I’ve already told you I’m lazy; I let my dog shite on the floor. So let’s start here today. For starters, I’d like to know who actually takes the time to write suggestions and fold them into squares. Then feed them into a box with a slit. Who reads them? Well you’ll all be happy to know that I’ve got a box and a slit. How anatomical. And today, it’s my turn to feed on suggestions. I’m reading them, and I’m taking them–but just to be clear, they’re suggestions, not advice. Unwarranted advice makes me gag. Poems make me flinch. Don’t do that. I’ve been hard at work on writing a book, so now it’s up to you. Tell me things about which you’d like me to write here. Now’s your chance.
My first perfume scent was Jean Naté. I wasn’t old enough to wear perfume. Because it begins with perfume, then make up and red nail polish, and suddenly you’re shaving legs and pits and then you’re kissing, which leads to dating, which leads to sex. Perfume was outlawed, but scented powders, bath soap, and lotions were permitted. I imagine Jean Naté smells of lemon curd or tart vagina. I wore the scent, not because I liked it, but because wearing it made me feel older and sophisticated, like an oak-fermented Chardonnay. My father has no sense of smell, so my mother never bothered with her bottle of JOY. I’d sniff at it but was never impressed. Mom smelled of blow-dryer, Keri Lotion and Aveda lipstick—like gingersnap cookies, too heavy on the cloves. I played with her vanity mirror, eating her lipstick off my lips, feeling like a woman. Mostly, she smelled of sweet facial lotion that could easily be mistaken for milk. At night, she’d coat her waterproof eyes with globs of Vaseline. Black streaks of mascara would coat balls of toilet paper. Then she’d tape the area between her eyes to prevent involuntary wrinkles in her sleep. Eric Fark, the boy I lost my virginity to, wore Calvin Klein’s Fahrenheit cologne. In the Roosevelt Field Mall, I doused a leaflet in the shape of the bottle, which resembled a b-52 drink. At home, I slid the scented paper in a scrapbook, under a thin glassine flap. When I missed him, I’d slide the paper from it’s home and rub it over his green Livingston soccer jersey. I rolled in his shirt, hugging it to me in fists, whiffing him as if I could will him beside me. I moved quickly beyond the Naté to Perry Ellis’ 360º. The girls in high school wore too much Anis Anis to go with their long-stapped Carlos Fachi and Il Bisante handbags. To this day Shalimar brings to mind a brunette Jewish woman named Phyllis, a party planner who talked in a whine and was always scowling. My best friend in high school, Hillary Cohen wore Lu Lu until it was discontinued. Lu Lu was a heavy provocative scent; it smelled red. I used to borrow hers, and when I wore it, people would say, “Ooooh, you smell like Hills.” And I loved her, so it made me smile. In college, I switched to L’Eau D’Issey by Issey Miyake. I still love it. It’s clean, feminine, and quite beautiful. I wore it because my close college friend Shira did, and I loved her like I loved Hillary. Sharing a scent makes you feel closer, like beaded friendship pins. With time, after reading that vanilla, licorice, and pumpkin pie scents increase penile blood flow, I dabbed vanilla oil from Paris behind my ears, on my wrists, on the insides of my elbows, and behind my knees. Then I’d let some oil drip in my décolleté, cause it doesn’t get more French than décolleté. I imagine my ex-boyfriend will always think of me as Issey Miyake and vanilla, despite my coming home wearing the very expensive Quelques Fleurs. When I arrived home smelling of the chic scent, he remarked, “Oh my god, that’s delicious.” That’s when I knew one of his ex-girlfriends must have worn it. I saw the nostalgia in his eyes. I never wore it again. I’m currently without scent. I stole Creed’s Fleur de The Rose Bulgarie from Erin, and now Jen wears it too. I’ve received more compliments on the Creed than anything else in my life. Okay, tie with my hair. But part of wearing perfume is how it makes you feel. Spicy, heady scents are very brunette; they make you want to go the night without panties. Clean citrus notes are like French manicures, white terry robes, and clean moisturized feet in white pom-pom socks. Some scents, Gucci Rush or anything by Versace, are obvious one-night-stand tramps. They aren’t special; they’re bottled blondes. Like a redhead, a good scent is complex and makes you work for it. I’ve been wearing the Creed so long, I can no longer smell it. I can’t do the Chanel Chance or Madamoiselle, and forget the J. Lo. Anything of-the-moment kills the mystery. And forget the Demeter scents like Angel Food Cake, Laundry, and Graham Crackers; she wears an orangy red lipstick and over plucks her brows. I can no longer tolerate grapefruit or verbena scents. Even a sophisticated pachoulli number evokes white girls with manufactured dreads, warn-thin dead shirts, and jingly anklets. I need something grown up, and when I find it, if someone asks, “Mmm, what’s that smell?” I’ll say, “me” and just smile.
I grew up hoping a man would come along, in a blazer with a shadow of a beard, and change my life. And one did. It just wasn’t at all how I’d imagined it. I had to feel and wade through the bad to resurface into the beauty and joy of my now. I don’t need anyone to swoop in and change my life. I just wouldn’t mind terribly finding someone who will wash my strawberries and love me full of snot, freckled, and red faced. He’ll make me smile through the tears. He’ll be my grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. He’ll be my home. I spend hours rummaging through closets looking for pants that don’t make my ass look fat. Then, I’ll watch friends devour fried combo dishes doused with ketchup and sprinkled with salt as I tolerate cottage cheese or hard-boiled eggs. Okay, that hasn’t happened in years, but still. I do it all to look thin, just to find a man who’ll love me even if I’m fat. I’ve been drinking wine for years. When I inhale, I don’t smell apricots or lialac, mushrooms or mineral. I smell wine. Each one has a personality, built of characteristics: fruity, bold, long finish, supple, nice legs. These aren’t come on lines. Drunk dialing. I fcuking love it. You know why? It gives me license to follow every random flying emotion, abandoning any sense of reason. And it affords me the ability to be thoroughly pathologic. I can trail every other brain synapse that has always led me to destination wrong. I stop caring about “wrong” and do what I want. When people say, “what I want” they mean, “what I feel,” not “what I think.” Cause we wouldn’t need liquid courage to follow “right.” We wouldn’t need it to keep up with “think.” Emotions are sloppy drunks that swallow. They don’t worry about disease or calories; they’re made of passion and avoid safe like edges of cliffs.
Growing up, I was terrified of being kidnapped. I’d dream a stranger snagged me, and when I’d part my lips to release a ripple of a scream, nothing would come out. The Upper East Side of Manhattan at night paralyzes me in the very same way. Harlem or even some disreputable streets south of the Meatpacking District, near the warehouses and $20.00 trannyjobs is understandable. But it’s the Upper East Side, home to the Ralph Lauren Mansion, Serendipity’s Frozen Hot Chocolates, and Bloomingdale’s Big Brown Bag that houses my anxiety. It has little to do with east side rapists trailing unaccompanied quick-paced women to their fifth-floor walk-ups. It’s worse. It’s home to my ex-boyfriend. Despite it having far superior restaurants to the upper west, the upper east was the only appropriate place to go last night. Sure his friends, his job, and our memories reside there. Until last night, there wasn’t much room for all that and me. I’m on a goddamn island; there’s no room for rationing anymore. It’s not as though I’d get all despondent and introspective over there. I didn’t conjure up storefronts and restaurant awnings tinted rose or anything. It’s just running into him or one of his extensions is unnecessary drama. It’s that suspenseful music, warning the audience something is about to happen. It’s nerve-racking; that’s what it is. Because the truly scary bits usually happen in silence, as quick as a heavy guillotine. Last night I had to visit the east. Had to, the way you just had to inexplicably leave without saying goodbye. Something lured me there. I’d just come from the 6:30 showing of Garden State, so I was in the thick of girl. I was sticky with dripping hope and oozy magic. I told you I was full of girl, but it gets worse: see if I were in a movie, the cameras would zoom in from above and The Eels’s song “Packing Blankets” would blast as I wobbled in impractical heels to the corner of 67th and Columbus to hail a cab. Everyone would know something great was about to happen. This wasn’t a night for practical; it meant unnecessary cab fare and a decision to head east for no reason at all. I wanted something to happen. Le Bateau Ivre has a killer wine list, superb Belgium fries, and is always crowded but never a scene. I cozied up to the bar and asked, “Do you have a wine list I can see?” “You’re look-ing at tit.” A foreign waiter slung back with a smile. “White, red, rosé? You name it Mademoiselle.” “How about a Gewurtzaminer?” “Ah, yes, very good choice.” “I am having a Gewurtzaminer, too” the man occupying the stool beside me said. “I’m German, are you?” “Ah, no.” “I’m Italian and German actually. Lemme guess, you’re Irish. The Germans do a nice Gewurtzaminer. I lived there you know.” We have a winner. “Two of my alma matters are there. I studied spiritual studies.” Oh dear god. This is not what I had in mind. I nod and smile, then stick my nose into my glass to indicate I take wine seriously and would prefer to be left alone. “Nice bouquet?” The bar is too small to up and choose a new seat. “Yes, it’s a lovely bouquet.” “I’ve just returned from a two month journey. I tasted many a wine. I was in Israel and Egypt, and then I rounded things off in Italy. I’m from Boston, but I’m in New York for this week, then I go back home to Aspen. You know, that’s where I live, in Aspen.” “How nice for you.” “Yeah, I have a Twinkie back in Colorado who called me the other day saying, ‘you know my birthday is coming up. I’m expecting something.’ Can you believe her?” “I don’t know her.” Shut up. “Well she’s an absolute stunner. I mean, really sick.” This man is too old to refer to a woman as sick. Usually, when men use “sick” they mean amazing body. See if she had a pretty face, she’d be “beautiful.” Sick means shapely with a tight punctuated ass. “She’s a Twinkie. That’s what we call ‘em.” “Yes, I heard you the first time. You do know Twinkies always smell better than they taste. They’re like coffee beans.” “That’s good. Hold up. Let me get a pen and write that down.” “Really, Twinkies are easy, simple, and self-contained. But they’re inventions, always leaving you unsatisfied.” Oh god. I married a Twinkie. Our housekeeper always did refer to him as Creampuff. “Did I mention I’ve just returned from Israel?” “Did I mention that you begin almost all your sentences with I?” “I collect ancient scriptures. I’m Catholic, but I’m just back from Israel.” Was he joking? I know he…
Really short women are always top heavy. I’m not saying they’re apples, but they’ve always got enormous melons. And they’re always named Diana, Brenda, Daniella, Lisa, or some other short name ending in an A. And these A named women have B personalities. It’s just true; it’s not my rule, so don’t get all pissy with me about it. Take it up with the man. I’m on holiday.
New York is fcuked up. I’m in Starbucks, recounting last night, and there’s a Latino, balding, pony-tailed man waiting for the traffic light to give him the go. It’s a busy corner, across from ABC. Usually, I spot Smelly Rippa or some other sitcom, soap opera, talk show person in sunglasses and running shorts. Nothing about this freak is “usually.” As he waits, he practices some embarrassingly bizarre body exercise, something with “Tai,” “Chi,” or “Kwan” in it. His feet are shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, as if he’s ready to lift something terribly heavy. Instead of bending, he slices the air in quick movements with his hands, stiff like cleavers. Strong, quick, rhythmic breaths wiggle loose from his diaphragm. His thighs resemble Pugs, round and compact. He’s wearing purple. Who the hell wears purple these days? Definitely not conformists. Though I do hear plum is in for fall. My driver’s education teacher didn’t just wear purple; he decorated his world with it. His eyeglasses, seat covers, shoelaces, and even his gum, were purple. His name was Rich, but I called him “The peculiar purple pie man of porcupine peak” after a Strawberry Shortcake character from my youth. If you could hear the beat he stepped to you wouldn’t quite be able to dance to it, and you’d never know when to clap. Purple people pretend, dream, and fake seizures to make people leave them alone. I think we can all use a purple freak in our lives, you know, merely for entertainment. Alternatively, there’s always Starbucks on Columbus and W 67th Street.
His album is finally in stores. I dig it; now it’s your turn. Ray Lamontagne does music with decisions and soul. It takes me back to a bunk porch with a bug candle, writing on stationery about my summer. Ray Lamontagne will definitely make up a track on my life’s soundtrack. I talk about him all the time. Go ahead, get into trouble.
Sometimes, in retrospect, you realize it was better left unsaid. That, or it was better for the book.