My great-aunt Mary collected samples of perfume. On top of her bedroom dresser, she kept a fishbowl of those little booklets with vials inside. Whenever my family visited her, I’d say ‘hello’ and immediately head to her room. She’d sometimes come with me to make sure I didn’t play in the good stuff, but most often, she’d pick something special out for me to try and help me open the vials so I wouldn’t waste them. My mother always had jars of perfumed lotions from Avon. The thick cream left my arms and legs greasy, but I loved how good I thought I smelled. None of the scents suited me, I quickly realized upon adolescence, and by the time those teenage years hit, I no longer wanted to smell like the musky wealth found in luxury women’s magazines. I wanted to smell sweet. I still do. Keep your earthy patchouli, your floral musks. They smell lovely, but I want to smell edible, even if that means foregoing the expensive bottled scents of a mature woman and settling for those 3-for $24 deals found in every mall in middle America.
When I was younger, family television time meant watching shows like Solid Gold and Puttin’ on the Hits. Both shows focused on performances based on the popular music at the time. Solid Gold featured an in-house set of dancers. Puttin’ on the Hits was more of a reality show, a competition for lip-syncers. Regardless of the show we watched, every time a male dancer tossed a woman in the air and she wrapped her legs around his neck or a male dancer held a woman aloft with his hand on her bum, my father would quip, “I hope it’s fresh.” Every single time. My mother rolled her eyes and made his name an exasperated sigh. Between my father’s terrible joke and the frequently-parodied douche commercial of the era in which young women confessed to their mothers that they were having a not-so-fresh feeling, I learned very early on that the worst offense a woman could commit was to smell bad, especially “down there.”
I learned very early on that the worst offense a woman could commit was to smell bad.
My first attempt at finding my own scent as a child was Love’s Baby Soft, which was all about making the baby powder scent of infancy sexy. (I’m GenX. It was a…