Monday, September 14, 2015

Scent Search - Day 4

{sniffs the air}  Sniff.  Sniff sniff.  Oooooh.  Oh.  Somebody smells good.  Oh wow, that’s nice.  Who is that?  Who smells so good?  Is it you?

No, it isn’t you.  It’s me.

* * *

Hey, how’re you doing, it’s been a while since my last fragrance hunt.  Lest you think I forgot, let me tell you:  I so didn’t. 

If anything, I’ve become more of a perfume fanatic since launching my quest to find the perfect scent.  I tool around on like nobody’s watching, make a beeline to the perfume counter and case upon entering every department store and pharmacy, and dream about building an arsenal of favorite scents.

A simple quest – to find my signature fragrance – has turned into full-blown interest.  You could call it a mild obsession.

If you’re new here, a few months ago I posted a general question to the masses on Facebook:

I was surprised to find that so many people were willing to share with me what makes them smell so good.   I had a list of dozens of perfumes.  Armed with nothing but my will, some cash, and ironclad nostrils, I set out on a journey to find my next signature fragrance.

You can read all about my other experiences 
here, here, and here.  Today, I will share the last installment of my journey.

* * *

Scent Search - Day 4
Tuesday, July 28, 2015 - Perfume Nirvana

It was the end of July.  My husband and kids were out of town.  I had a couple of days to myself, and the open road was calling me.

To the mecca of fragrance.  The capital of odiferous pleasures.  Perfume nirvana.

I was going to visit Sephora.

LET’S DO THIS, I said to my reflection in the mirror.  I fist-pumped.  I made a vow never to fist-pump again.

That day, I was going to find The One.  Not that The One, the one that made me suffer a near death by stink experience.

The One.  My signature.

If you’ve been following along, you know that I have collected some fragrances already.  Thus far, I own two lovely musks, a Philosophy scent that my sister-in-law gave me, and some essential oils which don’t work on my skin but are handily scenting our fresh laundry with the actual nectar of the earth.

I like all the scents that I found, and use them liberally without discrimination.  They take turns like good little children.

But I wanted to finish this thing.  So off I went to Sephora, which has two locations in one of the biggest malls in the US, just a short drive from my house.

* * *

After trekking to the entrance from the vast landscape of the parking lot, I sauntered confidently into the mall.  The first Sephora store I planned to visit was situated inside a large department store.  I needed no list that day.  I knew what I wanted to try, and which perfumes were highly regarded by my Facebook friends.  Taking in the wall of scents, I established my position at the first display.  I imperceptibly shook my head to the indifferent salesperson who lazily asked if I needed assistance; she clearly didn’t want to be bothered to help me at two o’clock on a Tuesday in the middle of summer.  As she melted into the lipgloss array, I turned my back to her, cracked my knuckles, and got to work. 

Michael Kors, check.  Chanel, check check check.  Tried them.  Knew them.  As I walked briskly, my eyes glancing at the bottles, I realized that I’d sampled all of them before.  I grabbed Tory Burch and sprayed her on a sample strip and fanned it in front of my face, scanning the store.  Where are the Maison Martin Margielas, the Juliette Has a Guns, the Bond No. 9s?  I came here to try those.  They should be here.  They are supposed to be here.  SEPHORA HAS EVERYTHING.  They didn’t even have Tom Ford.

Gravely disappointed, and with a hint of dread, I left.  What if…? I thought.  I shook the doubt away.  That was just a boutique, a pop-up to draw in customers, I reasoned.  They can’t have everything; besides, they did have a lot of skin care.  The big Sephora will have more.  I checked the mall map for the location of the main store.

* * *

Making my way through the mall’s wide boulevards, I made my way to Sephora.  Feeling a thrill, I entered the bustling store, past groups of stylish young women and teens with ironed hair shopping with their mothers.  I was greeted by a tall, good-looking man wearing skinny slacks and precisely groomed stubble, his mop of curly hair artfully tousled.  He smiled at me and crooned, “May I help you find something?”  He had a beautiful baritone, exactly what you would imagine from an angel in heaven, which by now was totally what I expected from this shopping experience. 

Losing myself in his eyes and feeling the weight of the impending undertaking, I breathed, “No, thanks.  I’ll be okay.”

Scanning the wall, I noted that the perfumes were sorted alphabetically.  This will be easy.  Anna Sui Burberry Bulgari.  Chanel Dior DKNY.  Gucci Jean Paul Gaultier Marc Jacobs.

I stopped.  At once, the women’s fragrances turned to men’s.

My vision blurred as my eyes flitted over the remaining perfumes.  Where the women’s M to Z perfumes should have been, there were men’s.  Only men’s.  On any other day, I would have been open to men’s.  Today was not that day.

Instant panic led to a wild search of the store for a standalone display of the rest of women’s fragrances.  I’ve come all this way – they’ve got to be here!  They just have to.

I found the angelic gatekeeper and asked him in a quavering voice where the rest of the women’s perfumes were.  Tears sprang to my eyes uncontrolled, embarrassing.  He looked right through me with heavy lids. “Wha?” he grunted stupidly, turning into a clumsy oaf before my eyes. “They’re right over there,” he slurred, waving his clublike paw in the direction of my crushed dreams.  His shirt wore a dusting of dandruff like fresh snow.  “What are you looking for?”

I refrained from clutching his sleek shirt by the collar, screaming THE REST OF THE FRAGRANCES, YOU IDIOT!!  Instead, I stumbled out of the store blindly, not even bothering to reply.

Keep it together! I chastised myself.  Outside, I shook my head to clear the cobwebs.  Just then, I realized that the mall is anchored by several high quality department stores:  Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Lord & Taylor, among others.  The first Sephora was inside JCPenney, for goodness’ sake.  There was still hope.  I brushed off defeat and hiked to Nordstrom.

* * *

Everyone's Favorite Keith showed up to help me.
By 'help me' I mean this:
When I asked, "Do you like this one?" he'd answer, "Um... do you?"
. . .

I sent him away.

In the beige, warmly lit, and expansive store, I was greeted by no one, a welcome demonstration of neglect.  Clearly, with my cracked handbag, beach-worn flip-flops, and cheap tank and shorts, I looked as if I stumbled there from another dimension and was roundly disregarded. 

I drunkenly lifted a bottle of something off the shelf and sprayed it in the air like an amateur.  I was still reeling slightly; I don’t remember what it was.  Making two trips around the perfume department, I noted extensive lines of Tom Fords and Jo Malones, two names I hadn’t spent much time with. 

Standing in front of the Tom Ford line-up, all dark and broody bottles, I inhaled them all.  They had dark and broody names, too: Amber Absolute, Tobacco Vanille, Grey Vetiver, Tuscan Leather.  There were many Noirs.  They all smelled seriously stylish, like black silk-wearing aficionados of all things luxurious like tuxedos and truffle oil.
I narrowed my favorite down to Japon Noir, but decided I wasn’t man enough for Tom Ford.  I’m a suburban mom, not Ricardo Montalbán.

After trying most of the rest of the fragrances offered in Nordstrom’s perfume department, I moved on to Jo Malone, which featured simple, clean labels and names like Nutmeg and Ginger, Blackberry and Bay,  Earl Grey and Cucumber.  I like more inventive names, but I tried them all.

And fell, hard.

While I spritzed haphazardly from the display on the wall, moving my favorites around, a salesperson came up to me quietly and guided me to a glass-topped table where all the Jo Malone testers were lined up.  “Thank you,” I muttered feverishly, noting that the fragrance company offered pairings printed on little cards as combinations – in effect, two Jo Malones introduced a third perfume.  I was hooked.  Each one smelled better than the last.   If they’d had a tub, I’d have bathed in them all, right there in the white tiled thoroughfares of Nordstrom.

In the end, I bought two Jo Malones, meant to go together:  French Lime Blossom and Wood Sage and Sea Salt.  A salesgirl wrapped them up for me like it was the only Christmas present I’d receive this decade, and threw in several samples to try.  On my way out, I sprayed a hefty spritz of Bulgari thé blanc on the inside of my elbow, just because.

Triumphant, I left.

* * *

If you like perfume, there is a risk of becoming mildly obsessed with them.  It’s intimate, perfume.  It's personal, yet it invites others in.  I don’t know that I will ever go back to not caring about it.  I took all suggestions from friends and remember the ones they love.  I have a few that I have my eye on, too, ones that I will purchase another day, like Dior Hypnotic Poison.  Burberry Body.  Lancôme La Vie Est Belle.  Vince Camuto Bella.  The Bulgari.  And I will never, ever rule out Shalimar

I haven’t found my signature fragrance.  I’ve found several.



  1. The only thing that confuses me about this is how you discern between them after trying too many. My nostrils get confused! Did I tell you that Tim picked my fragrance that I wear? He smelled it on a woman he used to work with and immediately thought it would be good for me. I recommend going that route. :) Although doesn't look like Keith would do that... LOL!

    1. Keith has picked perfume for me before, and it worked. It's just one more chore he left for me to deal with. ;)

  2. French lime blossom is called tilleul and we have an enormous tree just outside our window. When you come visit in the spring, you can stand under it and smell how heavenly those blossoms are.

    Or you can just smell yourself.

    1. As if I needed another reason to be jealous of you.

      Also, that last line made me snort on myself.

  3. "Lotions and Potions" are some of my favorite things. I love to smell nice or have someone compliment on my perfume.

    I'm glad you found you scents! It makes a day a little better for sure. (At least it does for me...that and Law & Order marathons). Also? John never used cologne before he met me and so I found his scents (One of them was also a scent I smelled on a co-worker and decided it would be nice on John. It still is!) He will tell you that he "doesn't feel dressed unless he has cologne on" now. Which is truly a successful intervention as far as I'm concerned. ;)

    1. That is a success for sure! I love men's cologne, and have no trouble swiping my wrist with a sample, but it would take a lot for me to buy it for myself. Luckily I have a husband who loves it.

  4. So now you're beautiful AND smell nice? The Universe isn't fair. ;)