Saturday, May 18, 2013

Olfactory Associations

I am steadily completing the features for the book, and as expected, there is a lot to say.  One of my farmers market friends is a woman who is a stewardess, and she has recently picked up the route to Paris.  She goes for just two days at a time, but she stays for free and her husband goes with her, and they are having a marvelous time rediscovering Paris after flying to Asia for several years.  And it seems like every Saturday morning, no matter what we chat about, the conversation invariably turns to Paris, either talking about the book or her next trip or I forgot to mention such and such place that she must try next time.  She is pressing me to get it done soon because she is going to turn her wide circle of stewardess girlfriends on to it and get them to buy it.  Mostly, she just wants to have all these little tips and bits in writing after seeing some of it on my iPad at the market.  I know!!! I am writing as fast as I can!!

Today I am finishing the section on Perfume, and I have to say, I have had a particularly tough time getting it started.  Once I get a feature started, it seems to go fairly well, I can organize my thoughts in writing, but this one was tough.  I have had a hard time figuring out how to approach the subject, and mostly how to avoid any mention of people’s negative associations with certain perfumes, which kept popping into my head. 

I admit, when choosing French perfume houses, there was one I knew I had to include, immediately, another I wanted to cover and did, with success, another that I would have liked to have covered but didn’t have time to visit, and another that I already mentioned that would not allow any photos or discussion of any kind, so that house was out.  It all worked out perfectly in the end.  But there is one other that I hesitated to go see, but nixed even before the trip began. It would have been a “confront a demon” kind of a visit though, and I chose not to go there. No, I just can’t do it.

When I lived in New York, I spent a year working for a female managing director, who was very good at being a managing director, but also at scaring the wits out of us financial analysts.  Booming voice, perpetually demanding, large physical presence in very fitted suits and…always in a cloud of her signature French perfume.  You could smell her coming, and you could smell when she had been somewhere five minutes earlier.  It was like a trail of perfume around the office.  And to this day, when I smell that perfume on anyone (thankfully it’s since gone out of style) it gives me this knee-jerk reaction that this woman is going to show up around the corner.  I mean, I can’t stand that perfume.  I don’t even like to see the bottle, it’s almost as bad as smelling it.  Am I the only one who does this perfumey-association?


I saw another friend at the market today and tested out my question on her: “How do you feel when you smell your Mother’s perfume?”  Mother has passed, but her response was short and expected:  “….Angry...”  So there was my answer, I am not alone….


I wanted to be sure to steer the text widely away from this notion, and focus on the positive.  I got going and the text is good, and interesting, though not finished.  I included a few other perfumes that are famous but lesser-known to most.  The first time I smelled one particular perfume, I was with a girlfriend, having fun shopping in Paris, and we both agreed the top note was like getting slapped across the face by a leather glove, followed quickly by a middle note that’s like being hit over the head by a bouquet of carnations and a few batons of vanilla bean and a bunch of other scents. And then you might expect Marlene Dietrich to come slinking around the corner singing, in a tuxedo and silk top hat, as the perfume settles in.  It’s a positive association, and perfectly wonderful fragrance when you are feeling a little racy; I didn’t mention the leather glove would be like this lambskin pretty from Palais Royal~


I wish I lived somewhere cool and chic like Paris, because then I might have bought these gloves.  Faux trench-coat gloves in lambskin, wow; check out the buckle and the inner cuff at top; it’s so me, I am going to add this to Pinterest now. 

Anyway, I feel better telling the story of the perfume, as it is now off my mind.  But I am curious, if you have any perfumes that give you a strong association, positive or negative, when you smell them? OK back to editing now….enjoy the rest of your weekend….


  1. I didn't know you were a financial analyst in NY?
    My son is heading there in a few weeks to intern at UBS.
    I have never worn perfume until this year. After smelling Coco Mademoiselle on my friend and complementing her like crazy, she bought me some or my birthday and I look forward to wearing it every day. I LOVE IT!
    She warned me that I wouldn't be able to smell it on myself too much and she was right. I have never been a perfume girl until this one.
    What do you wear?

  2. Is that an image of the flower market in Grasse?
    (In my dreams Grasse smells like Jasmine and leather.)
    Flowers and Leather!
    Imagine that!
    Ms Andrea has lassoed another one of my dreams!
    I know that I am going to love the article!
    Killer the way!

    1. The market is Paris 16eme, but I will email you all about Grasse....

  3. Dear Andrea, received your call and will call later after Isabella goes back home.
    I am excited about the perfume article. I wear only two perfumes, however one only occasionally and now I am wondering if it is the one you do not like! Ha!

    Come with me on my adventure in France.
    life, possibilities, grace
    a beautiful dream...
    you decide.
    Art by Karena

  4. I can smell my HS boyfriend's cologne and I am a 17 year old schoolgirl again...


  5. I enjoy your posts on France so much and look forward to your book. I have already ordered on Laura's website which has acquainted me with you. I should apologize for not commenting enough on your blog because I know how much work it is. Writing does not come easy for me and I feel intimidated to write to those that write well but I want you to know I appreciate you.

    I adore France and never tire of seeing and hearing about it. I would love to visit there again and again. I've been three times but it was a drop in the bucket of all there is to see and experience.

  6. Have to laugh! I sold Dior, and one day two small boys came to the counter, dollars all scrunched up in tight little fists. They wanted to buy their Mom something really fancy! So I gave them a whiff of Poison, and they both crinkled up their noses, and said Yuck! That smells like dime tap! Remember that grape cold medicine? I took a whiff, and oh my they were spot on! Out of the mouths of babes!

    1. That's the cutest story, Mary Anne! And I agree, that top note does smell just like that cold medicine!

  7. Yesterday we were walking in Brooklyn and after an elderly woman passed us my husband exclaimed, "oh my God she smells just like my grandmother!". I had to inform him it was Chanel No. 5. He went on and on about it for blocks as we walked, he couldn't get over how much that passing perfume reminded him of his beloved grandmother.

    1. Great nose, Jenny...isn't it great when a scent brings back a flood of memories?

  8. I am with French Laundry in that when I smell Ralph Lauren's "Polo" I am sent back to college even triggers 80's dance music, such a fun memory! I have an aversion to musk, as when I was younger, my mother told me never to wear it because it smells like b.o. I don't know if that's true or not, but it frightened me enough to steer clear of it lest I smell of sweaty armpits. Everyone else claims it is sensual so I may be completely missing out! Will look forward to how you attack the scent issue in writing!

  9. I would be in Heaven with those roses. Love flowers.

  10. I am with French Laundry, except for me, Ralph Lauren's "Polo" takes me back to my college days and triggers 80's dance music in my head. What fun! One thing I've always avoided is anything containing "musk" as my mother told me that musk perfume smelled like b.o. I don't know if that's true or not, but I've never worn it. I've heard it described as "sensual" so maybe I'm missing out on something! I will look forward to how you tackle the perfumes via the written word. Can't wait for Reve!

  11. It seems that all my favorite perfumes have a one note floral scent. The first was Devon Violets. My grandfather was from England and gave me a small bottle when I was about 8. So sad when the bottle ran out and it was not made anymore. I have since planted violets in the cooler parts of my yard (I live up in the mountains above San Juan Capistrano.) When the violets are in bloom, it brings back very fond memories of my English Grandfather.

    In college I found another favorite perfume - Belladogia by Caron. It had a spicey carnation scent with oil of Bergamont which I loved. The oil of Bergamont can cause sun-induced skin rashes so it was off the market for a while. I have heard that it has been re-issued but is not the same. Too bad.

    These days I tend to like lavender with just a hint of lemon and vanilla. Don't wear perfume very often now because when I worked with respiratory patients in a hospital, I got out of the habit. However, when I do wear perfune, I probably smell like a lavender tile cookie!

  12. Great post! Those gloves are gorgeous and would be a fun accessory for a special occasion. When we were in Paris last summer, we visited a couple of perfume houses. One (blanking on the name .. it's still early and the coffee hasn't kicked in!) is next to a restaurant, hotel. I did a post on this place awhile back.. At any rate, the women we all gorgeous AND of course most of them smoked. I joked with my husband that I wondered if we were in an opium den! The heavy perfume mixed with smoke, gave an intoxicating feel to the place. French perfumes are the bomb and I can't wait to go back to France!