There’s a new reality tv show in America that I just cannot bring myself to watch called “Preacher’s Daughters”. Having grown up one, I simply cannot sit and watch another generation of them squirm their way into adulthood under the magnification lens of their local congregation. Been-there-done-that hardly begins to describe the déjà vu I would have to live through.
To begin with, the South, the part of the US that is below the Mason Dixon, the part with the un-pc flags and the occasional bumper sticker announcing to tailgaters that it “will rise again”, has always possessed a curious sorting system with regard to females – some of them are judged “no ‘count”.
This was how it was pronounced in my childhood (and by the way, this notion of no ‘countness crossed the color bar and the age barrier as well). Demotic for “no account.” Some gals were just no ‘count, and that was that. The no ‘count ones were distinct and separate from other women, who were respectable, and they smelled different, too.
The no ‘count woman wore certain perfumes, and not others. Respectable ladies, single or otherwise, wore rose scents or lemon scents or verbena, or lilacs or if they were a little daring, a pretty white floral perfume not too indolic, and the closest any of those perfumes ever came to the line (remember, this was the no ‘count line) was Fracas.
Fracas was OK, but you didn’t want to go down that route too far. Tuvache’s Jungle Gardenia on the other hand, may, have been a no ‘count perfume. Others in the no ‘count line included anything musky. Schiaparelli’s Shocking and Tabu, were definitely no ‘count.
(Of course, and much to my horror, Mother, who never had the slightest sense of either taste or smell, wore Tabu. How the congregation reacted to that I shudder to think. No doubt this explains my father’s frequent attempts to get her to wear a little respectable Arpege. But I digress.)
In more recent years, the animalic perfumes with a bit too much leather, or the overly tarty white floral – right on the edge of which White Shoulders always teetered – have remained on the list of no ‘countness, although anyone can wear them now with nothing more than a healthy sense of irony to counter-balance their effect. I’m thinking of things like Paco Rabanne’s La Nuit, original Ungaro, or Etat Libre d’Orange’s Vierges et Toreros which practically wink at the wearer and asks them, “Hey Romy, what does this remind you of?”
Oh well, now we are post-modern and lucky and any of us can wear anything they like without provoking an avalanche of presuppositions about morality or personal character. But I still think that the no ‘count perfumes would smell, by and large, better on men these days. Or preachers’ teenage daughters. Who else has the panache in their purse to carry them off?