Hey, read the directions before you spray that bottle of scent !

On the last bottle I purchased, this is what the directions stated: “Please begin by spraying once to each wrist, once to the chest, and once to each side of the neck. Stand for at least three minutes and try to breathe in the top notes fully. If you feel that there is no longer a wet quality to the areas you sprayed, you can not put your shirt on, but do not rub the shirt on those areas. Now go about your normal routine and try to forget about the scent. Within half an hour you should get an occasional waft of the drydown, and within a few hours you should detect a change as the base notes become dominant.”

Of course, there were no such “directions.” However, many people seem to think that there are, and that they know what they are! I don’t know about everyone else, but when I buy a product, I’m going to use it the way I want to use it, not the way someone else wants me to, unless there is a good reason to do so. Interestingly, I saw a documentary about two weeks ago on the subject of “hacking” (something I know little about), and was pleased to hear that many of these people wanted to improve various aspects of the computing experience. The point was made that many non-hackers think that most hackers are busy concocting computer viruses designed to damage the computers of others in order to obtain some sort of “cheap thrill.”

Now if someone wants to view me as a kind of scent hacker because I have mentioned that I think top notes are best avoided to at least some degree, I will wear that as a “badge of honor.” And not only have I tried “layering,” but I’ve even mixed some scents together to see what would happen. However, I’ve found this too time consuming relative to the results I obtained. I prefer to spend the time I devote to scents on things like swapping, buying, reading, and writing. And because I have so many scents and find my experiences to be quite varied (even with the same scent), I feel quite satisfied with “where I’m at” now with this “hobby.”

I’ll be the first one to admit that a lot of people don’t or aren’t able to experience scents the way I do, mainly because they are so “busy” nearly every day if not every day. And when I was younger, I don’t think I had the “patience” to appreciate scents the way I do now. Actually, if I had gotten into this hobby fifteen or twenty years ago, I can imagine myself doing what I read about often on sites like Basenotes.net, which is someone saying that he sprayed on a strong scent (perhaps ten sprays!) in the morning and couldn’t smell it any more by the time of his lunch break. I have refrained from advising such people to “slow down and smell the roses” because I doubt that they will understand or if they do, they will still feel compelled to continue with their “busy lives.” And this is leaving aside those who aren’t interested in how the scent smells to them, but are instead seeking to impress particular kinds of people in specific social settings.

There also seems to be some kinds of social pressure on people that I don’t concern myself with. For example, when I was in an Ulta store several years ago, I sprayed Kouros on my ankle. The person I was with felt a bit embarrassed, but I pointed out that I thought it would bother me if I sprayed it at a higher point on the body and I never really thought much about the usefulness of spraying on a strip of paper. These days, I use an “ankle sampling” to get a general idea of the scent, and afterwards I know whether I want to proceed with a “normal wearing.” To me this is largely a “personal journey,” but thanks to the internet we can mention what we are up to and see if others are doing similar things or have novel ideas that we may want to adopt. In a sense, we are writing up a “manual” for scent appreciation, but that does not mean that everyone will agree with it (even if that were possible, as there are conflicting claims) or want to experience everything that is said. Indeed, how could anything think this possible in such a “subjective” endeavor !

Moreover, I think it’s very important not to “attack straw men” in this context. For example, I was recently criticized for saying that Eau Sauvage is similar to Acqua di Gio. However, I never did any such thing. What I said was that AdG seems to have been an attempt to “modernize” ES. It certainly may not have been, though for one to argue that Alberto Morillas probably had not smelled ES before he composed AdG is ridiculous. And if you don’t agree with my perceptions, that’s fine, but if you can’t articulate your position in a coherent way, why not work on that before criticizing me? In such a crass, cynical, and profit-oriented industry, do you really think it is appropriate to make me out to be the “bad boy” of the scent world because I try to avoid breathing in a lot of the top notes for fear of olfactory fatigue? Or am I to be criticized because I am making people aware of cheap reformulations? In any case, how someone perceives a scent may depend upon how he or she uses it, and that is why I feel it is so important to disclose what you are doing and let others decide if your “directions,” so to speak, are useful to them.

In some cases, ignorance is obviously present, however. Diptyque produced a scent called Vinaigre de Toilette, for instance. The bottle appears to be just like any other, but as it states right on their web site:

…It can be used in a variety of ways: In the bath, it relaxes and refreshes the body, softens skin, leaving it subtly scented. (Adjust quantity based on amount of water, one capful or more). After shampooing, add a few drops to the rinse water for soft, shiny, delicately scented hair. Place few drops on damp skin after shaving, or on the body after showering, to refresh and invigorate skin. To freshen and purify the air in a room, put a spoonful of Vinaigre de Toilette in a bowl and add a bit of boiling water.

I haven’t tried this scent; some have written very negative reviews of this product, such as this one over at Makeupalley.com:

…I got a bottle of this on Ebay and it was the most disgusting thing I have ever smelled. Listerine for a fragrance? Not for me thank you…

Clearly, this is a rare case where one might want to read the “directions,” and yet I doubt anyone would argue that nobody in the world would ever wear this as a “personal fragrance” and enjoy it. Another interesting question is, should directions only go in one direction? For example, should Creed be given “directions” about proper historiographical methods (not that anyone who works there would necessarily pay any attention)? In this “internet age,” I have no concerns about “the word getting out” eventually about various claims. And there will always be a few deluded people around who believe something because it makes them feel good. The rest of us need to be vigilant that such people don’t get the power to impose their irrationality on everyone else (vote!), but otherwise I find it’s not worth spending too much time worrying about their notions. In some ways, the world of scents represents the ultimate smorgasbord experience to me, and who doesn’t enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet? If the kid a few tables down wants to stick a crouton in his nose, you might get a good laugh, but there is always the chance that he might be on to something !


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Filed under Criticizing the critics.

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