Friday, January 30, 2009

Grey Flannel? More Like a Grey Flannel Dishcloth!

The first new scent I tried, on Julie’s recommendation, was Geoffery Beene’s Grey Flannel, and I HATED it.

I realize I’m trampling all over a sacred institution here. Grey Flannel is a classic … and supposedly one by which all other masculine fragrances should be judged. Luca Turin loves the stuff, giving it five stars in The Guide, and calling it “a masterpiece.”

Me? All I could smell when I first put it on was dishwashing liquid. Even a half an hour later, the smell of Dawn® pervaded, though now I could smell violets, too. Violet scented Dawn® … this is the great olfactory masterpiece of the last 40 years? Not in my book. I had to scrub this one off. Yech!

Image note: This dishwashing liquid isn't violet scented. The label says it's "original scent." I think it's been dyed pink for Breast Cancer Awareness (don't even get me started on the crassness of "pinkwashing"). To me, though, it looks more purple than pink ... like it could be violet scented.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Memory of Sunflowers

I mentioned in my first post that I began trying new fragrances in the hope of replacing an old scent I no longer enjoy. I’ll name that fragrance – and review it – later. First, I want to go back a little further, to the first bottle of perfume I ever owned. It was Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers, and I’d asked my parents to buy it for me for Christmas when I was 18. Why, you may wonder, would a self-described “boi” have ever requested such an insipid, girly fragrance? The answer is really quite simple: to fit in.

I’ve always been the sort of person who likes to congratulate myself on my own nonconformity, but the truth is, it’s a total ruse. The need for belonging is wedged firmly in the middle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and, no matter how much I’d like to protest, I’m no exception. Starting on the day I painted the paper towel tube biplane I made in art class pink and baby blue – just like all of the popular girls in my class – instead of a more visually appealing red or dark blue, my life has been a study in decisions made out of a desperate desire to fit in. The only difference is, I’ve never been terribly good at fitting in. I don’t wear men’s clothes just because they’re more comfortable or make me feel sexier (though they are and they do); I wear men’s clothes because, even though I’m curvy and have reasonably soft facial features, women’s clothes make me look like a bad drag queen. This was true even when my hair was long and curly and honey-colored. Put me in a dress, and I still blunder about like a confused bear cub.

Anyway, back to the Sunflowers … I asked for a bottle because it was the unofficial scent of a clique of girls I joined during my freshman year of college. Thinking back on those girls, I realize Sunflowers was the perfect fragrance for them. Like it, most of them were artificial, sickeningly sweet, and vaguely unpleasant for reasons you can’t quite put your finger on. In fact, when I wrote the word “clique” just now, the first word that actually came to mind was “cult.” For one thing, everyone in the group had a different Winnie the Pooh nickname. I was “Owl,” the bookish, somewhat pedantic one.

They were my first real group of friends. I had friends in high school, but I’ve always been more of a one-on-one kind of person. As you can probably tell from my description above, I don’t have very fond memories of this particular group of friends. It’s not that anything memorably bad ever happened between us. They just grated on my nerves most of the time. I think, perhaps, the only reason I ever hung around with them in the first place was because I had a crush on the girl we’d nicknamed “Tigger.” I wouldn’t have put it that way at the time, of course … I was still trying to be straight at that point in my life.

It’s no coincidence that I decided to enroll in a foreign exchange program in Manchester, England, at about the same time that group was becoming more tightly knit. I knew leaving meant I would grow apart from the group, even as the rest of them grew closer together. And I actually remember feeling somewhat conflicted about it, too. But when I packed my bags for the UK, I left that half-used bottle of Sunflowers behind in my closet at home. I don’t think I ever wore the stuff again.

Image note: These are real sunflowers, which, unlike the bottled version, I quite like. I haven't smelled Arden's Sunflowers in more than a decade, but my memory of it smells a lot like real sunflowers, which actually don't smell very good.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Before I dive in and actually begin reviewing scents, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to the tiny handful of people I expect to visit this blog. For those of you who don’t already know me, here’s a brief introduction:

I am a 30-something professional copywriter, editor, and journalist. I live in the small, cold, gritty city of Lewiston, Maine, with my partner of eight years – my “wife,” though we aren’t legally married – and four ill-behaved pets (two cats, two dogs).

As the subhead to this blog notes, I am “genderqueer” … that’s just a trendy new way of saying I’m a biological female who doesn’t feel any real affinity for traditionally “feminine” things. At least, that’s my definition. Ask anyone else who self-identifies as genderqueer, and you’re likely to get a different response. Any discussion of gender identity or roles raises a number of complicated issues, and I don’t really plan to analyze those issues here. Suffice to say, in my case, my gender identity means that, among other things, I dress like a man, walk like a man, sit like a man and, when it comes to choosing fragrances, prefer to smell like a man.

Of course, I realize “smelling like a man” is about as subjective as “smelling good.” Still, I suspect fragrance reviews written by a biological female with a strong preference for traditionally “masculine” scents may be just different enough of a take to be intriguing to some readers. Or so I hope …

I started this blog to serve as a living document of my search for a new fragrance to replace the same tired old bottle of cologne I’ve been dragging around for years (more on this later). I stopped liking the smell of it some time ago, and the bottle has gone practically untouched since we moved to our new house, so I decided it was time for a change. I don’t really know anything about fragrance but, as the saying goes, “I know what I like.” The only trouble is, how do you find what you like when you don’t know where to begin? So, several weeks ago, I asked my perfume-loving friend Julie for some advice. She made a few recommendations, I did a little research and ordered a few samples. Those samples led to more research and more samples until, before I knew it, sniffing had become a minor obsession.

Since then, I’ve been emailing  some tentative reviews to Julie, who thought it a shame they were wasted on her eyes only … so here I am.

Finally, though I’m a professional writer – or maybe because I am – I no longer particularly enjoy “writing for fun.” I’ve started other blogs in the past, but invariably lost interest after a handful of posts. As such, I expect this blog to be sporadic and short-lived. To be frank, I’m a consummate dabbler, and don’t even know how much longer my interest in fragrance will last. For that reason, I’ll apologize now to anyone who enjoys reading what I have to say here. You’ve been warned!

Image note: Neckties and dogs are two traditionally "masculine" things I love. This photo is a bit silly, but I couldn't resist ... Besides, dogs have an acute sense of smell, so this little guy seems like a fitting mascot for my first entry.