Maybe this has happened to you: When people discover how much I like fragrance, often they tell me (1) there’s this perfume they used to really like, you know, the one with the tall bottle with the blue thing, and might I know its name?; (2) but really they don’t like perfume very much, because, face it, most people wear too much, including that lady who always gets in the elevator with them in the morning, pee-yoo; and (3) that they know it’s sacrilege, but they don’t like “the Chanel” at all. Then they lean forward and ask, “Tell me, what’s your favorite perfume?”
Mostly I (1) ask questions about the forgotten perfume and try my darnedest to help them, but often fruitlessly; (2) sigh and say, “Isn’t it always the case that the person with the nastiest perfume wears too much of it?”; and (3) about “the Chanel” reply, “You mean No. 5?” and steer the conversation away, since No. 5 can smell like heaven on the right person at the right time, and it’s just too complicated to get into it.
But as far as telling people what my favorite perfume is, I haven’t come up with a good response.
Most people see perfume as something to have two or three bottles of, tops, and they may even have a signature scent. How do I tell them that for me perfume is closer to music or painting? Do I have a favorite song? Sure, sometimes. Right this very second I’m into “Big Iron” by Marty Robbins because I was listening to him while I walked the dog an hour ago, but by the end of this post I might well be digging a Blossom Dearie (shown above) CD out of my stereo cabinet. Do I want to hear any one song, and only that song, forever? Not a chance. That’s how I feel about perfume.
So here are some responses I’ve tried for “What’s your favorite perfume?”:
“I’m still looking.” This is a little too cute for me. The fact is, I already own several fragrances I adore, and I doubt I’ll ever stumble over one that will trump forever every other fragrance I’ve tried. It’s like those authors you hear interviewed who say their favorite book is “the next one.” Come on. Just answer the question already.
“It depends.” This is the response I tender most often. People pretend to get it, but I can tell they’re still mystified that I can’t identify some of “the best” perfume out there. If I tell them I choose a particular perfume to wear depending on the weather, my dress, my mood, a story I heard on the radio, my eye makeup challenge that morning, the phase of the moon, etc., they look like they’re engaged in a philosophical discussion. They nod. They’re game for understanding intellectually, but they don’t really get it.
“I really like Rochas Femme” or “Guerlain L’Heure Bleue” or “Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman” or “Caron Tabac Blond, the old stuff.” Basically, I just toss out names of some of my top 50 perfumes and hope that will satisfy them. Sometimes it’s just too hard to try to explain that I can’t possibly choose an all-time favorite.
Then, of course, I can always turn the conversation back toward them with “What’s your favorite perfume?”
How do you respond when people ask you what your favorite perfume is? If you have an actual favorite, do tell! If not, what do you say to people who respect your perfume knowledge and want to know what the best perfume is?