Notorious NYCK
Earth Shattering Beauty, Style and Health News from a Neurotic New Yorker

Diary of a Frustrated Fragrance Fanatic

by Notorious NYCK June 21

red-lipstickAfter  two decades in the beauty industry, I’ve come to terms with the fact that the beauty truism:  “There is a red lipstick for everyone”  does not apply to me.  And I have several barely used tubes of crimson lip rouge to prove it. Every few years, I think it’s time to start getting more sophisticated and wearing scarlet. I head to a store and scoop up a tube or two. I convince myself  I love the way I look because “everyone can wear red lipstick”  and  whip out my credit card. I even wrote a blog post crowing with delight about finding “my perfect red” --false alarm folks.

The reality is that after wearing any shade of red out of the house once or twice, it collects dust in my drawer until I  throw it out in a fit of pique. Because no matter how lovely it looks in the tube,  red lipstick makes me feel so painfully self conscious that I am in utter agony the entire time I wear it.

The other beauty rule I seem to have broken is that old chestnut:  “There is a signature scent for everyone”. Throughout the years  I have fallen in love with some absolutely exquisite creations, including Coco and Allure by Chanel, A La Nuit and Douce Amer from Serge Lutens, Sung by Alfred Sung and J’Adore by Dior. But still I remain signature-scentless. After undergoing some serious fragrance analysis, I’ve found the deep and underlying cause: I am just fickle.

smittyMy first scent was a white musk oil called Golden Autumn by Prince Matchabelli. It was a 10th birthday gift from my Aunt Marion in 1976 when musk and oils were big.  You are correct if the word “Matchabelli” conjures up the cheesy jingles “Your Wind Song stays on my mind” and “I’m going to have an Aviance night.” Cheese aside, I remember this scent as being quite lovely and adored it.  No matter. The hippie musk oil era was drawing to a close, disco was king and so, cold-hearted tween that I was, I cast Golden Autumn aside in favor of Coty’s Smitty, a spicy, green, floral with the tagline:  “When you’re staying out late and you’re feeling so great, Smitty did it.”  The ads featured a blonde  in a red Capezio  leotard and wrap skirt whooping it up at a disco. At 11, I was too young to get into Studio 54, though I wanted to desperately; this fragrance was the best I could do. But as disco faded into oblivion, so did my attachment to Smitty. I am  a rocker at heart.

Then came my big Estee Lauder phase. For a minute I loved Cinnabar, an exotic spicy elixir, only to go completely cuckoo for its polar opposite White Linen, a very clean, green scent.  Both scents, however, sat unused on my shelf after my Sweet 16 party, where I received as gifts the two “it” fragrances of my high school years: Anaïs Anaïs by Cacharel and Lauren by Ralph Lauren. Not being able to afford them myself, I was thrilled; I had finally made it into the inner sanctum of cool. And trust me: I could use any infusion of cool I could get.  But in truth I gave up on both of them by senior year. Anaïs Anaïs felt too sweet and girly and Lauren  felt too sporty.

I headed off to college in 1984 fragrance-less, and then something went terribly wrong. Embarrassingly enough, I fell prey to big 80s marketing and advertising. That winter, Calvin Klein started his steamy promotional radio ads for his upcoming Obsession scent (“ahhh…the smell of it”). The spots featured Kate Moss reading from Lady Chatterley’s Lover with a feverish intensity. As a freshman in college and a lit major, I fancied myself a tragic heroine along the lines of Chatterley, Bovary and Karenina and became obsessed with Obsession. It didn’t help matters that the Animotion synth pop song with the same name was pulsating ad nauseam on alternative radio stations at the time. Coincidence? I think not.

I saved up my meager salary from working at the Tufts Laundry Service, then queued up with the other hopeless (hopeful?) romantics the day Obsession launched in Bloomingdales at the Riverside Square Mall in Hackensack, NJ.  The woman behind the counter spritzed me, but I scarcely inhaled before I  plunked down the money for the potion that was no doubt going to change my life. Obsession and I were truly meant to be. Leaving the store, I caught a whiff and was horrified.  Now this was a big-80s powerhouse--way bigger than I had anticipated. It was a true perpetrator in that fragrance movement that went way over the top and assaulted the senses. Remember, this was an era when restaurants not only banned dogs and cigar smoke, but also the pungent perfume Giorgio Beverly Hills.

Dejected beyond measure, I returned the offending bottle, and hoping to console myself headed over to Saks Fifth Avenue, which was also hosting a fragrance introduction. The scent was called Decadence.  I don’t know how or why, but this equally potent perfume spoke to me in a way that Obsession didn’t.  In retrospect I’m mortified by my choice, as are perfumers when they learn I chose  Decadence over Obsession…these experts claim D. was pretty much just vile, while O. was a masterful creation that just came on too strong. No matter, I wore Decadence for  years—my longest run ever-- until my boyfriend, now husband of 20 years, admitted to me he hated it. So I moved on and had a few short flings: Maxim de Paris, Emanuel Ungaro Diva and Prescriptives Calyx.

Then came a slew of airy, watery, “light” ‘90s scents that my husband described as “innocuous” when they didn’t bother him and “Pledge” when they did. The industry now categorizes these barely there yet somehow sharp fragrances as “hygienic.” Sexy, I know! So it’s not surprising that all of those fragrances are but distant memories. I won’t mention any names. Why create bad feelings? And besides, I know everyone meant well.

Next I fell hard for the incredibly sensual and sexy Narciso Rodriguez for Her, only to be completely overwhelmed by its heady amber, incense, musk and chypre composition when I got it home. Then there were Serge Lutens’ staggeringly beautiful creations, followed by Boucheron Trouble and Bulgari Omni. I also had a brief attachment to  Dolce and Gabbana The One.

Each year a new crop of gorgeous elixirs blossom, and I am always tempted…yet I remain uncommitted. In fact, I just gave away a bunch of barely used fragrances (last year’s conquests) to a few lucky friends who were beyond thrilled. I just couldn’t take those nearly full bottles staring at me indignantly from my dresser chastising me for neglect.

But it appears that my quest hasn’t been entirely fruitless. On a recent trip back to NYC, I met up with  a friend I hadn’t seen in a while who said, “You smell just like you. Like summer. It’s wonderful.” She was referring to my Sugar Lemon Body Lotion by Fresh, a product I have worn faithfully every day for perhaps a decade. And even though it isn’t housed in an elegant glass flacon or positioned as “steamy,” “sophisticated” or “intensely romantic, ” it is in fact “me,” and we’ve stuck by each other all these years.

Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.


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