Sacrificial Scents

by Musette


When we were in our 20s (back in the Jefferson administration)  my galpals and I  fantasized about our married coworkers’ lives -a permanent partner for Chinese food and Friday Movies, sex every night, total validation on Valentine’s Day…and the cessation of the ignominy of the Blind Date.  One by one, we entered into couplehood, thinking our problems were all behind us, especially the Blind Date.


Then came an even scarier Event: Couples Blind Dating.   When you’re single, blind dating is weird enough – but usually it’s just between you and the date.   But once you are a couple, you end up occasionally dating other couples – folks you Might Not Know But Your Partner Does.   And the stakes are often higher.  Is this an old pal? A friend from work? A Business Connection?  What a pain.  Now try it when you’re older than dirt, you’ve worked all day and you are NOT in the mood.  What do you wear?  I struggled with this in the 20 minutes I had to throw on some lipstick and a heavier jacket  (it was a night to stay in with a hot cocoa and a good book, not go gallivanting off to dinner with strangers).  I toyed with the idea of my new love, Diaghilev but  if the night sucked CheezWhiz  I would be stuck with the association.  Mitsouko was out of the question – I’m working on softening my mien, not ramping up the terror quotient.   I needed a comfy scent that would remind me of me, in case I hated every aspect of them, but a perfume I could kick to the curb for awhile if the association was too tiresome.


I chose Bas de Soie. Just so ya know, this is NOT a review of Bas de Soie.   I think I’ve already reviewed it but in case I didn’t, here it is, in a nutshell:  I like it.  It’s got a facet that I find compelling/slightly irritating (which is the compelling part, I think)…but even though I really like it, I have no emotional attachment to it.  Vi-ola!   A perfect ‘sacrifice’ scent.  I threw it on, it was great – nobody sneezed or threw up and it kept me engaged through the whole evening, which turned out just fine, btw – they’re nice people and I liked them enough to hope they thought I was nice people, too.  But if it had icked out I could’ve shelved Bas de Soie for a few months with nary a tear.


On the way home  I started wondering ‘what scents would I be willing to sacrifice, should a particular occasion blow up in my face?’   Not throwaway scents; these sacrifices would be scents you like/love that you could rely upon to get you through a potentially challenging situation but if it turned ugly it wouldn’t kill you to retire that scent for a long time (this is of particular importance for those of you who have scent/memory issues ).   I thought about the following situations and here is a random list of what might/did/could work for me:

Cold Customer Meeting: Hermes Caleche. It’s confident and ladylike, with a coolness that gives pause…but its very aloofness means I could box it on the way-back shelf if that cold customer broke my day. Ask Caleche if it cares.  It doesn’t.

New Mother in Law: Fracas (I can’t believe I might throw Fracas under the bus; then again, I’ve had great luck with mothers in law – besides, NOBODY can keep Fracas down.  She would be back, like the Terminator)

Job InterviewTDC Charmes and Leaves. It’s lovely.  I love it.  But it’s innocuous.  Innocuous has a way of being expendable for the time it takes to get my guts back.

Amicable divorce lawyer meeting : Calyx. It was his fave.  If it got nasty, oh well.  If not, it’s a nice memory of a nice ending.  I got lucky on that one, both with the ex and the perfume. I still wear it now and then, 20 yrs later.

Wedding of someone you adore who is Not Marrying You: Shalimar perfume/extrait. It can take the hit and Lord knows, if you put enough on and  wrangle even a quick hug, the wedding night will have ‘you’ all over it.  Grab a slow dance and your aura might stick around through the honeymoon.  Not that I would know anything about that kinda thing…

Lunch with an old rival: Cartier Brillante. It makes me feel thinner and slightly richer…but if it turns out that the shrike is still richer and thinner than you it can go back in its red leatherette box for a Season.  Next time you take it out maybe you will have laid off the chocolate cake!  And you’re in fundages again.  Birkin-level fundages!  It could happen!

What are your challenging occasions?  And what scents would you be willing to sacrifice if the  scent association gods demanded?

photo:  Morning Glory/flower sacrifice

LindaB April 15, 2011

Terrific post! I have such strong scent memories that I get nervous every morning when I spritz/dab as we never know what the day has in store. I truly love YSL Paris but wore it during a very "crossroads" period of my life - I've tried it recently and yup, 6 years later, it brings me right back to a spot I don't want to be in. I always bring a new fragrance (including shower gel/lotion if avail) when embarking on a new vacation - vacation is always wonderful and I love having those scent memories. Loved your choices by the way, especially Calyx as many others here already stated. Received the Diag package last night!! Sooo incredibly excited to try it today (especially with the added bonus of those cotton balls!) but promptly woke up with a bangin migraine. Did not wear anything today - 1st time that's happened in over a year. I am hoping for a speedy recovery and as soon as my head stops throbbing, I am all over it and will report back! A million thanks again...xoxo

lemonprint April 11, 2011

I threw Cool Water under the bus without knowing it - wore it the year I got divorced, haven't been able to wear it since even though I think it's still very pretty. Fortunately I have now moved up to much better fragrances and since they're constantly being changed around, I can't over-associate them with Bad Days at Work (too frequent) any more than Wonderful Holidays (not frequent enough!). I think for a double date - in my future, I am probably going to meet my brother's GF for the first time soon - I will wear something that says "I am expensive, don't mess with me" more than something I don't ever expect to wear again. Probably Plum. :-) Either that or an Amouage!

Austenfan April 11, 2011

When I want to boost my confidence I wear something ladylike and poised. Like First VCA, Chanel Cristalle or Aromatics Elixir. However when I was still a medical student taking exams, it only took a few bonus sprays of Paris YSL ( my go to fragrance then and still worn fondly now) to feel I could pretty much face anything.

AnnieA April 11, 2011

Cristalle and I go so far back one rotten day would not ruin it. I sometimes wear it when I am feeling fragile. When I think I might want to biff somebody by the end of the day I wear Rien and let it do the biffing for me.

nozknoz April 11, 2011

Excellent topic! There are some crisp scents that I wear to work that I suppose I've sort of sacrificed already, but that's what crisp scents are FOR, isn't it? TDC Osmanthus is the best of them, also Bulgari pour Femme, Ines de la Fressange (octagonal bottle) and Guerlain Vetiver. Also with you on Caleche. If I really want bucking up I'll wear L'AP Iris Pallida, which easily transcends the trials of this world and is irreproachable. When it's too cold for IP I'll wear SL La Myrrhe or Bois de Violette for the same effect. These aren't really sacrificial, though.

RH April 11, 2011

Like the others said- I LOVE this post!!! When I'm well aware that there are/will be difficult things (split, death, sickness...) happening, I just choose to wear nothing at all. For those nights with the "couple dates" you've mentioned, I wear By Killians' Love and Tears or anything along its lines- pleasant, approachable, but still smells rich and I like it but not LOVE it enough to weep for it if it's gone. For high school reunions I usually end up putting on things that "smell like money"...

Beth April 11, 2011

Great post Musette! I love this because it's exactly what got me interested in perfume ... the connection between scent and memory. Work is so relentlessly difficult for me that I don't tend to associate any one scent with it. Plus I change my scent every day so there's no lingering bad feelings associated. However, I was wondering the same thing about a 25th high school reunion. Mine is coming up next year. I also had to stop wearing Dolce Vita because it was the scent I wore while I pined endlessly after a man who was my best friend. We hung out about every day and I wore that scent exclusively in a vain attempt to leave the scent behind and have him think of me longingly. Never happened and my heart was terribly broken. I ended up feeling completely foolish and the entire episode is tied into that scent. That said, a whiff of Vol de Nuit brings my grandmother into the room and makes me smile to remember her. The good and the bad, tied up in scent.

nan April 11, 2011

I love this post too because it captures what I think when I get dressed for appellate oral argument. I want comfort and something imposing to give me confidence, but if it goes bad, nothing I won't be willing to give up for a good long while. That said, I've got one coming up later this week. I'll have to give it a good long think tonight, while I peruse my samples -- anything I've got a full bottle of probably won't qualify.

March April 11, 2011

This was so interesting. Ya know ... I got into perfume recently enough that I'm not one of those people who had to give up Mitsouko because my first husband left me 20 years ago, and it was "our" scent, etc. And this comes up all the time on the Posse -- people who loved a scent but it now has sad or painful associations. I'm glad I don't have any of those. For dicey situations I wear something neutral/soothing, but they're not situations I'm expecting something dire-by-association to happen. I mean, I probably wouldn't wear a frag to see the divorce lawyer, unless it was some FU scent like Mitsouko (can I type FU?)

Parfymerad April 11, 2011

Love the post! It's made me realise I probably need more of those sacrificial scents in my life. My absolute favourites are pretty much event-proof I've worn them through so much, but I had to give Cuir de Lancome a break last year because it was the perfect work event perfume and I began to associate it with professional performance anxiety...we're back on good terms now tho. The replacement and my all-round useful neutral is Terracotta Voile d'Ete, which is pretty, innocuous and not so perfect that I'd cry if I had to axe it - tho so far it's surviving everything I expose it to. Now I need to come up with possibilities for specific categories, like the couples dating thing...

Erin T April 11, 2011

Excellent, excellent post, M. Neglected topic, funny writing, great list categories - very thought-provoking! I must be greedy because despite the 100+ bottles I have, there aren't many I would be willing to sacrifice for an extended period. (Somehow it seems pointless to sacrifice those few scents you don't really care about at all.) As soon as I thought about adding something to the list, I was immediately possessed by an overwhelming urge to go put it on. :d Like you I'd probably ultimately pick scents I like or even really love but that have a little grain of irritation in them for me - they're too huge and monumental or proud and difficult for regular wear. They're usually ones with a very recognizable, memorable structure so that I feel I can almost "smell" them in my head, anyway. Okay, let's say: YSL Korous, Ormonde Jayne Tiare, Theo Fennell Scent, ELdO Rien, Bvlagri Black, and maybe Yatagan.

Ann April 11, 2011

Hi sweetie, great post, as always!! When I got laid off from my longtime (16-plus years) job, gosh-- almost two years ago today, I was so traumatized (and shocked) that, frankly, I don't remember what scent I was wearing, so that was a small blessing. However, last summer during my son's near-fatal accident, I wore Kai almost exclusively and its gorgeous simplicity was a great comfort to me. I tried to wear it at the beach last week and it was OK, but did remind me of last summer a bit, so back in the drawer it goes for a while longer, until the memory fades. For other tough, sad or stressful situations, I pull out Dior's Escale a Portofino, of which I have a large decant, thanks to a generous swap buddy (waves to Karin!). It's not offensive, lasts just long enough, and is so cheery that it's like Teflon -- bad vibes simply CAN'T stick to it!! :)

Rappleyea April 11, 2011

What a fantastic, tea-spewing post! You're the greatest! <3 I'm probably in the minority on this one, but my perfume is such a personal, integral part of ME that I don't later associate my perfume with the event/person/issue anymore than I would my clothes or my skin.

maggiecat April 11, 2011

Name the company Nava! Why send a voicemail when a quiet aside would be much nicer and just as effective (he may have had a point but what an awful way to make it!) As for my sacrifical scents - while on the way to sit with my dad in the hopital during what I knew were his last days, I took a sampler of light cologne-y scents, wore a different one each day, and managed not to build a scent memory or offend anyone. Safety in numbers. And when I'm sick I stick with comfrot scents (vanilla, Grace scents, etc.) which I associate with such purposes already. Great post!

mals86 April 11, 2011

Hilarious post! I especially enjoyed Wedding of Someone You Love Who Is Not Marrying You... verrrry sneaky. (No exes showed up at my wedding. Thank goodness... because The CEO sure had a lot of 'em.) For Unpleasant Interviews, I have my vintage No. 19 edt - which I love but which is steel-spined enough to survive just about anything - or relatively recent Jolie Madame, which can turn an unfriendly shoulder. I've got a 25-year high school reunion coming up this summer, August or something... what to wear to that? If it were in the fall, I'd grab Lyric Woman without hesitation, but for summer? Still on the fence. I've got a few months to decide.

Denise April 11, 2011

I too love this post. Nice to know I'm not the only one who worries that a bad day might ruin a scent for me! Lately, things have gotten so unpredictable at my workplace that I've chosen to forego scent altogether. But it would better to think of something pleasant and innocuous, that I could enjoy and wouldn't mind shelving for a while. Thanks for the inspiration.

Nava April 11, 2011

The first scent I ever threw under the bus was Jo Malone French Lime Blossom. I used to think it was the epitome of innocuous, but alas, I was wrong when I chose to wear it to work a trade show (back in my working days). I was working for this small, family owned confectionery company, and was working the Philadelphia Candy Show. The owner showed up to drive us all crazy and apparently got a whiff of me. He proceeded to send a voicemail to the entire office issuing a ban on any and all fragrances worn at trade shows, claiming that scents would detract from the experience of sampling the finished product. I must have gotten about a dozen "was he talking about you?" queries in my voicemail. I was beyond mortified, and never wore French Lime Blossom again. I will also never purchase/consume this company's products if I ever see them. And neither should anyone else.

annie April 11, 2011

I have ALWAYS associated scents with occasions.....I loved with my heart&soul,Naxos,and got hundreds of compliments when I wore it(terrible reviews on MUA...go figure),but,when canned from my job,I could not ever wear it,again...conjured up terrible memories!...Whenever I 'changed men',I had to ALWAYS change perfume(all,of course,vintage,as I was MUCH younger),Royal Secret,Anne Klein 2,Casmir,Venzia,Galore,and my sweetie,late husband's favorite:Shalimar...I still have the last bottle he bought me(empty,of course)...I wear NOTHING to the Dr/dentist,nuff' said there....

Catherine April 11, 2011

I find that Chanel is always appropriate, so the ones in my collection get sacrificed a lot. I don't have many challenging occasions--perhaps the doubled date night or the literary event. At such times, No. 5 Eau Premier always sees me through. A touch of No. 18 or No. 22 is divine also. No. 22 is particularly perfect for the "colder" events.

Aubrey April 11, 2011

This is my favorite post on PP!! What a unique and important way to think about perfume! Hmm... I'll have to report back after thinking this through...

Sabbath April 11, 2011

What an excellent idea! I must say, I have got a special scent for unpleasant official occasions like a visit in the Inland Revenue or a hard parents-teacher meeting. It is Organza Indecence - a scent I do not like especially, but can bear. If I would have to choose something beautiful for that occasion it would be Safran Troublant by l'Artisan Parfumeur or Penhaligon's Elixir - both quite friendly for normal people and for me not indispensable for life.

yvree April 11, 2011

Musette, know this is a MUST to answer. I love your amicable divorce meeting one! Very significant to me right is the interview one. (lining up sacrifice list now) The Split = FM Lys Med.- crisp but weepy beauty, restrained with hope for what springs next. The Interview = Chanel 19 vintage & because she always gets over it...oh, actually she IS over it! Carrie, gosh I have actually just gotten Addict out into my rotation these past few days. That would NOT be a willing sacrifice for me either,... but agree the Amouage Ubar (love it) would be the perfect "help me through it & stick it to them scent" or Habanita just don't get rid of her all too easily;) She'll leave when SHE feels like it!

Carrie Meredith April 11, 2011

I love this post! I've never heard this question asked before, and never thought about it myself, but it makes perfect sense to have these things worked out. I will tell the sad tale one of my long-time favorites, Dior Addict. I was wearing it when I got canned from a job I was at for over a decade. I haven't touched it since, but you know what? I've got SL Chergui, which is similar, almost better. Ok, it IS better. Addict was not a perfume I willingly sacrificed, and if I could go back in time I would have worn something different that day (like vintage Amouage Ubar, liberally applied and touched up every fifteen minutes).