Sunday, August 9, 2015

Scents and sensibility

The man at the perfume counter was trying to sell me a new scent.

My previous perfume, Sì ("a tribute to modern femininity"), had run out.  And though I liked it, I was a little sick of Sì.  I know nothing about perfume, but I know when I am tired of a thing, its blackcurrant top notes notwithstanding.

So: onward.

The man was very nice, extemporizing at length about this perfume to me and Dave when we stopped by the department store on our day trip to San Francisco.  He told us about the humble Cuban-American background of the designer, his unlikely rise through the cutthroat world of perfume, his beloved mentor, and his prize-winning homage to same.  It was all very interesting, and I kind of liked the perfume.

Plus, it was made with an unusual ingredient: Egyptian musk.  Few perfumes contained it, as it was considered cost-prohibitive.  But this scrappy Cuban-American boy had said what the hell and thrown it in.  (Here I considered asking what Egyptian musk actually was.  Did it come from a plant?  A musk ox?  Why was it "Egyptian," especially?  Wasn't there good old American musk growing in some swamp in Louisiana?  USA!)

The perfume man had moved along in his rhapsody by this point.  His wife was also in perfume, so he knew twice the amount of normal information: a one-man perfumepedia.

Mimicking the act of dabbing something behind his ears, he explained that the Egyptian musk lent an uncommon quality to the scent that registered in the human subconscious.  Wearing it would cause people to pause -- moments after you'd walked away -- and, for reasons they could not explain, think there was something "memorable" and "interesting" about you.

The perfume man talked on, circling back to this point a few more times:  Memorable!  Interesting!

Dave and I left the counter with some of the scent on my arm.  It smelled nice.  Still, something about the experience bothered me.

"Why did he keep saying that perfume would make me 'memorable' and 'interesting'?"  I asked Dave.  "I have a personality for that."

Dave agreed this was so.

"Dude," I said to the perfume salesman (i.e., Dave) with l'espirit d'escalier, "I just want something that smells good.  I've got the rest covered."

I think we next made a joke about "mansplaining."   It was such a great day.

Then we walked out of the store and did something else.

(Image: Advertisement for eau de Cologne from the almanac of La Nouvelle Chronique de Jersey 1891, public domain (U.S.) via Wikimedia Commons)

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