My foray into fragrance: an introduction (mini-podcast episode #1)

Most women have specific, positive experiences about the perfumes they remember from their childhoods.
I do not.
I am not like most women. Not saying this in a negative way, it’s just the truth.
My earliest memory of a perfume, sometime before I turned 10, was a negative one. My bougie auntie would come to visit us every summer with her family. The downstairs bathroom was where she would “put on her warpaint,” as my father, her brother, would say. Her signature scent is called First, which I have only this year learned has been around since the 1970s. Holy cow.
The version of me back then was a quiet, insecure child who played with her Barbies and listened to the Beatles in her bedroom. I did not care for when this awful smell was created and where it was from (Paris, of course). All I knew was that my aunt would spray this on her wrists, and I would immediately run away because the alcohol and the smell that followed were so offensive to me. I was so scarred from the experience that I always assumed that A) perfumes would always be too strong for me and B) if being a proper lady meant wearing and tolerating such noxious perfumes, then I guess I would not be a lady after all.
My mother did not wear scent when I was a child. As a result, I was missing the one major female role model for fragrance that most young girls have as a given. If any of my friends in school wore perfume, I never detected it. Any time a boy came near me and I smelled something on him, it was either a deodorant like my brother’s or rank BO. It wasn’t like I had anyone my age to discuss the finer details of fragrance, let alone the basics of when and where you should wear it.
I am like my mother, sensitive to all smells, though she takes the cake for being the most sensitive person to any smell in existence. If a new scent is within decent proximity to her, she detects it and asks why it’s there. Sometimes I think she alone has access to the smell-o-vision setting on the tv set.
I like things that smell good. But really, who doesn’t?
For years, I relied on lightly scented lotions from Bath and Body Works because for me, they were just enough scent to be pleasant to my nose. They worked, and I didn’t see any reason to buy anything else.
Who was I trying to impress?, the voice in my head would say. Don’t try to be someone else. Stop it. That’s not you.
I now recognize that those thoughts were put-downs, a belief that was a direct translation from all the times that I was rejected by the boys at school. That because I wasn’t like the other girls – I was not white, I was not an alpha female who was ever comfortable speaking up, I was a flat-chested late bloomer, I didn’t wear makeup, I lived with a chronic illness that meant I could not participate in many rites of passage at that time of life – I was not worthy of the things that make young women who they are and give them identities that they take into their adult lives.
I had been othered in so many ways, I had been subconsciously programmed to think I was not worthy of having things that boosted my self-esteem and my awareness around what it felt like to be a young woman. I’m sure it also didn’t help that I didn’t have any women my age I felt I could confide in or felt I could receive support from.
Personal fragrance is such a powerful form of self-expression and once you find one that reflects who you are, it engenders such self-confidence. If I knew then what I know now about fragrance, and if I had positive experiences or seen positive reactions to women’s perfume first-hand, I would have embraced it with open arms.

It’s taken me weeks of sniffing and testing to find something I think I can live with. It’s called Blackberry Lily and it’s from The 7 Virtues, a woman-owned and -founded Canadian brand whose perfumes are natural and vegan. They source the essential oils in their products from farmers in nations who are rebuilding after war and conflict, and they pay them fair wages for their crops. Fair do’s to whatever fragrance you choose to wear, as it comes down to personal choice. I’m happy that for my first Grown-Up eau de parfum, I’ve invested in one that betters the lives of others on this planet.

Future posts and recorded audio here will go deeper into my experiences as a 40-something woman just starting out learning about the fragrance world. I have been trying to find my signature scent, and it’s been an interesting ride so far, that’s for sure. Thanks for joining me.
Photo at top is from pixabay.

Classical piano clips used in the audio file were taken from the public domain file of Aya Higuchi performing Chopin’s Nocturne in E flat major, Opus 9, Number 2, at the website of 501(c)(3) nonprofit Musopen.

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