My favorite scents are masterpieces, but yours are not!

A few years back, a Basesnotes.net member kept creating new posts, with titles such as, “Is Egoiste a masterpiece?”  After doing this a number of times, the person “disappeared.”  Clearly, it was likely a case of “trolling.”  Not long ago, someone (for whom English did not appear to be his/her native tongue) created a similar post about Terre d’Hermes.  There are a few interesting aspects to such a post, one being the question about whether these olfactory concoctions should be considered a craft rather than “fine art” (though, ironically, the concept of a masterpiece derives from the Western craft tradition).  Should a slightly innovative composition be considered for this status (assuming one accepts the application of the masterpiece concept in this context)?  Then there is this statement, from a response on that thread:

…I agree that contemporary is also a good description for Dior Homme Parfum, and that it is indeed the better masterpiece, or pièce de résistance, if one prefers.

That’s the first time I’ve ever heard someone say that a scent is a “better masterpiece,” but it goes to show how much confusion such claims can generate.  However, the aspect I want to address here is what creating a thread of this sort implies to readers.  And yes, I understand that many people tend to get “carried away” when they first experience a new scent that is very different and that they enjoyed.  That does not, however, explain why a small number of them create new threads about their experience on a site like BN.  And if you suggest this is the case, many will apparently get angry.  How dare you rain on their parades!  Do such people ever ask themselves, “what about the people who don’t think it’s a masterpiece – how will they feel – am I essentially calling them fragrance plebeians?”  By contrast, I either like a scent enough to want to own quite a bit of it (let’s say at least 50 ml of a strong one) or I don’t.  So, why do some people feel the need to “defend” the scents they view as masterpieces?

Coincidentally, I was reading a book at the same time that this TdH thread was created on BN.  It’s called “Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents” (by psychologist Lindsay C. Gibson).  I heard it referenced and my first thought was, “my parents were about as emotionally immature as I could imagine,” so I read some reviews and decided to acquire a copy.  It is very good.  It’s concise, provides plenty of professional references (many that I encountered in the past), and “hits the nail on the head” time and again.  For those interested, I think I was spared some of the worst effects of this situation because my parents were so over-the-top immature that even as a young child I could only take them so seriously.  Thus, I didn’t develop the guilt that many others apparently do (many such parents are rigid, stern, uncompromising, etc., but mine were literally like selfish, obnoxious teenagers much of the time!).

In any case, in this book, the author brings up a concept she called role coercion:

Role coercion occurs when people insist that someone live out a role because they want them to. As parents, they try to force their children into acting a certain way by not speaking to them, threatening to reject them, or getting other family members to gang up against them. Role coercion often involves a heavy dose of shame and guilt, such as telling a child that he or she is a bad person for wanting something the parent disapproves of.

I think this is what happened, at least to some degree, on that TdH thread.  And I was wondering how many who behaved in a way consistent with this quote were raised by emotionally immature parents!  Of course, it’s clearly immature to want someone to share your tastes, but that is what emotionally immature parents tend to expect of their children.  And that would seem to be what emotionally immature people do in their interactions with others, in general.  I think the fragrance hobby is a great place to see the differences in the emotional maturity of people.  Some have become quite upset by the undeniable reality that these are just smells, for example.  And this brings me to what seems to be a major distinction, which is that some people don’t seem to have much of a concept of the self.  They use the reactions of others to provide clues about who they are or what they should think or do.  In the book, Gibson articulates the concept of mirroring:

…emotionally immature parents expect their children to know and mirror them. They can get highly upset if their children don’t act the way they want them to. Their fragile self-esteem rides on things going their way every time.

It’s funny on some level that some people care so much about what anonymous internet people think.  The more mature approach, it would seem, is to state your case and not worry about it, but many if not most seem to need a sense of engagement, as if they belong to a kind of virtual family (one wonders how much of a role this played in the last Presidential election!).  In that thread, I made the point that it’s important to respect the opinions of others as opinions, even if one did not agree with it, but that is not the way the world is seen by emotionally immature people.  They also tend to think that they can read minds, whereas since I suspected the person who created the thread might have been a “troll,” I raised the issue but did not argue that he/she must be one.

Of course I can’t say this is what the creator of the BN thread was thinking, but the thread didn’t make a lot of sense.  If he wanted to know of a scent like TdH but that many thought was superior, he could has simply asked that question!  There’s no need to make the masterpiece claim without even explaining why you think that is the case!  At least the BN member from a few years ago asked if this or that scent was a masterpiece, rather than announcing it as if he she were some sort of unquestioned authority (as emotionally immature parents view themselves relative to their children).  So, I hope that this post will help others think about what might be going on in the minds of people who make odd claims, but it also might help some recognize that their parents are emotionally immature, and so there’s no reason to blame yourself or allow them to “guilt trip” you.  That would be a much greater accomplishment than criticizing yet another “masterpiece” thread posted to BN!

And it’s not just one’s parents who might be immature.  Your boss, friend, teacher, religious leader, “significant other,” etc. might possess some of these qualities, obviously.  In fact, in that BN thread (and also on an old post of mine here), I used an analogy that upset some people, which is not common; usually people simply agree or disagree that an analogy is useful).  The context was being asked to keep trying a “masterpiece” scent until I finally “got it” (which I did with Cool Water, at least five wearing spaced across years, and never liked it, though I do like some similar ones), and so I said something like, “we don’t ask people who are heterosexual to try gay sex until they enjoy it, do we?”  Of course, the opposite would apply to gay people, though unfortunately there are still more than a few people, apparently, who actually believe gay people just need to try heterosexual sex until they finally enjoy it!  The point is that there is no reason for a mature person to react with horror at such an analogy; you either think it makes sense or you don’t.  I think it’s a great analogy because I actually tried Cool Water several times whereas I simply have no intention of trying gay sex, as is probably the case for most people who think of themselves as heterosexuals.  I guess these people can’t stop themselves from imagining certain sex acts, and if that is the case, then it’s a clear indication the person has some maturity issues to work through.

On a side note, I have been asked how it was possible for someone like myself to exist after being raised the way I was, and Gibson has a statement in her book that again seems to be spot on:

If you had an independent, self-reliant personality, your parent wouldn’t have seen you as a needy child for whom he or she could play the role of rescuing parent. Instead, you may have been pegged as the child without needs, the little grown-up. It wasn’t some sort of insufficiency in you that made your parent pay more attention to your sibling; rather, it’s likely that you weren’t dependent enough to trigger your parent’s enmeshment instincts.
Interestingly, self-sufficient children who don’t spur their parents to become enmeshed are often left alone to create a more independent and self-determined life (Bowen 1978). Therefore, they can achieve a level of self-development exceeding that of their parents. In this way, not getting attention can actually pay off in the long run.

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Filed under Criticizing the critics., The basics.

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