Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I Wore This: Dior Addict (Original)

(Or: Why I Seem to Have Stopped Writing "Reviews")

For a long time now (let's throw a number out and say five months) I've spent more time on customer review sites than on perfume blogs proper. Until recently, I didn't really ask myself why. I must have just concluded, in some hazy region of my hamster wheel mind, buried chin deep in everyday routine, that I'd lost interest in perfume. Why else wouldn't I want to read in depth analysis, let alone write it?

I guess it gradually occurred to me that a loss of interest wasn't borne out by the amount of time I spend on, say, Fragrantica, a site I visit at least ten times a day - often impulsively. It gradually occurred to me, in some equally hazy way, that I don't want to write or read about perfume the same way anymore. The blog review has come to feel essentially reductive to me: these are the notes, this is the perfumer, here's a brief evocative list of things this scent evokes or recalls or references. Here is how long it lasts, here is something the perfumer told to me at a cocktail party I was invited to as I stood at the red hot center of the fragrance industry. Here is the history.

Whose history?

I appreciate the notes. The anecdotal information can be interesting. Knowing that you see a woman standing under a tree eating an apple in a flowing white gauzy dress when you smell this perfume is...maybe over-sharing. It's at least beside the point. The problem for me is that the monolith this template has become in aggregate, across scores of blogs, obstructs in some ways and minimizes in others what perfume actually does for or to me. It makes fantasy feel rote. There is a catalog element to a great deal of perfume writing now: Here is this, and this is this that and the other thing. Moving right along, here is another.

How can I expect anyone to see the point in making imaginative, truly inspired fragrances when so much of us spend so much time and space making what we say we love sound so phoned in?

I think I just want to step off the hamster wheel for a while? Maybe that's it. I don't expect to get to the bottom of anything; I want to stop pretending that you should read me because I can, or because it's possible.

I used to stand at my grandmother's vanity to smell her perfumes. I've written this at least twenty times throughout the lifespan of this blog. It's often the only thing that matters to me. I've gone back to that memory my entire adult life. The sun coming through the windows, the colors of her pale rug, the gilt mirrored tray the perfumes sat on, the light blue velvet chaise off to the side with an afghan my grandmother made draped across it. She made all of us afghans like it. My sister got one in the same colors. I was a boy, so mine was red, white, and blue.

It was difficult for me to pretend to sit on that blue chaise in my own room, back at home, with that red, white, and blue afghan. I used to sneak into my sister's room to sit with hers. In my memories I chart one forbidden moment after another like that; I sneak into an endless series of rooms, rooting around where I'm not meant to be. For a long time I had a recurring dream: The house was always different, but it always had a secret room I discovered during the course of the dream. The room was enormous, stockpiled with deep dark glamorous (to me) family secrets.

It occurs to me writing this that part of the reason I store my fragrances the way I do, deeply layered in no particular order, stacks upon stacks, in a bureau, is because it makes looking for anything involve finding many things I'd forgotten about. It recreates that sense of discovery and secrecy. This entire system of memories exists in the perfumed air surrounding my grandmother's vanity.

I'm always finding Dior Addict pushed back to the rear. I might have three bottles to make sure that virtually anywhere I dig I'm bound to come across it. I don't know why I don't wear it more often, or why I want to keep being reminded it's there in this particular way.


The Scented Hound said...

Aahhh, you're having the blogger malaise. Does anyone care? Who am I doing this for? Does it all seem the same? Am I killing my love for perfume? I think we all go through such periods and it's a bit freaky. And add to that all the fickleness of thinking you love something, until the next best thing comes along and you go running. Take a break and'll find a happy medium and a new direction!

Brian said...

I think this is my break. It feels refreshing to talk about perfume in a way I'm not used to. It was feeling formulaic to me for a while, and I remained pretty silent. I'm ready to talk again but trying to learn a new language.

Gwenyth said...

I like reading your words, Brian, because of the way you approach perfumes from a different direction than many/most perfume bloggers. In your writing there is frequently a different 'slant', a slightly off-hand way you discuss things, or a way of looking at perfume the way I look at paintings sometime ---- with my eyes slightly unfocused and partially squinted shut. Really? you might ask...but by looking at paintings that way I see colors in a different way and, for me, the painting as a whole, seen slightly off-center, becomes more meaningful.

I enjoying reading about new releases. I enjoy reading about new trends. However, the bottom line is that perfumes-scents-fragrances are deeply meaningful to me (always have been) and I like reading about old ones, new ones, ones I love, ones I didn't think I liked. All of them, actually.

I identify with your memories of sniffing your Grandmother's perfumes. My mother had a small coffret of Chanel perfumes brought to her from Paris by my Uncle. The little bottles were so exotic and other-worldly to my childish eyes and they smelled that way, too. It was magical to slip into my mother's bedroom, find the special little box, open it to find the precious bottles standing in a row - each nestled in its little square- and, oooh, how they smelled. I think all of that mystique started me on my perfume path. I still adore Chanel fragrances.


I've enjoyed reading ismellthereforeiam for many years now. (I miss Abigail, btw)

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I hope this post wasn't inspired by my previous comments about enjoying your new "series" of blog writings. What's strange and amusing is that I had written a whole paragraph (that I chose not to include with my response) about how this new "series" felt so fresh, and that your writing felt more "honest" somehow....that it wasn't just filled with the same ole stuff ( list of notes, how long it lasts, etc). I feel like this new direction you are dabbling in affords you the opportunity to speak about the physical, emotional and intellectual effects of the fragrances that YOU love in an engaging and heart-felt way.
Anyway, as I've mentioned multiple times now, I really like where this is heading......kudos to you, Brian.

Brian said...

Hi Markos. Gosh, not at all. I'd been thinking about why it is I don't seem to want to write about perfume in the same old way I have been, and decided to try however feebly to put that down.

Actually, despite whatever I'm saying, my feelings have less to do with how other people are writing and more to do with a desire to write differently myself, in some way commensurate with where I'm at and how I feel these days about perfume and about things in general.

I'm glad you're enjoying it, and I'm glad to have heard from you. I'm enjoying doing it, and it feels more honest to me too.


Brian said...

Hi Gwyneth,

Gosh, I miss Abigail too. It was a special part of my life doing this blog with her, engaging in a unique kind of ongoing conversation together. I still sometimes look at her old posts to reconnect with that and with the blogs origins. And I still think of it as "our" blog. I'm also glad she's at a place she gets good things from in her life, even if it's not THIS space for the time being or permanently.

Your childhood Chanel story made my morning. In spirit, my grandmother's room is adjacent to your mother's, and we can go from one room to the next sniffing away.

Brian said...

Of course I got it wrong. Gwenyth. I'm sorry.

queen_cupcake said...

Ah, Brian, Gwenyth's response, particularly her first sentence, really describes my feelings about your writings. Let the hamster wheel run in other quarters...I have been taking a break from reading there. I absolutely loved reading about you in your grandmother's room, and also in your sister's room, with her afghan! I never knew my grandmothers, and my mother wasn't much for perfumes or other vanity items. But she did have a walk-in closet lined with cedar boards, including the ceiling. I used to go in there and just sit among the wool blankets and unfinished sewing projects so that I could breathe in that cedar fragrance. I will always look forward to reading you.

Brian said...

You guys are sweet. And I enjoy reading you as much as you say you enjoy reading me, I bet. I can't speak for other bloggers but hearing from people who are reading you, reading them in return, is for me such a major incentive to keep carving out a line of communication here. Cupcake, I wonder how many of us sat in our parent's or grandparent's spaces this way. My grandmother had a cedar closet upstairs in the attic (attics: some of my favored places as a kid) that I loved to lock myself into. Not just the smell of the wood but fur coats and wools. Yum.

Elisa said...

How strange. I have literally never mentioned Dior Addict in a recommendation capacity before, but I wrote a review today (sorry, one of those basic ones) and DA just popped into my head as a better alternative.

It seems like a lot of people are moving to a simple "I wore this today" format, and I love it. Ari's "dailies," the SOTD polls on NST, and your "I wore this" posts...just knowing what people are wearing is often enough.

Brian said...

Weird minds think alike? Yeah, I feel like just talking about it in general opens up new thought waves. I'd gotten to a point where I felt pretty tyrannized but what I expected myself to write.

Katy said...

I think the struggle of writing about any art form is finding the words and ways to express how certain fragrances resonate with us emotionally. It is not so much about how things smell, because we know that our perception of the actual molecules is profoundly influenced by genes and other variables most of us have no control over. I belief the thing that keeps us reading and writing is our desire to express and to understand how a certain perfume makes us feel, and not just ourselves, but others too. I think real and very meaningful discourse takes place here and other places like this. Scent is so personal and intimate, and public and scary. Not only am I wafting clouds of Opium, but also leaving a trail that will lead right to my heart and the memory of my beautiful Mother and my parent's disastrous marriage. Old Spice, for a while after my Father died, I would randomly smell his cologne, with no one else around, driving in my car in the middle of nowhere. Was it actually him? Was it me and my longing for him tricking my senses? I too store my perfume out of sight, in an antique oak dresser. I wonder, to protect them and myself?

Pat Borow/Olfacta said...

Sometimes, I think, one has to back away from all the noise, the reviews, keeping up with the other blogs, etc because it becomes work, and who wants that? After two years away I'm back to thinking about fragrance again and I may (or not) write about it again. We'll see. I know I'll never go back to "who said what about what" which is why I backed off in the first place.

Brian said...

Pat, this is truly exciting news. The May, not the or not.

Brian said...

Beautifully said, Katy. I enjoyed that comment immensely.

RM said...

Brian, I've typed and re-typed my comment in ten different ways but have abandoned all my attempts due to the fact that I couldn't properly articulate what I was trying to say AND I wanted to sound really cool and smart and introspective but I'm none of those things and so just ended up sounding like a wanker.

So I will just say, I hope you never stop writing because I love how honest and deeply you connect perfume with who you are, your life, your experiences/memories and the people around you.

Very few bloggers give as much of themselves as you do.

And that's ok, I guess everyone's comfortable doing whatever they're doing.

Whatever approach you take, I'll keep reading! As long as that approach involves you writing!