As I mentioned back at the end of December, I’ve amassed a substantial collection of perfume over the past few years, thanks to reading blog reviews and books and purchasing samples from a variety of online shops.
Choosing a perfume to set or enhance the tone for my day has become just about my favorite thing to do in the morning. If I’m desiring courage, romance, comfort, playfulness, sensuality, grounding, authority, mystery, or countless other qualities, there’s probably something in my stash that’ll help me achieve the effect I’m looking for.
On days when I’m called to run a meeting at work or otherwise need to feel more powerful, I’ll choose something commanding but a little austere, perhaps with a prominent vetiver note like Chanel Sycomore or Hermes Terre d’Hermes, or perhaps something incensey like Neela Vermeire Trayee or Comme des Garcons Avignon. If I really need to amp up the take-no-prisoners attitude, I’ll opt for something almost smouldering, like Profumum Fumidus or Bulgari Black—sending out a not-so-subtle cue to stand the fuck back.
Last week I was a nervous wreck about my appointment at the bank to set up a special needs trust for my autistic sister. Though my amazing lawyers had helped me get all my ducks in a row beforehand, I was still feeling anxious about going in there alone. For days beforehand, I dithered about the paperwork, wondering if I would have all the information that I needed, hoping not to make a fool out of myself or irrevocably mess up something legally or financially.
The morning of the appointment, before I even got out of bed, I started mentally going through my roster of perfumes, making a list of the most warlike things I had in my collection. I wanted to find something that would, I dunno, strike fear into the hearts of the bankers or help me assert my dominance over this small chunk of money that felt like it had been holding me hostage. I considered all of the perfumes mentioned above and more, but nothing felt right. Nothing felt like it would possibly be strong enough.
So I changed tack. I thought maybe I should wear my father’s favorite scent, Dior Eau Sauvage. I’d worn it to his wake and funeral, both as a tribute to the little joys in his life and so that I wouldn’t ruin one of my own perfumes by forever associating it with that sad occasion. Now I was going to be closing yet another chapter on his legal affairs by taking this small bit of money he’d been able to leave for us and making sure a portion of it would be protected for my sister’s future use. It seemed like wearing that perfume might be a fitting gesture. But it too felt wrong. There still wasn’t enough me in the equation.
And that’s when I realized my fundamental error in judgment with this—I didn’t need something that made me feel more like some marauding warrior or that hearkened back to the past. I needed something that made me feel more gentle, more forgiving, more free.
Go femme. Go soft. This is your power, I heard something whisper to me intuitively.Like having one of those dreams where you discover a door that leads to a previously undiscovered room in your house, I suddenly remembered to connect to the so-often ignored power of my own femininity. I surprise myself again and again these days by bringing myself back to the simple truth that I am a woman and that I have permission to explore how that affects the way I move through the world in my body. I can allow the essence of my womanliness to inform my life and my decisions rather than fighting and fighting and fighting to form myself into some kind of sexless powerbot trying to chart my course solely by the rules and expectations of men.
So I clothed myself in a soft grey sweater dress and applied dewy, shimmery makeup, ever so slightly steering myself away from the monochromatic black shirts and black leggings and harsh, saturated eyeshadows that I’ve been gravitating to recently. And I instantly knew that my scent had to be Guerlain L’Heure Bleue.
I liberally doused myself with what remained of my small sample of the eau de parfum and almost literally could feel the tension dropping from my shoulders, my blood pressure ebbing back from its previous mission-critical spike. The perfume helped me remember that there wasn’t actually anything to fight here, that if I was presented with a question I couldn’t answer, I could just be honest about it rather than blustering along with a hedged response, hoping to save face.
The perfume also helped bring me back to the remembrance that I was unequivocally doing a Good Thing by jumping through all these legal and financial hoops—I was disconnecting myself and my siblings from my father’s toxic failure narrative that he hadn’t been able to provide for us “like a man.” I was also demonstrating for my incredibly anxiety-ridden sister that she doesn’t have to live in fear of being abandoned.
The meeting itself ended up going swimmingly. The two women helping me set up the account could not have been more helpful or easy to work with. They went to great lengths to let me know that if I needed any subsequent help, they would be ready and available to assist with whatever I could possibly need. I left the bank branch with a palpable feeling of relief, and of having reset the tone for my financial future, and my sister’s, away from combat and insecurity, and toward a place of love and quiet confidence.