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 Fink, the boy I lost my virginity to, wore Dior’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.  And now also the other Jen, 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.



  1. I don't think it's an evening scent, nor is it sophisticated, but it does smell delicious-Pink Sugar. It's sold at Macy's.

  2. Fracas by Robert Piguet

    It's classic, not trendy. This isn't my *trademark* scent currently either, but I'm thinking about.

    I also can remember each perfume thru the years. Starting with some scary scents!

  3. Trish McEvoy #6. It's really the way to go. If you're thinking clean and more summery, go with Burberry Baby Touch. Granted I'm still in college, so maybe I have yet to reach that level of sophistication.

  4. Back in 1990 (I was just eighteen, forgive me), I used to mix Chanel Pour Monsieur with Calvin Klein Eternity. The latter wasn't so declassé back then. Some men found it a turn on, others came nowhere near. Having mixed some last year – in the name of nostalgia – I'm only glad nobody approached me with a naked flame. It smells like petrol. What was I thinking?

    You really should be earning percentages for all these brand names you keep dropping. I'm tempted to visit the department store to sample some of these fragrances. Bring the submission to life a little more, if you see what I mean. This post has definite scratch and sniff potential. ;-)

  5. Finding the right perfume can be like an identity crisis. Identifying yourself with a scent…it's part emotional, part physical…mental, who knows. Mark told me once how a girl asked him "What are you wearing? You smell great." He replied, "Um, Degree deodorant…and I guess a little body odor." I think that says a lot about what people want in a scent…

  6. I'm a sucker for scents too, and bored right now.
    For a long time I wore the trendy smells-
    Clinique Happy in 7th grade (it reminds me of beer now)
    Lucky For Her in early high school
    Ralph Lauren Romance- which everyone wears, but i still can never get enough of
    I tried Very Sexy by Victoria's Secret, but it comes off after like 3 minutes.
    And I think I've settled with Burberry Brit. I love it.
    Maybe it's because I'm a brunette?

    PS. Does every boy I ever come in contact with have to be wearing Aqua di Gio? Enough already! Ex boyfriends, teachers, frat boys…get a new scent males of the world!

  7. Steph, you do have your own scent…you just don't know it. From behind you, I smell your hair product(s)…ouidad or whatever, and occassionally, if I am close enough, I can get a whiff of slightly dirty scalp. When I kiss your cheeks or your hand, I smell and feel very smooth and cool skin…innocent skin like that of a child or baby. And once in awhile you will smell a little bit make-upy…with leftovers of whatever perfume you wore the day or night before. On occassion your breath will stink to the high heavens, and once in awhile you will have a Linus scent…(including the dirty socks) that is kinda like a sweater that needs to be dry-cleaned. Overall, you smell like Stephanie…I just think it's something that can't be bottled…and people will only know how you really smell if they spend enough time being close to you. Aren't I a lucky one? Yes. Mommy does have that sweet and sour milk scent…topped off with a little b.o. (sometimes). Mommy and Aunt Iris surprisingly smell the same…phermones??? Who knows? But Poppa smells kinda like dial, lubriderm, and of course, the smell of his closet mixed with his nightly routine outfit which consists of well worn navy blue sweat pants and his permanently tied boat shoes…those damn boat shoes which distinguish his gait pattern from anyone else's. But what do I smell like? Shampoo? Probably. And I guess I smell like my own aromatherapy concoction when I wear it…a mixed scent of patchouli, lavender and just a touch of ylang-ylang oil.

    Oh, and by the way, Phyllis (the Bas Mitzvah party-planner) wore SUNG! How can anyone replace that sweet, nausiating smell with Shalimar?! Uch, I am forever scarred by that smell…I immediately think of her orange make-up which caked at her jawline…and the fact that she always wore turtle necks. I was always watching to see if the line would blend onto her clothes…but then she would catch me starring. Oh, and the obvious…Phylis's 90's mullet! Ha…that wrinkled bag was the epitome of a Jewish divorcee from Long Island's South Shore…looking to meet single men at all the parties that she planned! Funny.

  8. Hey, I don't know if you'll read this a year later, but I just bought an eBay decant of Fleur de The Rose Bulgare and it's unbelievable. Thanks for the recommendation. Although I'm sorry to steal your signature fragrance. I'm far away in New Hampshire, if that helps.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.