Shared Atmospheres

Atmospheres we enjoy

Atmospheres we enjoy

The end of the twentieth century was very concerned with clear atmospheres.  This was probably because of crowding in public spaces which I suppose also meant crowded air.  Perfume and cigarettes, those two great offenders, were sometimes banned, although the evidence that perfume harmed anyone was extremely spotty.  Still what it meant for me was caution. Now I do not wear perfume anywhere that contains a large number of people e.g. airplanes, offices, restaurants, theaters.  What’s left?

Here’s the odd part.  I used to like shared atmosphere as a child.  I enjoyed going to church and huffing whatever the lady in the fur wrap was wearing.  My mom’s Tabu I  avoided but when she changed to Fidji, that was quite another matter. Women on subway trains trailed something cheap and cheerful like Friendship Garden (essentially a knock off of No 5) or later there was Coty’s Sweet Earth series and patchouli made the nearness of hippie chicks bearable.

After 1990 or so things began to change.  Cigarettes had to go smoke outside and perfume, after the after the massive assaults of Poison and Giorgio on the public’s nasal cavities, began to dissipate into a harmless mist of vanilla. Then even these vanilla perfumes (Tocade for example) began to disappear.  It was so marked a change that when I was in France this last summer I was surprised by the perfume floating

Cosmetics, creams, and deodorants we're not sure of..

Cosmetics, creams, and deodorants we’re not sure of..

around the air at Versailles.  And yes, the smells were lovely.

So now I wonder how far is right in public?  Sometimes when I miss perfume ( or to be precise good perfume, I don’t count the synthetic horrors too many people wear now) and so dab on a micro dose of Apres L’Ondee or Strange Invisible Perfumes’ Dimanche. I feel just a little bit guilty. But what am I guilty of exactly?

Besides all this caution of mine may be a waste of time anyway since I still smell a torrent of chemication passing me on the street.  Only now it’s Febreeze, or Downy, or Tide avec odeur, or heaven preserve us, AXE. The mix is far more offensive than a little perfume.

This all feeds into the question I once asked about individuals smelling rich or poor?  If rich, the answer is carefully curated vintage or artisanal, probably stored in climate controlled wine cellars. You smell different than everybody else if you wear the good

And perfume which is often vilified...

And perfume which is often vilified…

stuff.  Like fabulous peanut butter, as my daughter once said of a Guerlain LE I was wearing (Oriental Brulant I think from the Elixir Charnels). Or else like real flowers, or else like incense from a church censor.  You don’t smell of cheap chemicals.

This is unfortunate to my mind.  The twentieth century did have one thing right and that was affordable, democratic luxury.  L’Aimant wasn’t expensive, but it was good, now the

dividing line is between approved but not very good molecules and rarely encountered high end ones.

Which atmospheres should be shared?  Should etiquette demand that we don’t wear perfume in public?  Even if we enthusiasts don’t, aren’t we still going to get cheap industrial perfumery?  Which is air pollution and which is perfume?  What do you think?

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8 thoughts on “Shared Atmospheres

  1. Oh I wear perfume in public all the time. If I didn’t I would hardly ever wear perfume. So my fellow commuters this morning might not have liked my vintage Rive Gauche? Well, too bad. I don’t have a very long commute though, and I always go light on the spritzer (especially with RG). I do also try to be season and occasion appropriate. I wore Shalimar parfum to an evening wedding recently, but I would not dream of wearing that one on the bus.

    Maybe that’s the thing with a lot of perfumery these days. It’s all so alike that no-one need be troubled by whether or not their perfume matches the occasion. Everyone wears the same sort of thing all the time so you can’t go wrong, can you? 🙁

    1. Mademoiselle Coco or something exactly like it in NYC, Alien in Jersey, and here it’s…La Vie est Belle! Yes it is pretty much interchangeable. That’s a good point, you might as well wear what you want in those circumstances.

      Rive Gauche must have made a nice change for the commuters, and good for you! On the contrast side, I had to go to the eye doctor’s with the Hub and wore DSH’s Bois de Rose, only to be confronted with a “This is a fragrance free office sign.” Sigh.

  2. I just love this blog. Brings back so many memories. You mention Tabu, Coty Sweet Earth, L’Aimant….ah the memories. And I enjoy the shared fragrances of perfumed people all around me. (and darn that eye doctor’s sign about no fragrance, I feel your pain.)

    My only compassion about folks who are allergic to fragrance came when a dearly beloved teacher of ours had a sensitivity to such things. I became a lot more sympathetic, but it still chafes to have to remove all sweet smells from life.

    I myself am slightly allergic to Febreze. You made me laugh about AXE, I recall when that was hot stuff. And some of the deodorants have really gotten powerful scents in them now. I’ll never forget the smell of Right Guard at summer camp.
    Now Old Spice has the Wolfthorn, which I really like.

    What about throwing a PERFUME PARTY so you can share the atmosphere with friends who are not allergic to fragrance? Everyone could bring over her fave fragrance. Like a cookie swap.

    You could have a drawing for grand prize rare bottle of perfume, or just consolation prizes where everyone takes home a sample.

    Guests could each stand up and share their fave fragrance and tell its history.

    Maybe everybody could leave with a scented candle (or soap). Oh the fun!

    Keep writing this so joyous blog.

    1. Thank you- glad that you enjoy it! Puts a buoyancy in the step for sure.

      Some people do throw perfume parties which I think is a great idea. They will do sniffing and commenting which is a lot of fun. The other great fun is to do the Sniffapalooza for new fragrances in NYC, but that does get fatiguing to the nose after a while!

  3. I have often been offended by sillage briefly inhaled in public places, but I believe in the freedom to wear perfume, however little to my liking. And even though I am sometimes troubled by allergies myself these days, albeit not specifically to perfume to my knowledge, I wouldn’t have others modify their behaviour on my account. And I do smell a LOT of things I don’t care for in the general ambient air, as much on men as women it must be said.

    1. Your comment about men tallies with what I caught on the air in Paris. A larger proportion of men seem to be wearing aggressive fragrance ( actually it’s not fragrance properly speaking so much as olfactory artillery)

      I wonder how the Tube smells these days? It’s a relatively restricted space and quite a number of conflicting odors! Here the train to Boston tends to smell largely of sweat ;-(

  4. I think that cheap body washes and shampoos/conditioners are much more prevalent as public “odor offenders” than perfumes are these days (not to mention clothes treated with mega-scented dryer sheets and laundry soap).

    I had some contractors over to do some electrical work in the basement about a year ago. The two guys showed up bright and early, with wet hair from having showered. One or both of them had used some kind of red-fruity shampoo or conditioner that had sillage like nuclear fallout… I could still smell it in the basement office the next day. Nothing like trying to frantically air out a basement room in the middle of the winter! (I was happy to freeze my butt off for a few hours to get of that horrendous smell.)

    I bet a lot of people blame “perfume” for any sweet-floral-fruity smell they don’t like in public spaces, not realizing that it’s probably body wash/shampoo/dryer sheets/air freshener…

    1. Amen. You said it, those dryer sheets are a menace. Let’s just not get started on deodorants, blech.

      Once upon a time people wore a perfume that had a soap and sometimes a powder or even a deodorant in the same line. That was nice in the sense that you didn’t get horrible smell clashs e.g. red berries and fake oud, or “melon” and maltol. Now you get a form of personal air pollution 🙁

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