When I was growing up, perfume was controversial. My Mom had a sensitivity to the majority of scents, but to evolve into a proper teen, I needed to drench myself in exactly what every other girl in my class was wearing too.
It never worked out. While my Mom compromised by buying me scented body glitter or solid perfume I’d appily mercilessly to my wrists, I was still without real perfume the guy I liked (and I guess anybody else) would link to me forever. No amount of drugstore brand body spray (in Peach™ and Hawaiian Ginger™) could make up for a lack of Y2K-era eau de toilette, so I made peace with the notion that one day I’d advocate for my own signature scent, parental sensitivities be damned.
But the thing about signature-anythings is that they’re truly boring -- a discovery I made when my newfound disposable income mysteriously correlated with my Mom seeming to care less about what I was wearing, or how much. In my late teens and early 20s I shelled out for every pop star and heiress-branded perfume you could possibly dream of, which made it totally impossible to settle on a go-to -- especially since each scent seemed to correspond with certain moods, outfits, and destinations. (And, well, duh: if I was heading out for a night of $2 drinks, it would’ve been a crime not to wear the perfume of a woman whose reality show gave us a brief two-word catchphrase I planned to use that night.
...there are no less than 6000 scents released per day, and infinite moods from which to draw from
Plus, the older I got, the more the notion of a “signature scent” seemed like something rooted in high school social hierarchy. Who wants to smell the same all the time? Who has the time to sit back and equate friends and family and crushes with a particular scent? Once in high school, my friend and I realized the guys we liked wore the same cologne, and then accidentally spilled it all over ourselves at the department store, which was immediately terrible because, a) so was the cologne, and b) it had ended terribly with each guy, so for weeks our backpacks wreaked of teen boy and regret.
Not to mention that on top of the responsibility of being alive, we can’t expect to be saddled with expectations when it comes to perfume. Not when there are no less than 6000 scents released per day, and infinite moods from which to draw from. Sometimes I want to smell like whatever a boy band’s put out that year, and other times I want to equate myself to an English garden because I’ve watched no less than 24 hours of Victoria. At the weekend, I actually splurged on my first-ever Chanel (Chance, BTW) to celebrate some good news. But I would rather walk into the ocean than smell the same every day.
The thing is, signature scents made more sense when the way we consumed them was different. Once upon a time, perfume was more expensive, less available, and a goddamn splurge you somehow made last for eons. Today, we can pick up roller-balls for the price of a few fancy coffees -- and thank goodness, because brands have begun issuing new products on a seasonal basis. Perfumes and scents aren’t reserved for the rich grown-ups or the aesthetically elite or for special occasions. Now, they’re as accessible as lipstick and boast as many options.
At 31, the idea of settling for one brand, one scent, one choice makes as much sense as wearing only clear lip gloss for the rest of my life
And as they should be: we’re multi-faceted people existing in the Year of our Lord 2017 who can hardly be limited to existing within the constraints of being Just One Way. Over the last few years especially, we’ve begun embracing fashion-for-one’s-self over following trends, rejected the notion of abiding by a particular aesthetic, and we’ve starting challenging body type myths. (Fact: the ideal beach body is one that goes to the beach, so congratulations to all of us.) Which extends into scents: on days where I have work to do in my sweatpants at home, I’m certainly not going to elect to wear the same fragrance as when I want to come across as The Boss (Even though I’ll argue that you can certainly be the boss in your jogging pants.) Sometimes I want to feel fancy, and other times I want to compensate for how fancy I do not want to feel at all (wedding attire be damned). And more often than not, I want to capitalize on our zest for nostalgia by wearing the brands I couldn’t swing back in high school because I’m a grown-ass woman who makes her own choices. So there.
At a retail job I had years ago I remember telling a girl I worked with that I couldn’t settle for wearing just one perfume because I had the attention span of a gnat to say the least. She was horrified. “But how will everyone know your signature scent?” she gasped. And I was confused. I’m still confused. At 31, the idea of settling for one brand, one scent, one choice makes as much sense as wearing only clear lip gloss for the rest of my life. Especially since it’s all part of our battle armour anyway. And some days you’re channeling the version of yourself who lived for $2 drinks. Others, you’re telling yourself you could totally replace Claire Foy in The Crown.
But that’s a conversation about my hopes and dreams for another day.