver, which is a bit almondy/foody and also sweet -- but far too faint and quiet for date night. Is there anything like L'Eau d'Hiver in a short skirt and stilettos?
God. I can't believe I just said that. The post-feminist part of me that thinks about things like the objectification of the female form and the treatment of women as objects of consumption is having a screaming tantrum right now. But she can go jump in the lake, because this is about SEX for crissakes. Ok, now the Southern belle is having a hissy because I said "sex." You can see why I need you.
All the best,
Wesley Hall Parker
You've presented a real conundrum here, Wesley: so many tastes, so many cultural associations and sociopolitics to satisfy and deny at the same time. But the magic of perfume is that it can teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. Okay, maybe not the whole world, but at least the part that encompasses the conflicting streaks in your life.
I'm wondering if you and your husband can hum the new tune of a perfume I just discovered yesterday: Santal Majuscule, the latest from Serge Lutens. It's a nuzzly sandalwood with a blur of coffee, butterscotch, licorice, toasted gingerbread...and rose! Santal Majuscule follows on in the vein of the Lutens' earlier Jeux de Peau with its sweet, bread-y warmth, as well as the delicious Praliné de Santal by Parfumerie Generale. But I think it's the rose in Santal Majuscule that tips the deliciousness from a “just” a great smell into a great perfume. You know, the kind of thing a lady wears.
Over at The Scented Salamander, Chantal-Hélène Wagner has cooked up an evocative analysis of Santal Majuscule (read her post here). Here's the bit that especially struck a chord with me:
The Australian sandalwood has been worked to feel lusciously edible and creamy.... Yet, the sandalwood is also nocturnal, making you think of the improbable scenario of seeing Catwoman in her dark leather suit sauntering towards a kitchen cupboard at midnight and sneaking her gloved hand into a tin box of Speculoos cookies spiced up with fiery cinnamon.
Staying with sandalwood, a beautifully sophisticated romance perfume is L'Artisan Parfumeur Safran Troublant. It's no cupcake, but the sandalwood does its “sweet skin” dance with vanilla, the twist being the saffron-sprinkled rose.
More foxifyin' fumes for your delectation:
Givenchy Organza Indécence
A happy cinnamon orange cloud drifts into a creamy throb of vanilla, incense and honey.
Dior Hypnotic Poison
Fleshy jasmine, milky almond, dense plum and insinuating vanilla.
By Kilian Back to Black
A sensual stealth bomber of honey, pipe tobacco and Turkish delight.
Presses into your skin like dark sugared felt made of cajeta and benzoin.
My Perfume Pen Pal Dan Rolleri often favors sophisticated vanillas (the posh marshmallow of By Kilian Love is on fairly high rotation, I believe), so hauled him in for his take:
I've been working my way through 30+ Perfumed Court samples, grousing about almost all of them, but one did stand out and it's something of a gourmand: What We Do In Paris Is A Secret by A Lab on Fire.
This stuff is gorgeous. Almond, rose, honey and amber and yet not overwhelmingly heavy or sweet. It's perfect and I'm buying a bottle next week. Tell Wesley Hall Parker to wear this. (But who even needs perfume with a great name like Wesley Hall Parker?)
Wesley, the thing I'm still having difficulty with is reconciling your love of green florals with your husband's love of bake sales. The closest I'm able to get is Penhaligon's Amaranthine, which is green, floral and sandalwoody-milky -- with a hint of the nasty. Can any fumies here suggest what lives in the intersection of the green floral+cookie Venn diagram?