My strongest, earliest, and best memories of childhood are infused with scent. Though the combination of hair spray, menthol cigarettes, and Breck shampoo may not sound inviting to most, to me it is the earliest, and most abiding, aroma of love. For my mother, who both gave birth and died too young, there was great […]Read More Cigarettes, Aqua Net, and drugstore perfumes: My mother’s scented legacy
“What do you think of this?” I ask hopefully, as I place my perfume-scented wrist near my friend’s face. When her nose wrinkles and she pulls away, I hear a scale descending into a minor chord. I am disappointed. “What IS that?” she asks, and, as all hope that she will share my pleasure is […]Read More Respecting the tastes and opinions of others: Is tolerance really the best we can do?
You know someone, don’t you, who can be counted on to go “blech!” when they try to eat anything new to them. Whether it’s kohlrabi or Brazil nuts or hummus, the “ick!” is out of their mouth almost before the food has gone in. It’s the sort of reaction we might expect from children, but […]Read More When perfume becomes a doorway into mindfulness
The Ann Cleeves character, Vera Stanhope, wears thick walking sandals, no makeup, and is generally unafraid to take up space. A British police inspector from a shady working class background — her father was a sort of thief — Vera has no husband, no children, and no lover. She eschews aerobics and yoga and “fitness […]Read More Sod off! The feminist frumpiness of Vera Stanhope
The world of perfume exhibits some of the most regressive and progressive tendencies when it comes to gender. On the one hand, mainstream designer offerings are typically rigidly segregated by gender with “women’s releases” constituting a vomitus of pink fruity florals in shapely bottles and men’s offerings focused on synthetic woods, ambers and leathers in […]Read More Beyond “sugar and spice”: The queer side of niche perfume
When I finally got around to reading the first book in the historical mystery series featuring amateur Egyptologist Amelia Peabody, I was struck by its overtly imperialist aesthetic. Set in the late 19th century, it parodies and celebrates English archeologists. It also patronizes the local people at every turn. For the White Western reader, it […]Read More Vicarious living through Comme des Garçons: Exoticism and cultural appropriation
The Avon bottle looked like a stagecoach and sat precarious and dusty on the spindly metal shelving in the single bathroom shared by my family in the 70s. The beer-bottle brown angular container wasn’t easily identifiable as a stagecoach. It was so abstracted or, perhaps, so poorly designed, so that I couldn’t easily associate it […]Read More Queer eye on Father’s Day: Masculinity and subversive gay style