Tuesday, May 18, 2010

smell my elbow

For those of you keeping up with my fragrance escapades, I ordered (but not yet received) two new scents.

On Sunday afternoon I went to Neiman Marcus to sniff the fancy stuff. My experience was not so good. Yes, they had a nice selection, but the saleswoman was all hovery and even worse, not much help. Basically, she didn't know anything about the perfumes. She could tell me which ones were new and which ones got her the most compliments and that's about it. She kept squirting perfume on cards. I had no idea what I was smelling. Or what was in what.

There was one I liked a lot, Van Cleef & Arpels Oriens, but it smelled like a floral and the whole point of this excursion was to get something that wasn't a floral. The saleswoman insisted that it wasn't a floral, it was an oriental. I sprayed in on my wrist, loved it, really believed it to be a floral. Now, not like any of the florals I already own, clearly very different, but still, floral. I asked her to tell me what the notes were. Am I the only person who asks these things? It felt like it. Finally she found a piece of paper that listed the notes. She read down the list, naming lots of flowers, which I pointed out, but still she insisted, no, they weren't the main notes, this is an ORIENTAL scent.

I thanked her, walked out of the store and pulled up Google on my phone. In a review, I learned:

. . . the name is misleading. Van Cleef & Arpels Oriens is not an oriental fragrance. This Eau de Parfum is reportedly intended to evoke “the ever-changing mystery and magic of the exotic silk route to Asia,” and it’s being billed as a “fruity floral chypre.” Created by perfumer Bernard Ellena, it features top notes of raspberry, black currant, and praline; middle notes of jasmine and fresh-cut white flowers; and a base of patchouli


In its opening phase, a candied orange note is most noticeable. The white florals of the fragrance’s heart, despite their jasmine-centered claim, are airy and not at all animalic. The base, which gradually emerges and hovers beneath the long-lasting fruit notes, is a soft, dry cocoa with just a whisper of spice. If you’re not a patchouli fan, don’t worry; the patchouli is discreet and mild. Nor, despite the Oriens press release’s description of this scent as a “fruity floral chypre,” does it register as a chypre. “Semi-gourmand fruity floral” would be a more accurate tag.

Now I don't have any fruity florals, but my goal was something not floral.

I walked back into the store, avoided the main perfume counter I was just at and went to the Chanel counter. Elisa Gabbert recommended the new Chanel Cristalle Eau Verte, a citrus-green. The Chanel saleswoman could also confirm this was new. When it comes to perfume all you need to know is how NEW is it. All you assholes wearing scents from last year are assholes. Apparently. This saleswoman also knew that when she wore this scent she received very many compliments. I think "I get a lot of compliments" means "everyone wants to fuck me." What else could it mean?

She also wanted to show me Chanel's new floral scent, but I declined, repeating that I'm was not considering florals this time. She snapped You don't like florals?!? It seemed the idea of diversifying one's perfume collection is as weird as wanting to know what ingredients are in the perfume.

I tried the Cristalle Eau Verte ("retains the “original honeysuckle accord” of Cristalle and adds magnolia--other notes: lemon, bergamot, neroli, jasmine, and abstract white flowers"). It was nice. I already had Oriens on my wrist, so I put the Cristalle on my elbow. It doesn't smell like anything I currently own. Chris really liked it. Later that evening at the Cheryl's Gone reading (Elisa Gabbert, Chris Tonelli, Chris Salerno, Julie Enszer), I went up to people and said: Smell my elbow which most interpreted as some perverted come-on or some sort of mean trick where I then break their noses and point out what fat assholes they are for smelling my elbow. Poets are so paranoid. Anyhow, all the men preferred the Chanel citrusy scent (who's the pervert now, gentlemen?).

The next day I ordered both perfumes on the the internet so I wouldn't have to go back and deal with perfume counter people. Yes, they're florals, but we're talking a fruity floral and a citrus-green floral and that's totally different.


  1. Smell my elbow. Thank you! Yet another way for me to alienate myself from people.

    Poetry Prompt: Write a poem using the word chypre.

    Just kidding.

    Once a guy in the factory asked what kind of perfume I was wearing. He said he wanted to buy his wife some so she'd smell like me.



  2. I like the parts where you say "asshole." Reb is funny.

    I hope you enjoy your new purchases! Almost all lady-fumes have some floral notes so I wouldn't worry too much about a bit of overlap, as long as you're hitting different flavors of floral.

  3. I love reading about your scent escapades. I prefer citrusy scents myself--I like things that smell clean. Woodsy is an area I'm branching out into. I've been really happy with my Grey Vetiver...and Beau wears Gucci which makes me CRAZY...with delight.

  4. And also, I usually scent-shop at Nordstrom because they tend to have good customer service. Unless you live in Maryland, where the scent-dudes ask you what you want and if you say you're looking for something new, they leave. In AZ, they asked me what I liked and what I was looking for. She handed me one scent and I said, "No, that's not it..." She handed me another and I was like, "Yes, that's the one." Why is that so hard??

  5. Rebecca, "smell my elbow" is surprisingly effective.

    Elisa, I'm looking forward to them -- thank you for your expertise.

    Charlie, I agree, Nordstrom (at least at Tyson's) has good, knowledgeable salespeople. I will likely stick to that in the future. I was trying to branch out to fancy-town, but was reminded that I really don't belong there. I will check out that Gucci scent for Chris --always looking for ways to go CRAZY WITH DELIGHT.