So…I’m still a little stuffy…okay, I’m still JAMMED in the sinii, though I’m wearing Cartier Declaration today and can parse out the bulk of the notes. Not sure if that’s because I already know what it’s supposed to smell like, so even the sketchiest of outlines could be filled in by scent-memory …or can I actually smell it? How can one tell? Like…hey, do you ever wonder if what you see is what another person sees? Like the color ‘blue’…is that all just a giant psychic agreement amongst us or do we actually all ‘see’ the same basic shade(s) of color that we agree, in words, that we see. Can I ever know what ‘blue’ means to you? And why on earth am I yarking ON about that, you might ask?
Well, you might ask…but I sure can’t answer. That’s not what today’s post is about anyway, though it is an intriguing question. Okay – here’s today’s musings. I was thinking about ‘light’ and ‘fresh’ scents and what they tend to represent in writing and, to a certain extent, to society still today. This came about recently when I read A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny (thanks, S, for introducing me to Inspector Gamache!!!)…anyway, in the story one of the policemen is remembering his time spent in hospital, where he lay near death. He compares the scent of the woman who sat at his bedside with that of his wife (they are separated)…sounds like the bedsitter is wearing Fresh Lemon Sugar and the wife is wearing Opium. Wife loses. He actually reminisces that he would not have come back to that cold hand and that perfume (I am paraphrasing, because I don’t have the book to reference – but it’s a close’un). The whole paragraph is a paean to light, citrus fragrance being equated with fresh, youthful Life.
Remember the old (as in REALLY old) Harlequin Romance books? The ones from the 60s and 70s, where the heroine always looked like a Breck Girl and the declaration of love was always just a kiss (I remember reading a Harlequin Presents and actually blushed! when they actually had…uh….you know (hey, I was 11 when the first ‘Presents’ came out – and I was a slow, sheltered child)..anyway! back to the thought at hand…those girls also wore lemony perfumes. Or they smelled like lilacs. The Mean Girl always wore a heavy oriental – I call it the Miss Bingley Syndrome (think of the fabulous Anna Chancellor in her heavy Oriental silks and turbans, contrasted with Jennifer Ehle’s fresh, white gowns and simple coiffures) – and the Bingley always loses.
Okay…the stage is set. in all types of fiction, lemon and very light florals seem to be equated with good, virtue, youth… But that’s not the part I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about the fact that probably 90% of these books, if not more…are written by women! So now I’m wondering, are we perpetrating the notion of ‘good’ = ‘fresh’ and “heavy/complex” = “bad’ ? Not that that’s a judgement call on my part – more curiosity than anything. I love citrus as much as I love incense – but I wonder how this came to be? Is it a throwback from when heavy perfumes were used to mask illness, decay and body odor – since a light lemon fragrance wouldn’t do the trick, would the wearing of that type of fragrance signal health? This is obviously not a scientific query – heck, I don’t even know if I’m right about this but it sure reads like it to me. My ‘findings’ are also not substantiated by anything other than my ramshackle reading habits; it’s certainly not from any serious commentary on what I’m wearing – guys usually limit their perfume remarks to ‘you smell nice’. El O couldn’t care less what I wear, as long as it’s not Yatagan and as long as I’m not wearing too much of Whatever Isn’t Yatagan. Hub #1 preferred greeny/limey things but he’s a Gin Gimlet man so that one is easy. Most guys I know (GUYS. Not perfumistos) are in El O’s camp – unless they have a particular dislike of a note/scent they don’t care as long as it’s not overdone.
So….did we start this, laydeez? Do we secretly believe that lemons equal virginal freshness and that, when all is over, including the shouting, virginal freshness wins out? Obviously, if we’re mating, the younger and fresher the ovum the better the reproductive chances, yeah…but does that potential for fecundity translate somehow to Fresh Lemon Sugar? Could that be the explanation for the variation on that theme, the ubiquitous fruity-floral, so beloved by young women? What do you think? Do you care? See, this is what happens when my sinuses go out and I can’t review perfume. The mind wanders. Faaaar afield.
And what would be the equivalent for men? What would the Harlequin Hero wear? (I always wanted to write a sequel to the Harlequin Romance, where all the heroines and heroes were invited to some shindig in a giant ballroom – but most of the spouses got mixed up and ended up going home with somebody else’s husband/wife..because if you’ve read more than one of those books you know that all the men are tall, muscular and dashing….like a roomful of Errol Flynn pirates or something. Just imagine trying to pick our your Hero in a ballroom full of Heroes! All wearing_______________?
I’d love to know what you all think (women and men). Don’t hesitate to tell me if you think I’m crazy. You won’t be the first, I promise!!!
photo: my local library has HUNDREDS of these.