Parfum de Vie – The Smells We Love and Perfume Psychosis – A Meditation


Compulsion

Americans are famous for loving shriekingly clean scents, shunning anything remotely unwashed, and themselves smelling like nothing interesting to the point that more than once, when smelling the latest designer released flanker intended for just such an audience,  I’ve wondered if they were simply bottling drugstore cleaning fluid and calling it a day.  Once when sniffing an unlabeled sample I was forced to wonder, “Is this Versace Bright Crystal or CLR?” So I was absolutely enthralled when I posed the question “What are your favorite smells?” on Facebook, and got responses that ranged from earthy to filthy.  A Perfume Freak’s Dream.

Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Scent memories are powerful.  With one whiff of a familiar smell, we can be mentally whisked to a moment in our past, the presence of an old companion, or a particular time or place we will never forget.  I know that when my college friends smell Calgon Turquoise Seas body spray (if it’s even manufactured anymore) they think of me which is pretty hilarious, but whatever.  I cannot deny my past and frankly, I still dig some Calgon.  (And Victoria’s Secret Dream Angels Heavenly which resulted in more than one person telling me, “You smell like a stripper….no no!  That’s good.”  Alright, sure.)

My past is full of lots of potent and unforgettable smells (I did live on a farm for some time, you know…) For years I have dreamed of a perfume that would smell like my Dad on a morning before church.  It is the most wonderfully comforting scent of Irish Spring, coffee, toast, perhaps a smidge of smoky bacon, shaving cream, mouthwash, and Tuscany Pour Homme.  Nothing smells more like “home” to me than that.  Penhaligons Sartorial comes close.  As does Creed’s Green Irish Tweed, but the toast and coffee are missing.

Similarly, another scent from my past that I wish I could recreate is the scent my parents seemed to effortlessly emit when they would return from an evening out.  Melded perfume and cologne, a touch of charbroil from the steaks they probably had, someone else’s cigarette smoke, a hint of booze, hairspray, leather, and the fantastic zing of a wool coat that has just come in from the cold.   They would walk in the door looking handsome and beautiful respectively, and that scent would just take over the house.  It was so grown up and mysterious and I miss it, although I suspect that I might occasionally smell this way myself.  There is something about Molinard’s Habanita that grasps this concept for me, and it is downright cheap and cheerful.  CB I Hate Perfume has an offering called Winter 1972 that has that cold wool coat with just a hint of cigarette.  Jasmin et Cigarette by Etat Libre D’Orange gets the smoke, but lacks the beef.

Yet another scent I wish to smell again is that of my Gramps’ basement, which sounds dubious, but read on.  Gramps, in his heyday, had a fully finished basement complete with wet bar and jazzy 70’s organ.  It was a wonderful place.  It smelled, quite frankly, like the business end of a wine cork.  To the wine cork add a bit of pipe tobacco, perhaps a bit of basement-related mustiness, maybe a bit of pine (for the holidays), a lingering waft of cigarette from somebody’s coat (we’re talking early 80’s here), and more than a dash of bourbon (Truly, I thought eggnog was the color of dishwater due to the ratios of rum to mix my Gramps used. Only in college did I discover it’s true density.)  Think about it: wine, cork, smoke, must…truly, if any of these scents are to be taken literally, this is the one that would make a fantastic men’s fragrance.  If only  I were a chemist.

Great smells in their natural habitat need only be experienced, however.  They need not necessarily be bottled. Certainly, they aren’t all meant to be worn on the skin.  That said, owning a bottle of something that, when sprayed, has the ability to transport you is an experience of pure comfort and joy.

Using the scents put forth on my Fbook page, I’m going to offer perfume-related  suggestions that just might spark a memory or two.

Let me first state, however, that the intent is not to be literal.  For an exercise in literal scent recreation, check out the Demeter line of fragrances.  It’s arguable that they are fully-fledged perfumes, but they are a master’s course in scent science. So, truly, if the scent of a thunderstorm is what you are after, Demeter has a scent aptly named Thunderstorm (as well as Earthworm, Funeral Home, and Humidor, just to name a few).  My project, rather,  is an experiment in the art of true perfumery and it’s ability to be an appealingly wearable scent, and yet still evoke an ethereal image of something you love.

In the meanwhile, some of our favorite scents are available quite easily in bottle form.  Flowers, woods,  and bakery treats dominate the perfume market, particularly those available and heavily advertised in the US.  So, for our purposes here, I am far more interested in conceptual scents and oddities.  A good lavender isn’t so hard to find.  Something with the snapcrackle of printer paper straight out of a Xerox or the spice of your dog’s fur may prove more difficult.

What can I say?  It’s a hobby.

Certainly, smell is all about context.  While my friend Nick and I agree that shallots slowly caramelizing in butter is probably the best smell on the face of the earth, I wouldn’t want to smell that way sitting at my desk.  Just like the smell of fresh raspberries might be a delight in nature, and refreshing post-bath, it would be hard to take someone seriously in a business meeting.  As such, I believe that flowers are best experienced as, well, flowers.  They are what they are.  There’s no great lilac perfume because you’re better off just smellin’ a lilac.

I guess this is just my way of saying the following perfumes are all in the name of fun, and if you are so interested, broadening your perfumery horizons.  I will never have smelled All the Perfumes, but I have made a bit of a dent.  I hope you enjoy.


Books, Magazines, and Other Related Paper
:  People love the smell of paper in it’s many incarnations, as do I.  However, the scent of newsprint is not the same as an old book.  Sharp crisp copies still hot off the printer don’t smell the same as a freshly cracked magazine.  A trade paperback smells very different from a leather bound classic.  The library, the used book shop and Barnes and Noble all are singular smelly beasts.  Certainly, paper is, underneath it all, wood.  But if you were only identifying things by smell, a cedar chip and a ream of printer paper wouldn’t seem very near to each other.  The cedar is still rich with it’s oil, the printer paper bleached and sharp.

The creator of the aforementioned Demeter line is also the genius behind CB I Hate Perfume which seeks to create in either water perfume or extrait (pure perfume) form, just such things as these amalgamated dream scents from our past and our experiences.  One such creation is a scent called In the Library.  It’s an intimate scent.  Vanillic in the way that, trust me, a good ol’ book is vanillic.  Warm, aged.  It’s a great pick, and I highly recommend it.  Truly, the love of the scent of paper seems fairly universal.  A newly launched scent called, aptly, Paper Passion has just launched, it’s subtitle – “perfume for book lovers.”

For that hot off the press slightly shrieky cleanness, I recommend Thierry Mugler Cologne.  It is far from subtle.  I believe Perfumes the A-Z Guide calls it “steam iron.”  Like paper, it somehow manages to evoke sharp coldness and steamed fresh ink.

Tires, Cars, Industry, Tar, Gasoline and WD 40.  For all the times I’ve driven through Gary, Indiana and experienced the sulfurous fumes that emanate from Steel plants, one would think I would be convinced that industry = stink.  However, this is not always the case.  The Blommer chocolate factory, on occasion, fills the city of Chicago with a very out of context air of baking brownie.  It is wonderful, and as reported in the Tribune a couple of years ago, likely highly carcinogenic.  BUT with our inherent love of pipe tobacco, gasoline, and vinyl, humans love to stick their noise into a cancer causing chemical and breathe deeply.  I ain’t here for your health.

My father, an engineer in the automotive industry has a job that is both white collar and yet requires trips to the plant floor donning earplugs and goggles.  When he arrives at home, he smells like a freshly sprayed can of WD 40 and it is one of the world’s most wonderful smells.

My husband loves a fresh tire.  He describes them as “sweet” and so they are, and of course rubbery.  Bvlgari Black is the premiere rubber perfume.  It looks like a puck, it is unisex and it smells great.  Women the world over have been attempting to woo men with bottles of fruity silliness, clean musks, and flowers, when all the time it was grease they were after.  Good, clean, grease and rubber.

Grass, Snapped Grean Beans, New Mown Hay, Horse Barns, Alfalfa, and Good, Clean, Dirt.  Only a kid from the country could assert that, in fact, cow shit is a vast improvement on all other kinds of barnyard shit including pig and turkey, in particular.  It is second only to the nicely grassy horse or rabbit shit which, in comparison isn’t just “not bad” it’s sort of kind of nice.  Even comforting if you were ever on first name basis with a horse or rabbit.

And I was.

I mention this because in perfumery there is an aroma-chemical called Indole that makes an appearance in both white flowers and poop, so if I mention that something has a barnyard quality or rather lacks a barnyard quality, I mean it with much affection and all seriousness (as the discussion of perfume allows).

But let us begin with a proper lawn mowing which engages no indolics whatsoever.  Newly mown grass is one of the world’s most wonderful, fresh and naturally occurring smells.  Frankly Gap’s recently re-issued Grass scent smells just about like it.  I’ve never smelled Demeter’s grass scent, but I bet that ‘s pretty great too.  I often wonder if Californians or Floridians feel quite as passionately about grass as we Midwesterners.  Surely they don’t have that bleary eyed look we all get stumbling our of homes in late March and maniacally fall to our knees, praising the heavens taht we have seen something that is both naturally occuring and green.  LOOK AT IT!  IT’S GROWING!!!!!!!  I sort of get why dogs roll around in things.  I bet they are just grateful that it’s there at all.

But I digress.

Moving away from the literal green of grass and moving on to the conceptual family of “green scents.”  Galbanum, a resin, is the primary player in the most famous green scents:  Chanel no 19, Gucci Envy, Chanel Cristalle (a green citrus).  Many Iris perfumes find themselves in the green family.  The Vintage Vent Vert.  Parfums di Nicolai’s Odalisque.

Diptyque’s L’Ombre Dans L’Eau is a trip through a rain-soaked garden on a hot August morning.  Tania Sanchez says it better than I that it smells like a “snapped green bean”.  To that I would add a dash of tomato leaves.  To anyone who grew up with and/or now tends to a veggie garden, this is a trip down memory lane.

Hay is sweet.  Not straw, but hay.  I prefer alfalfa, myself.  Green, sweet, fresh, and earthy.  I’ve read that Hay Absolute is a perfume in and of itself, but I’ve never had the pleasure.  And, unfortunately, for me I am allergic to it all.  Still, I rarely let that stop me.  Parfums di Nicolai has a very sweet offering both in scent and concept with a delicious hay accord that is actually a bit sweet for me.  It’s called Kiss Me Tender.  Serge Luten’s offering, Chergui, is hay inspired with a dash of honey and tobacco which evokes something of a Baltus Van Tassel-like character, in my mind:

Baltus Van Tassel from Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Baltus Van Tassel’s Bursting Barn from Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Bath and Body Works had a “clover” scented lotion that came as close to my childhood memories of an alfalfa field that anyone has ever gotten (that I know of).  I long for someone to recreate that scent.  I’ll help if I have to.

Love, Sex, Bodies, Babies’ Heads, and other Animalic Bits:  This would be the area in which Americans tend to squirm and look around for their Puritan bonnets, buckled shoes, and bottles of Dolce and Gabbana Blue.  One whiff of Muscs Kublai Kahn has the potential for the sniffer to look at you like you’ve just told a dirty joke in church.  If you’ve ever met someone from basically anywhere BUT the US, Canada, and the UK, you’ll quickly come to realize that the rest of the world just isn’t bothered by the natural smell of the human armpit.  In fact, during the creation of Sarah Jessica Parker’s perfume, Lovely, she insisted on a little body odor because, “Secretly I think everyone likes it.”  While I think the true dirty animalics were probably focus-grouped out of the formula, a bit of duskiness remains.  And, indeed, it’s one of my favorite perfumes.

The new formulation of the perfume classic Femme by Rochas has a distinct and dirty-minded cumin note, and cumin smells like pits.  The Chanel orientals do not shy from the civet, leather, or animalic notes available to them in quality form.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:  Often these big ol’ classics (Chanels, Lauders, Guerlains) are quickly dismissed by people of my generation and younger as “old lady perfumes” but per usual, your grandmother has lived longer and knows more than you do about such things as quality and class.  So to dismiss her Youth Dew as a scrubber is to dismiss the true art of perfumery.  Sniff again, and notice the cinnamon, vanilla and booze.

Lovers of Mad Men and all things retro, I implore you to move beyond the Chanel no 5 and experience the Guerlains, Balmains, Lanvins, and other grand players from the great age of perfume.  It will challenge you.  You will have the urge to wrinkle your virginal little nose in distaste.  THIS IS THE MODERN ERA OF PERFUMERY’S INFLUENCE ON YOU AND MOST OF IT IS CRAP.  Not all, certainly.  But our noses have been trained to love nothing but what amounts to hand soap and shampoo in EDT form.

Grab a bottle of Shalimar and experience the genius of Guerlain’s inedible desserty masterpiece.

If you can, find a bottle of the long discontinued My Sin and prepare yourself for a perfume adventure.  It loops from aldehydes to grimy leather in the blink of an eye.

Sarah Jessica’s Parker’s Covet perfume was said to be inspired by the scent of her babies’ heads.  Now, I have never smelled the noggins of her children, but this perfume smells more chocolatey to me (if my memory serves.)  Still, thought I would mention.  Rather to capture the close to the skin-ness that I think one is looking to evoke here, I would suggest an oil based scent.  Perhaps Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely in the oil form.  I have a great little amber oil I picked up in the hippie dippie section of Whole Foods (is there any other section?) for 8 bucks.

Leather, while a chapter of perfume that stands alone, is by all accounts animalic, no?  So is honey, if we’re getting technical.  In a more specific area of perfumery lies the animal fur.  Clean, living animal fur is a spicy natural wonder.  We have a cat that is downright perfumed naturally.  Peppery.  Dry.  And comforting.  We have another cat who some people say smells like butt, and I say smells like beeswax…which probably smells like bee butt.  If so, count me in as a fan of bee butt.

Just one more weird statement I have made when talking about perfume.

The Grand Joke played on the world of perfumery by Etat Libre D’Orange comes in a small glass bottle adorned with the infamous “crying penis” artwork that I am downright not joking about.  It is called Secretions Magnifique and it is nauseating.  However, it fits the category as it is an experience, most certainly, and moreover inspired by all bodily secretions that are not urinous or fecal.  That still leaves a lot of secretions.  They also threw a little jasmine in there for good measure.  But then again, sometimes jasmine smells like floral bad breath.

The ocean, salt, beaches and the primordialDune by Dior is considered a marine scent.  This doesn’t quite do it justice.  But, in fact, there is a dry salty note in it.  It’s wonderful.  Vetiver is a dry grass that rasps, in a way.  I burn the essential oil sometimes, and if I overdo the vetiver I feel like I’m mummifying.  That said, vetiver fragrances are downright sexy.

Hermes Eau des Merveilles is salty and incensy and very very calm.  Very close to the skin, and very dry.  It is unisex, and I would recommend it for somebody who wanted to broaden their horizons beyond fruity florals, without announcing it to the world.  A good subtle experiment, and nicely beachy.  But not summery beachy – Eau des Merveilles is a beach after the tourists have left for the season.  It mysterious and moody.  I suspect it would layer nicely with a bit of amber or vanilla, as well.

In a complete reversal, let’s talk about the old school european suntan lotion fragrances.  Those would be Bobbi Brown Beach and Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess.  I have a mild distaste for white flowers and I feel that these fragrances, Bronze Goddess in particular could be my in road.

Tobacco, Cinnamon, Vanilla, Burnt Sugar, Espresso, Booze, Ground Coffee and the gourmand.  These are the least challenging and easy to come by perfume offerings.  Prada’s latest:  Candy.  The cognac firm Frapin’s offerings.  Aqualina Pink Sugar.  On a more classic note, Guerlain’s Shalimar and L’Heure Bleu.  If you walk up to the department store perfume counter and say you want something that isn’t floral or citrusy, you will walk away with one of these most likely. 

So, I’m going to go a bit weird with this one and give you some slightly less literal takes on the gourmand.

Ready?  Let’s go.

Anne Pliska is a bit Christmasy.  There’s gingerbread here.  And oranges.  Apparently, orange is not an easy note in perfumery.  Mainly because I can only count about three of them that manage to have an orange note that sticks around.  While it is a gourmand, it’s also icy.  It’s frankly gorgeous and completely reasonable in price.  I only hesitated to tell you about it because I wear it and I convinced my mother in law to wear it, too.

Sacrebleu is a gourmand in the sense it has gourmand ingredients…but you wouldn’t want to eat these.  It’s one of the few fragrances with a  detectable tuberose  that I still love.  (Tuberose is very challenging for me.  I’m trying to push myself.)  IF I had a “signature scent” which I just don’t, this would probably be it. Similarly (with FAR more tuberose) is Dior Hypnotic Poison.  I am convinced, if the Bronze Goddess thing doesn’t work out,  that this will be my in-road to tuberose, because THIS tuberose is covered in coconut and almonds.

Coco by Chanel.  I call it the Brunette of the Chanel bunch.  It’s warm, spicy,  a bit loud but never shouty, and full of layers.

Tabu by Dana.  Now listen.  It’s going to stonk your socks off the first time you smell it, and if you are just dipping a toe into the older perfumes, maybe avoid this one.  It smells cheap.  It IS cheap.  But it is very hilarious and a great gourmand.  My advice is look for the root beer.  There is a distinct root beer note to Tabu that can be heard about all the shoutin’, and there IS shoutin’.  Patchouli has some things tosay.  As does clove.  Musk.  Heavy hitters all.  Seek ye the root beer.

Coffee – Bond no 9 has a very warm and welcoming frag called I Love New York.  And even though it’s never been my experience, their version of loving New York smells like coffee.  Still, not a bad thing to smell like.  My only qualm is that it might smell slightly too much like coffee.

The best vanilla ever created is the aformentioned Shalimar.  There is no getting around it.  It is the finest, Frenchiest, richest, most sumptuous vanilla to be had.

If, however, you were looking for a lighter vanilla.  Less creme brulee.  Check out Vanilia by L’Artistan Parfeumer.  Sadly, it’s been discontinued, but it wasn’t discontinued very long ago, and thanks to the Internets, you can get your hands on a decant, or even a bottle.

Lolita Lempicka – I talk about this perfume a lot.  It was one of my Autumn picks.  It is one of my faves.  And it is a vanillic licorice with herbs.  Grand.  Distinct.  And very well done.  Also can easily be had for a reasonable price.

I put tobacco under the gourmands because it smells like you could almost eat it.  When, as a teenager I smelled an unlit cigarette up close and personal fo rht efirst time I shouted “IT SMELLS LIKE A FIG NEWTON!”  Uncool.  But accurate.  Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille makes you want to eat yer tobackey.  How very un-Ford like behavior.  A drier and smokier tobacco you might want to check out is Sonoma Scent Studio’s Tabac Aurea.

Wood, Forests, Workshops and Cedar Chips

Wood smells great.  It has natural oils.  It smells clean and warm at the same time.  Each wood has a distinct smell.  While we may not be up on the obscurities of the many different trees, certainly we know the difference between pine and cedar.  Sandalwood is the queen bee of the wood perfume family.  Mysore sandalwood oil (heavily overharvested and endangered) is supposed to be a perfume in and of itself.  I’ve never had the pleasure.

Ormonde Jayne Woman lists Black Hemlock as one of its primary notes.  When you sniff Ormonde Jayne Woman for the first time, when you look up you expect to have been magically transported to an enchanted forest where you may or may not be in danger due to the local sorceress.

On an more earthly plain, fresh unsullied hamster shavings smell downright grand.  The cedar ones in particular.  Cedar oil, in it’s essential form, somehow isn’t quite as warm and cozy as the wood itself.  In fact the oil can be a bit harsh.  Lately, the cedar that has been invigorating my pulse points is Commes des Garcons White.  It’s cinnamon and cedar and it’s downright cozy.

Recently…very recently, as in I got the sample a couple days ago, I discovered Sonoma Scent Studio. Perfumer Laurie Erickson’s work is just great.  Honestly, I can’t recommend it more highly.  Her perfumes are old school good.  They aren’t dumbed down.  There’s no flash.  They are adult and really well crafted.  My personal favorite at the moment is Winter Woods (I got this last Friday and I’ve already gotten several compliments).  It sort of combines the mystery of Ormonde Woman with a very really woodsiness and just a hint of smoke.  Although it isn’t listed in the notes, I get a very subtle vanilla and a pure incense in the drydown.

And then we have agarwood or oudh or aoudh or any of the other spellings that indicate as an American, you are just not gonna pronounce it right.  I say oudh with an “oo” that sounds like the “oo” in “foot.”  Here’s hoping I won’t get laughed at.  Anyhoo, I don’t know too much about oudh except that it’s like Hansel:  So hot right now.  I’m only just teaching myself about it, and will just have to report back.  I CAN tell you that if you are just dying to drop insane amounts of cash on perfume, start here.

Smoke, Fire and the Burned.  Growing up staunchly Protestant, I never experienced what my Catholic and formerly Catholic brethren think of as “church smell”.  To them, church smell is distinctly related to incense.  To me, church smell is a combination of green beans with ham in it, that cheap pink public bathroom soap, floor cleaner, Youth Dew, coffee in styrofoam cups and cheesey potatoes.  It’s true, being a Protestant just isn’t quite as glamorous as the ritual-practicing incense-burning Catholics, particularly when talking perfume.  Thankfully, through perfume, I can still relive what I never experienced.  In perfumery, incense goes far beyond a gas station purveyed joss stick.  Incense ranges from cracklin’ breath-takin’ frankincense to sweet purrin’ myrrh.  Resins.  Saps.  It’s fascinating. I like Armani Prive Bois d’encens, Annick Goutals Encens Flamboyant and Sonoma Scent Studio’s Incense Pure.  The best, however, is Chanel’s Coromandel which is just wonderful and I would bathe in it if I could.  White Chocolate Incense is the best way I can describe it.  Imagine having a mug of spiked hot white chocolate placed in your hand and a cashmere blanket wrapped around you.  You are ushered into a room that is bathed in silk, cashmere, angora and leather.  There is the purest frankincense burning in the corner and the floor is of the smoothest cedar.  That’s Coromandel.

It’s not just incense our noses like to burn.  Wood, fireplaces, even sugar (which I will address under a different category.)  Smoke is downright a-okay.

I mentioned CB I Hate Perfume earlier.  They have a particularly smoky offering called Burning Leaves.  If that is a bit too much bonfire for you, I recommend Sonoma Scent Studio’s Fireside Intense which is smoky but a bit closer to the skin and wearable.

Patchouli 24 by Le Labo is more than just smoke, but it’s the smoke that helps it stand apart.  Frankly, I could have thrown this under many categories such as the Animalics, or even the blurb on Books.  As Luca Turin says, There is a vanillic sweetness to an old book, and you will find that here in Patchouli 24.  Fear not the Patchouli, my friends. We all have our hippie related patchouli fears but patchouli is used is many many perfumes to round them out.  If you are a fan of the more oriental Chanels or Diors, it’s patchouli that is toasting your toes.  Think rich sumptuousness not raspy head shop.

Herbs

The Aromatic Fougere incarnate

In perfumery, herbs range from the very literal to the very weird.  The oldest cologne recipes originating from medieval times (even Egyptian) utilize thyme, rosemary, mint, and many other aromatics.  A perfect example of British style apothecary perfume (ie smells “older” than it is) is one of my faves: crisp, clean and herbal L’Eau by Diptyque.  In fact, L’Eau was one of my “in roads” to niche perfumery, but that’s a different post.  Herbs tend to be a bit masculine in perfumery.  The classic “masculine” scents are called Aromatic Fougeres and are packed with Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme and Vetiver.

However herbs are not always so very manly.  An herbal selection that falls under the “minty” category (a notoriously difficult note to achieve…however, I love mint in most forms and am therefore not as picky as your average perfume freak bear) would be a selection from the Guerlain Acqua Allegoria collection (a very reasonably priced way to get some Guerlain).  It is called Acqua Allegoria Herba Fresca. Another great mint pick is Dirty by Lush, and the solid is about ten bucks.

Herbs and Citrus often go hand in hand in the perfumery world.  One of my summertime picks is Eau d’Hadrian by Annick Goutal.  It’s unisex, fresh and decidedly herbal.  I wear it on the hottest days of summer when most perfumes are too much but none won’t do.

If you are really into aromatic herbs, however,  you should probably wade into the men’s department (that goes for both men and women.  Perfume is invisible. The only gendering happens in the marketing.  Again, another post…) , but keep your wits about you.  Head for the older stuff.  Perfumes for men are notoriously badly made and insulting to it’s audience.  The reason many people hate fragrance is because of newer Versaces and anything with the label of “sport.” Look for the classic Guerlains, Diors, Chanels.  Tom Ford has done well for men. A good in road for those who are nervous about crossing gender lines is the classic Acqua Di Parma or Christian Dior’s Eau Sauvage.

A classic that has maintained a little world of it’s own is Clinique’s Aromatic’s Elixir.  I’ll be honest.  It’s a bit of a love-hate perfume and I am just not on the love side of the aisle.  However, much reading and research tells me it is very well done and a true classic.  It’s clear it is made from very high quality ingredients and is incredibly well made.  It’s distinct.  It smells like a classic from its era (the 70’s.   A wonderful time in perfumery.)  I’m just…not there yet.  (This opens the opportunity to discuss, “Why can’t you just not like it?”  I can.  I mean, I don’t.  I don’t like it.  But I know that Aromatics Elixir can teach me something about perfumery.  Whereas Fame by Lady Gaga, another perfume I don’t like, is just more of the same old crap that’s been flooding the shelves for all of the 2000’s.  As a cultural figure, she might have some lessons for me to learn, as a perfume figure, I’ve heard it all before.)

Seasons, Holidays and Memories – In a previous post, I attempted to capture All That Is Autumn To Me via perfume, and I made much headway.  Above, I’ve mentioned more conceptual memories I’d love to recreate.  My next project will probably be The Ultimate Christmas Perfume.  It’s hard to recommend perfumes for other people’s memories.  But even my own can be perplexing.  One of my favorite scents in the whole wide world is very specific and very strong.  It is Opening Night at a Theatre, Act Two Post Intermission.  The smells range from fresh sawdust, the oily smell of stage makeup, the heat of the lights, the booze in the patrons, the faint scent of cocktail meatballs and party trays, the range in perfumes in colognes, sweat, nerves, paint, leather, dust, hairspray, cigarettes,mentholated cough drops, mints….  The amalgamated smell is so wonderful and singular
and in some form has been a part of almost all of my life from my Dad’s performance of King Arthur in Camelot to my latest opening night just a couple months ago.  I don’t know if I’d want to wear it on my skin (if I don’t already by rote) but a candle would be nice.

Speaking of candles, sometimes this category is better served by atmospheric scents.  Every year my Momma (and now me and my sisters) make “Christmas smell” which is just a saucepan filled with all things Christmasey and simmered.  I love pine-scented candles.  Vanilla hand lotion.  Scent doesn’t always have to be EdP.

Nor does it need to be artificial.  Each March, some day comes along that registers above 60 degrees and I fling the windows open with glee to smell fresh air, soil, and green sprigs.  It’s a perfect scent, and one that must be walked into rather than put on.

There’s another category of scent is one that I think probably is the most fun, and also marks the true perfume geek:  The scent memory of an experience you’ve never had.  I remember the first time this happened for me.  I knew that my Aunt had worn White Shoulders for years.  And when I came across a description of White Shoulders in a book, I figured, “What the hell?”  A bottle of the EdC concentration is about 12 bucks at Walgreens.  If nothing else, the bottle is pretty.  I grabbed some on my lunch break.  When I smelled it, I expected to have immediate thoughts of my Aunt assuming I would remember the scent from childhood.  Instead, for some reason, I was mentally whisked to Ginger’s first visit to her new house in the movie Casino.  “What a Difference a Day Makes” was playing in the background and the world of the early seventies appears in a classic Scorcese long shot through closet upon closet of fur and jewels.  I just knew that the house smelled like White Shoulders.  And White Shoulders is just the sort of thing Ginger would have worn.  That day at least.  Trying to prove her innocence with an innocent perfume.  I just have to figure out what she must have worn at night.

Jean Claude Ellena, Hermes’ in house perfumer, says he is inspired by the paintings of Cezanne and Matisse.  Not their literal contents, but rather their spirits.  This appeals to me.  What’s the point of these big human brains if we can’t stretch out senses a bit?

Autumn Rhythm – My Search for the Ultimate Fall Perfume


Don’t you think there ought to be a perfume called Autumn Rhythm?
The Bombshell Manual of Style

I do.

I am once again on the hunt for perfume.  This means a few things 1.  I will drop a lot of cash. 2.  I will succumb to perfume press descriptions which I’ve learned are complete bullshit, generally speaking, but nonetheless will reach saturation point where I will feverishly smell any sample that uses words like “honeyed” “spiced” “tonka” or “boozy”.  Full disclosure:  I already hit that point a week ago.  3.  Further, when my husband arrives home he will find me surrounded by samples, blotters, bottles, notebooks, and guides and will say without fail, “It smells like a whore house in here.”  To which I will reply, “A really expensive one.”

Ah, tradition.

Speaking of tradition, we have entered my favorite season of the year. For a few years now, I’ve been searching for my perfect Autumn perfume.  I love perfume and I love Autumn.  It only makes sense that I would want to meld these two loves into one symphonically spiced dream stormcloud that is bathed in fallen leaves, Jack o’Lantern light and atmospheric moodiness.

Now that I’m fully graduated and carrying around a card that says I am an adult…  Aren’t I?  Didn’t we get one of those? Autumn has become more of a leisure season than summer.  It’s my favorite time of year and as such, I feel I should be scented appropriately for it.  Just like I ritually pull my sweaters out of my cedar chest each year, I love the idea of pulling a pretty crystalline bottle of something spiced, boozy, and warm out of a drawer.

I mean, of course, bourbon.

But after THAT, I would like to reach into a second drawer and pull out a perfume that has patiently waited until its “time.”  I want to build a scent memory and limit this particular scent only to September, October and November.  I crave ritual and tradition.

What I want is to wear on my pulse points my ultimate concept of Fall.  For me, each September, October, and November I am sucked into an autumnal bolt of toile fabric frolicking merrily amidst the falling leaves, drinking a cidery cocktail as I wave to hay-riding, football-tossing passersby on their way to a pumpkin patch, having just left an apple orchard where they ate pork chops and traded flannels.  We are all rosy cheeked, good-looking and temporarily freckled.  We will meet up a bonfire that night where we will tell ghost stories, drink hot toddies, and wear cloaks.

Can we bottle this?

I’m not looking for my Fall perfume to be revolutionary or weird.  Nor do I want to smell like a Glade plug-in.  To illustrate by contrast, I like my Winter perfumes to feel like a cozy cashmere blankie scented with vanilla smoke, a  cup of caramelized something or other in my hand.  For Autumn, I want things a bit more outdoorsy– less shelter from the cold, but still warm enough to kick through some leaves.  Slightly dry, but still cozy.   In Summer I love zingy citrus and herbs, cool breezy berries, and white musks.  Spring is all about Iris, for me, but that’s a different post.

Not all perfumes or notes have a seasonal connotation, of course.  Paris by Yves Saint Laurent, for example, is a loud rose.  Roses, to be sure, could be associated with, say, June.  But a tea rose is to Paris as Ru Paul is to a woman.  Fabulous but not real.  This is a rose that showed up via spaceship after aliens caught a glimpse of Alice and Wonderland and the Golden Afternoon.  It is juicy and shouty and I wear it not because I love roses but because it is the smell of hot pink.  Azzarro pour Homme is similarly seasonless in that it smells like the world’s most attractive man and we can all agree that’s a wonderful thing year round, no?

So my quest is specific and has a hypothesis:  Is there a scent, wearable by a human who must occasionally occupy space near other humans, that contains all the atmospheric things I love about fall?

  • cloves
  • pumpkins
  • apples
  • cinnamon
  • squashes and gourds
  • rain
  • leaves
  • color
  • sweaters
  • scary movies
  • caramel
  • brandy
  • Applejack
  • baked goods
  • hay
  • harvestiness (TM – me)
  • books
  • fireplaces
  • bonfires
  • incense
  • candles
  • football (open to interpretation, but surely a little leather and sweat wouldn’t hurt anybody)
  • Gothic fiction
  • Ghosts
  • Witches (in the cauldron dwelling healing wise woman sense, of course)
  • Pencil shavings
  • Unsolved Mysteries

I’m speaking conceptually, of course.  The concept of an apple is far more interesting in the world of perfumery than a literal apple.  I mean, save yourself the $80 and just grab a Granny Smith.  Unless the literal kind of fragrance is your jam, then hithee to a Bath and Body Works.  I’m talking about art and shit.

For each of these aforementioned autumnal concepts, I can offer a perfume-related option:

  • Incense?  Armani Prive Bois D’Encens
  • Pumpkin – Etat Libre D’Orange Like This ( a weird “pumpkin” accord inspired by Tilda Swinton of all people and frankly, it’s too much for me)  I wish the bottle would hiss, “If it’s war Aslan wants, then it is war he shall get!” when you spray it, but that’s neither here nor there.
  • Football – Serge Lutens Muscs Kublai Kahn – Rrrrggggllll.  Full disclosure, this perfume smells like leather, musk, and armpits.  Really very expensive well-crafted leather, musk, and armpits.  Between the sheets leather, musk and armpits.  It’s wonderful.  As a former cheerleader, I can tell you that a football bus smells nothing like a high-end French manufactured perfume, even with the armpits.  I only WISH it did.  Rather, it smells like  all the things that glandular adolescent boys smell like including hormones, sweat, and anger.  And not just the present ones, but the total tonnage of all the football players past who also rode this bus year after year, like ghostly hormone-addled, often bloodied and grass-stained masses of testosterone and young masculinity, silently accompanying their successors to and from battle.  An image that’s almost beautiful, if not for the stench.  Throw in 50 Booster-provided sack lunches complete with bologna sandwiches, Doritos, and Twinkies as well as a few liberal and ultimately futile pumps of raspberry-scented body spray from the cheerleader occupied front of the bus and you’ve got a cumulative odor that I will never forget and yet inexplicably miss.
  • Pears – Annick Goutal Petit Cherie.  A charming little scent that is not dark enough for fall.  Yet, if you love pears, this is your girl.  (This particular juice is known to go bad before it’s time, so buy the small bottle.)
  • Witches – Ormonde Jayne Woman.  Witchy, not in the evil green-faced way, but rather the cauldron-dwelling wise woman, beautiful and terrible and lurking behind dark branches and mossy glens.  It’s unlike anything else out there.

But throw all of those together and you smell like an Autumn-themed migraine.

And I want ALL the things.

After going through dozens of samples and bottles, I’ve learned some things, realized  some notes I don’t want in this perfume and I’ve narrowed down my list to the following:

  • Brandy perfume – There is a perfume company called Brandy that produces only one perfume, also called Brandy, that smells like boozy apples and spice.  It’s great.
  • Lolita Lempicka by Lolita Lempicka – The most mainstream pick of the bunch.  The bottle is a purple apple covered in gold writing.  The juice is sweet with notes of licorice and fruit, vanilla and booze.
  • Oliban by Keiko Mecheri – Very spicy and autumnal with a big dose of incense.
  • Geisha Rouge by Aroma M – It’s an oil, instead of an EdP.  It’s gorgeous.  It smells like everything I love about the season. I am also fantastically allergic to it, but this has never stopped me in other areas of my life like hayrides, cats, dogs and rolling down grassy hills (which is awesome.)  So Geisha Rouge is NOT OUT YET even though it makes my neck burn.  There IS an EdP formulation which will probably solve the issue.  And yes, I am willing to go into aniphylactic shock for a perfume.
  • Commes des Garcon White by Commes des Garcon – A spectacular cinnamon cedar.
  • Dzonghka by L’Artisan Parfumeur – It smells like woods and tea and dry wonderful things.  It also has this peculiar (and great) note of what Finesse mousse used to smell like in the 80’s.  Like if you soaked a cedar plank in Finesse mousse, while drinking a cup of Earl Grey.  Which might sound, I don’t know, sticky– but it would smell amazing.
  • Ormonde Jayne Woman – Far too fabulous to stay with just “witches”.  I hesitate only because the thought of ONLY wearing it in Autumn saddens me.  Also, it costs a lot of money.
  • Bois de Violette – Serge Lutens.  I once heard this perfume described as “purple.”  This is right on.  I’ve also heard it described as the ultimate “rainy day at the library” perfume.  Also right on.  What’s more autumnal than plummy shades and  rainy days surrounded by books?  Purple is also the traditional color of royalty and so is the price tag on this perfume.  However, the point of luxury is not to calculate all the practical things you could have purchased with the amount you spent.  Rather the point is to enjoy it.  Still, if I do settle on this perfume, I may hyperventilate a bit at the Barney’s counter.
  • Padparadscha by Satellite – It is none of these…and yet all of them.  It’s an amber, which is hardly exciting in the world perfumery but undeniably pleasant.  What it does have is a dose of pepper.  I love pepper.  It is dry, spicy and warm.  Which is exactly how you want to feel in Autumn, as opposed to wet, bland and cold.
  • Voleur de Roses – L’Artisan Parfumeur.  Putting aside the apple and pumpkin spice version of Fall,  this is a mysterious gothic rose.  Wrought iron, thorns and the colors from the Crayola “bold” marker pack.  This is Autumn from the dark corner of a Slytherin party.  There’s patchouli here.  And earth.  Another “purple” scent.  But this time, in deep dark velvet.
  • Botrytis byt Ginestet.  “Botrytis” sounds like some sort of elderly affliction involving swollen ankles and orthopedic shoes.  The perfume, however, is nothing of the sort.  It’s honeyed, spicy.  It’s fruits are boozy.  It feels like a sunny Autumn afternoon.  Even the bottle is topped with a gold leaf.
  • Brigitte by Tocca.  The fruitiest of the nominees, take that as you will.  It’s spicy and gingery with a rhubarb note I dig.  Marketing jargon says it has a “panettone” accord, and that’ just fine with me.  It’s pretty and it’s inspired by Brigitte Bardot.  What’s not to love?
  • 1270 by Frapin.  Frapin is a French cognac maker that has delved into perfumery.  To me, this makes FAR more sense than fashion designers making perfume.  I mean, think about it.  That makes no sense.  Clothes and perfume have NOTHING to do with each other.  In fact, I would argue perfume does better without clothes entirely, but that’s a philosophical discussion. ANyway, Frapin 1270 is a cognac for the skin with many wonderful layers that unfold as you wear it.  It’s lovely and warm and unisex.
  • Black March by CB I Hate Perfume.  Oakmossy and dark without ever venturing into gourmand.  It’s green but in a deep dark woods sort of way.
  • Russian Caravan Tea by CB I Hate Perfume.  The best tea perfume out there, in my opinion.  It’s gorgeous and smoky and sweet.  The only problem is, Will and I will fight over the bottle.  We both love it.

But these are the “newbies”, relatively speaking.  The best age in perfumery was arguably the 50’s through the 70’s when mysore sandalwood wasn’t endangered, Europe wasn’t freaking out about citrus oils and allergens, and perfumers weren’t ruled by cheap executives.    What Autumn is, thematically speaking, is dark, rich, mysterious and textured.  We must look into the perfumes of the past to truly delve into this idea.  Although I must tell you that I have nixed a few of these from my nominees for the Ultimate Fall Perfume, that is purely from a personal point of view.  As a student of perfume, these not only fit the bill, they wrote the book.

  • Cuir de Russe by Chanel.  Although I’ve never had this experience, I am convinced this is how it would smell sitting in the back of a Bentley with a wealthy gentleman who had a drink in his hand, a cigar in his mind, and the window open.  It’s grand.  There is something autumnal about leather, and this is arguably the best leather. Seek ye not the perfume counter for this masterpiece, but get thee to a Chanel storefront.  It is part of their exclusive collection and yes, it is very expensive.  That said, the bottle is very generous.  And truly, you can’t beat the quality.  If you are going to splurge, splurge into this.
  • Mitsouko by Guerlain.  Whereas I would put Shalimar in my “Winter” perfumes, Mitsouko has a drier edge.  Much of the perfume community considers Mitsouko to be the greatest perfume ever created.  It is an acquired taste for some, myself included.  I’ve been “teaching” myself about it for years.
  • L’Heure Bleue by Guerlain This one has a nuttiness to it.  The Bombshell Manual calls this a summer evening scent, and I see their point.  But I raise them L’Heur Bleue’s coziness.
  • Bois Des Iles by Chanel.  Another “brunette” scent.  Probably a classier one, all told.  Bois Des Iles is similar to Ormond Woman in that I dislike the thought of limiting it to Autumn alone. It is incredibly grown up.  Even at 31 I feel like I might be being presumptuous to put it on.  Like high heels when you are 5 years old.  But how much fun are those high heels?  Perfumes: the Guide calls it No 5’s Brunette sister.  And I love that idea.

In truth, the likelihood that I would settle on a singular scent for an entire season is remote.  However, I need some sort of figurehead for the theme.  And if I pick up some flankers on the way, the more the merrier. September feels much different from November and certainly if I was feeling zany, I could find a scent for both the early and warm days and the later cold and grey days.  Halloween opens the door to even further possibilities.  My Ultimate Autumn Perfume will, I hope, encapsulate all those things and more.  If  not, well, it’s just perfume. *wink*

Gone for a Soldier – My Spring 2012 Reading List


Image

I am an avid reader.  And now that I have a Kindle?  Oh my god.  I’m a reading machine WITH a reading machine. I sometimes get so overwhelmed by titles I have to read or watch that I come up with complicated spreadsheets to keep track.  True story.  And I’m fine with it.  I know who I am.  Lots of things inform what I read and when I read them.  I try to create seasonal To Read lists just to keep my thoughts together.  Two major elements that inform my “To Read” lists are the current season, and if I’m in a show.

In Spring, my reading usually takes on an outdoorsy feel.  (One of my favorite Spring reads is A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.)  I also read up on different religions in the spirit of Easter and Passover.  Since Chicago weather has been more early July in nature, than late March, I’ve also been tempted to read things with Summer on the brain.  I usually read some big blockbuster type book like a Michael Crichton that just begs to be read on a beach.

This Spring, I am also rehearsing a production called Opus 1861 which involves music from the Civil War era in a modern day wartime Afghanistan setting.  Since I have no personal experience with either conflict (although I have visited many a Civil war battlefield and museum, and am now in retrospect very grateful for the experience), I have been stocking my list with lots of research. (I also have a big list of documentaries I’ve been trying to plow through.)

My seasonal lists usually consist of around 20 books.  I try to make them a diverse mix of non fiction and fiction.  I try to learn about a subject I know little about.  I try to throw in a couple pulp fiction fun reads, and I also try to read some items that might help me in my personal goals.

Okay, so that said, here are the titles on my Spring 2012 booklist:

Part One:  Research

  • The March by EL Doctorow (I am exceedingly jealous of my husband who will be at the upcoming opening of Steppenwolf’s production of The March.)
  • War by Sebastien Junger
  • The Civil War by Shelby Foote
  • 1861: The Civil War Awakens by Adam Goodheart
  • Band of Sisters: American Women at War in Iraq by Kirsten Holmstedt
  • What It Is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes
  • The Untold War: Inside the Hearts, Minds, and Souls of our Soldiers by Nancy Sherman
  • Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James McPherson
  • The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy and the Way Out of Afghanistan by Bing West
  • The Girls Come Marching Home: Stories of Women Warriors Returning from War in Iraq by Kirsten Holmstedt

Part Two: Personal Picks

  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov – I try to attempt a classic on each list.  I figured a saucy one makes sense.  Lusty Month of May.  All that.  Whatever.
  • Game of Thrones Book 1 by George RR Martin.  After all this grit about the Civil War and Afghanistan, I think I will require something very escapist and fantastical.  I’m sure there are battles but there is no denying it’s pure fiction, right?  RIGHT????  *Twitch twitch*
  • Dune by Frank Herbert.  I promised Will I would read it.
  • Outbreak by Robin Cook.  THIS is my kind of science fiction.
  • The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.  I love a good new agey fable every once in awhile.
  • Dance of Death – Book 6 The Pendergast Series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  This is my favorite pulp fiction series.  It’s got elements of mystery, science fiction, occult stuff, and one of my favorite recurring characters: FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast.  If these books ever get made into movies, Paul Bettany just HAS to play this guy.  HE HAS TO.  I will accept NO ONE ELSE.
  • The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury.  More escapist conspiracy crap that I frankly love to read.
  • Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christiane Northrup.  A book I’ve been meaning to read for a long time.  Other than exercising my vote, the best way to maintain autonomy over our own bodies is to learn as much about them as possible.  And then maybe reread The Handmaid’s Tale again.  Cripes.
  • Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living by Pema Chodron.  Sometimes I need to be reminded.
  • The Firestarter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte.  I preordered this one before I had the Kindle.  I bought this program when it was a pdf file.  I can’t wait to see the rehauled print version.  This woman is a genius.  An unmitigated fully feminine no compromises genius.  I think I will be glad I have the print version just so I can write “GENIUS!” in sharpie in the margins.

I won’t end up reading all of them.  That’s why there are so many titles.  Likely some of the books I’ve chosen as research won’t end up resonating for me.  Some of the ones I’ve chosen for personal reading will end up sucking.  That’s why I have the rule of 50.  If it ain’t working for me after 50 pages, I put it down.  I’m also sure I won’t make it through all 4 volumes of Shelby Foote’s comprehensive The Civil War before tech.  Or before I’m 40.

I also won’t read them in any particular order (although the research books will be heavily weighted towards the beginning since we open in mid-April.)

Hopefully, I can carve some time out in this gorgeous weather to sit back and dig into my list!

Fall!


I am a hustler.  Like the aptly named Ginger in Casino, I want my end.   So when the Christmas season takes a full 21 days off my beloved Autumn, I look out for me.  No it isn’t really Fall yet, but I snagged 16 days from Summer.  Post-Labor day is Betsy Autumn.  I am sipping a pumpkin spice latte as I write this.  My year goes something like this: Autumn is Post Labor Day through November 30.  Christmas is December 1 through December 29 or 30.  Winter is December 31 through April 1.  Spring is April 1 through May 31.  Summer is June 1 through Labor Day.  I used to try to adhere to the actual seasons.  But tell Chicago it’s spring on March 21.  When I lived in Oxford, Ohio perched so very close to the American South, it was quite easy to respect the seasons and their dates.  I now reside near a giant inland sea that makes it’s own weather decisions.   So I had to start interpreting them for myself.  If Chicago had it’s way the seasons would look something like this: October 10 through  June 25 = Winter.  June 26-30 = Spring.  July through September = Summer.  October 1-10 = Fall.  I cannot abide this.

Autumn is my favorite time of year.  We live in America.  There are five seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Christmas.  I begrudge none of them, save for their respective pollen counts and shoveling requirements.  Each have their own delights.  Still root vegetables, squashes, spices, sweaters, beautiful leaves, crispy air, cider and myriad other seasonal delights are more than a few of my favorite things.

I let fall take right over in every area of my life.  I change my wardrobe, my cooking, my reading, my movies, and even the way I approach my career.  In lieu of Back to School, since I no longer attend one, I sort of make my own.  I buckle down to the basics (new monologues, songs).  I try to pick up a class.  It gives me a back to school feeling without actually pursuing another degree.

Here are the ways in which I celebrate Fall:

Household:

  • I switch the bathroom and kitchen handsoaps to a fall scent.  This year, I picked up the Bath and Body works selections.  Last year, I grabbed a pretty one from Marshalls called “Autumn.”
  • I grab the seasonal shower gels from either Ulta, Bath and Body or something similar.
  • I pick up fall scented candles and pull out the fall decorations.  Usually I make a trip to Jo-Anns for more puttering.
  • I put away my summer aprons, and hang up my autumn ones.
  • I do a big seasonal scrub to clean up the sand and pollen of summer and make way for the coziness of the season.
  • I make lots of teas, chais, hot ciders, toddies, and autumn-themed cocktails.
  • I start out the season with a big batch of Three Sisters Soup and usually close it with my Fall Stew and/or some cassoulet.
  • I pick up the October/November issues of Cooking Light, and sometimes Martha Stewart.
  • I change the table linens to an autumn theme.
  • I put autumny throw pillows on the couch.

Fashion

Cue Nancy Sinatra.

  • See previous posts.  I put away my summer wardrobe and pull out the fall/winter wardrobe.
  • I search through the September issues of fashion magazines and make a big shopping list for trends and classics.
  • I wean myself off of flipflops.  But first I do a deeper colored pedicure.
  • I get a haircut, and often deepen the color a bit.

Crafts

  • Autumn is knitting season.  I usually pick out a pattern to trudge through.
  • I like to sew this time of year.  This year I have three aprons to make for various people.

My Fall Face. Not attractive. But so enthusiastic.

Activities

  • Having grown up in the country, picking apples just sounds like (and is) work to me.  Instead, I go to the library and pick up a bunch of cozy and spooky books.
  • I like to stock up my pantry for those cold rainy nights.
  • I try to go to Ohio because the leaves are so beautiful.
  • I stop by Starbucks for a pumpkin latte.
  • Usually I make my yearly pilgrimage to IKEA.  They have great candles and it’s this time of year I like to do a lot of home improvement.
  • While I am not a fan of picking produce for “fun,” I do like to grab a pumpkin or two.
  • I like to visit places in the area that are rumored to be haunted.
  • Pumpkin ales and spicy brews are so much fun this time of year.
  • I like to visit my favorite speak easy, The Violet Hour, for their seasonal selections.
  • Shopping for new clothes, and maybe even a school supply or two for old time’s sake.
  • I have a list of movies I watch every year.
  • Halloween planning!
  • I love a fall get together with warm appetizers and autumnal cocktails, and mulled cider.

I’m not big on missing my junior high and high school years.  And I CERTAINLY don’t miss church youth group.  But with youth group, you had a guaranteed hay ride every year.  Living in the third biggest metropolis in the United States, hayrides are few and far between.  Sure I live in the Prairie State, but I wouldn’t even know where to start.  At home, you have to narrow down the damn options.  I also wish someone would put Disney’s Halloween Treat on DVD so I didn’t have to pathetically huddle in front of  You Tube to watch it in 10 minute segments.  I absolutely still dress up for Halloween should the right party come along, but I miss that in-school-and-in-costume feeling.  I don’t work in a workplace that encourages any sort of holiday festivity.  And I’ve never been a dress up for an office job kind of person.  You see, my night job requires I dress in costume.  It just feels creepy in an office.  No, that elementary school costume joy is long past.  Something else I miss with a vengeance is the annual field trip to The Garden Patch.  The Garden Patch was a gardening center on State Route 66 in between Defiance and Archbold, Ohio.  Every year, my class would hop the school busses for a field trip.  We would pick pumpkins, go on hay rides, have apple cider and donuts, walk amidst gorgeous chrysanthemums and play in the leaves.  It was grand.  There was also the Apple Butter Festival at Sauder’s Village in Archbold.  You could watch them press cider, make apple butter, pet the Clydesdale horses, ride the miniature train, buy candy at the General Store and generally have a grand old time.  Nobody is stopping me from going to the Festival, per se, it’s just that “kid” feeling is a bit lost.  Still, that “kid” did not enjoy trips to places like Jo-Anns and Homegoods.  Now, she delights in it.  I try not to dwell on the past.  Especially since I turned 21.  Heh.  No childhood joy can beat the ability to legally buy liquor.

Pretty sure this is how I look from September to November.

So off I go into Autumn sprinkling cinnamon-scented fairy dust in my wake!

 

My So Called Style – Fall Wishlist 2011


Angela Chase

Flannel shirt. Check. Ripped jeans. Check. And you guys, I totally married Jordan Catalano.

Or Dillon (90210). I don’t know for sure, but I bet he’d prefer Catalano.

I officially can’t wait for Fall.

Yesterday I posted my inspiration for Fall fashion this year. Never has it been more near and dear to my heart.

The key to a, shall we say….nostalgic look is to have the spirit of the era and yet not so authentic as to the point of costume. Part of the many reasons I count myself a Johnny Depp fan is that he embodies the spirit of the kind of fashion I like. Weird. Slouchy but not sloppy. Sexy. With a sense of humor. And a product of the 90’s. In the best way. He also knows how to rock an arm party (I will detail below). That’s the thing about the 90’s. So much of it isn’t gender specific which is not usually my style. But certain elements rise to the top. The white tshirt. Jeans. A leather jacket. Boots. These are human items of clothing. They are inherently cool. They are also a blank slate. Built for customization, and it is the accessories that define the person and the outfit.

The Spirit of the Season

I would wear this.

Yesterday, I established that Alicia Silverstone/Cher Horowitz is very much a fashion icon for me. As is Johnny Depp, as I said above. Other 90’s style icons include Eddie Vedder. Fairuza Balk. Linda Evangelista. Meg Ryan. Karen Elson. Kate Moss. Lisa Loeb. My So Called Life. Drew Barrymore. 90210.

Love Angela’s layering. Hipster’s dare to dream of Rayanne’s style.

I adore this top. I’m not usually into crochet, but the fit is great.

When I was 11, I thought Jennie Garth was the prettiest girl in the world with the best hair I had ever seen. I continually strived for and failed to achieve this style. The jacket, however, would totally work this year.

While I love Seinfeld, I never got into Elaine’s style. It was a bit too Amish for me. Jennifer Aniston’s look on Friends was a bit too “done,” however I always loved her way with a white tshirt, and her coffee shop outfit, with the black mini and the black tights was adorable. This is another of my fave’s:

This is summery, but I dig it.

The hip hop United Colors of Bennetton thing was also a bit too bright for my palette. It’s funny. While the clothing of the nineties was relaxed, often the hair and makeup was intense, if not severe. Dark lips. Pale matte skin. Thin but dark brows. Slicked back hair. It was the era of grunge. But it was also the era of high glam and the supermodel. Cindy Crawford had the big hair, the perfect makeup.

But let me also say that my 2011 Fall wishlist is not entirely circa 1993. What I am focusing on is iconic, quality items, with some cozy autumn in between. I stopped short of Birkenstocks. 1. More of a summer shoe. 2. I don’t know if I’m THAT nostalgic. Still, having graduated in 1999, you would assume (and would be correct) that a lot of my present wardrobe is already apropos for this fashion season. I did pick up a flannel last year. It was like coming home. My Dad is probably glad I bought this one rather than raiding one from his closet. I have something else I plan on raiding from his closet this year. I’ll let you know when I’ve secured it. Anyway, I have several pairs of ripped jeans, and dammit I love them. Lots of white tshirts, although it’s time for a new one. Such a classic item, but you have to refresh your supply. A denim jacket. Sweater vest. Button downs. Plaid school girl skirt. I am heavily editing my 90’s style for this year. Anything post ’96 feels not right. No ringer tees. No huge jeans (I was never into that in the first place). No baby hair clippies. Oversized is not going to be the fit I’m looking for. Rather, I want to mix proportions.

Aside from the 90’s, the runways were packed with 60’s style. I have cute little kitten heel slingbacks that will do the trick. Lots of shift-ish dresses, a plaid jumper. My black turtleneck. I picked up a pair of perfect black mary janes I can’t wait to wear with fun tights. I also have a pair of Marcia Bradyish plum t-straps. More of an early 70’s look, but it applies. One thing I adore about 60’s style is the fantastic, and highly linear tailoring. So flattering. So chic and dressed up and so very easy! If you throw on a cute a-line shift, and slingbacks, you’re done and you look polished. Being such a child of the 90’s, I very often could use a 60’s spit shine.

Plaid is big this year, with both a 60’s and a 90’s feel. I’m Scottish (and other things) by way of ancestry AND I love the early 90’s. Trust me. I dig some plaid.

The way I come up with my wishlist is a combination of items that really reflect the look I am going for, and also items that I could really use in my wardrobe. My lifestyle calls for lots of different types of outfits. I’m an actor, so I audition a lot. I feel like personal style is a major part of showing who I am. I also work 8-5 in an office in a business dress environment. I see a lot of theatre. I go to Ohio a lot. These are all situations that dictate what I wear. My list is much more unisex than past years. I expect next year it will be lots of feathers and bows and sky high heels. But this year…. without further ado – Here are my edited wishlist/shopping list items for Fall 2011!*

1. Leggings – black full length leggings. Perhaps a heather gray or a navy. Maybe even an olive green.

2. Slouchy sweaters/perhaps a tunic. I am not a tunic fan, in reference to myself, really. However, certain forms of the tunic appeal to me. One in particular is a collared version. It looks like a button down, except it isn’t. I love this shape because it does actually have a shape.  I’ve heard it called a Popover.  I like this. With leggings and maybe riding boots, I think this could be a comfy and cute Saturday outfit. Slouchy sweaters, on the other hand, are all about proportion. I’m looking for very thin knit, with slim arms, and probably and off-shoulder or boat neck neckline. No bulky knits, for the most part. I would even consider a cheery henley neckline. (Makes my boobs look fantastic. Not gonna lie.)

3. Black leather jacket – This was on my list last year. Will has one. I may just borrow. Although a super soft girly one would be awesome.

4. Varsity jacket – I never got one in high school. I will have you know I lettered twice, too. Cheerleading and choir. Guess who majored in theatre?! I didn’t buy one for many reasons, the main being I was too busy dressing like Angela Chase. Also I had recently moved from another school district and old alliances are hard to beat. Anyway. It only took me 16 years since my freshman year to finally give in. I want the Buffy look. Varsity jacket. Leggings. And a ponytail.

5. Doc Marten’s – I never actually owned a pair. My huz has a pair of really kick ass ones I bought for him one of our first Christmases as a couple. Nearly knee high. I can’t decide if I want the boot or the oxford. Probably the boot.

6. Hoops – Hoop earrings are kind of my signature. I get made fun of all the time. You should know they were also Brigitte Bardot’s signature jewelry. You just couldn’t see them under all that hair. They are on the list this year because I would like to shell out for a nicer pair than the Target multipacks I buy every year.

7. Cropped sweater/vest. Per yesterday’s post, I want to mess with proportions this season. Long shirts topped with cropped sweaters feels so dancery and cozy.

8. White shirt – This has been rotting on my list for years now. It’s no fun shopping for this staple. Particularly with my chest. Finding the right top can take forever, and you have to try it on. You can’t order this one. Still, once I secure the wardrobe holy grail, playing with it will make up for the drudgery of finding it. I want an oxford style, regular cuff, white shirt. Broadcloth, or something similar that is slightly thicker than the average blouse. I may peruse the menswear department and then have it tailored on the sides.

9. Straight leg jeans – versatile, cuffable. Ever so slightly slouchy. Dark but not indigo.

10. Ribbed tights – fall colors and jewel tones. Maybe a pair of cream. Only for my brown riding boots, though. I’m going for equestrian, not little girl.

11. Mod A-line dress – I’m picturing short or long sleeved. With tights. Probably solid color.

12. Red or grey low chuck taylors

13. Red Minnetonka moccasins – I have a pair of the classic that I use around the house. I need a pair to wear outside. They are too cute and comfy. Very bombshell in the woods.

14. Bibs – I miss them. I can’t help it. I think they look sexy, if done right. Fortunately for everyone groaning right now, outside the local Tractor Supply in Ohio, I think they are going to be hard to come by.

15. Madewell Plaid Coat – It’s not even available yet. I saw it in a magazine. To quote 90’s icon Wayne Campbell, “It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.”

16. Mad about plaid dress – Donna Ricco is a genius. She does one thing and she does it really well. That thing she does is dresses. And this is one from her line this year.

17. Jersey long sleeved maxi dress – Another item to wear with a cropped sweater. Such a dramatic sillhouette.

18. Maybe a slouchy harness boot or Frye Campus boots – Frye Campus boots in Banana have been on my radar for many a year. Will has harness boots. I’m not looking for a true harness, rather a slouchy piratey looking pair.

19. Arm party. I love tattoos. Just not on me. Rather, I dig an arm party. I have always been a fan of bracelets. Necklaces aren’t really my style, minus a couple special ones. An army party is the equivalent of one bracelet inviting all it’s friends over to play. The key is mix of textures, widths, and metals. I am looking for fun invitees to my fall arm party. I’m thinking hammered metals, bangles, and friendship bracelets. If you look at Rayanne in the above photo, she’s got a tape measure as part of her arm party. Creativity is key, and there are no rules. It’s a party!

20. Chambray shirt. – Fairly deep in color. I like the versions that are available right now. I’m picturing with leggings and also with my plaid kilty skirt.

21. Another flannel – I have one that is yellow and blue. I need one in the red/black/green area. I’m thinking with leggings.

22. Raglan sleeve grey crewneck sweatshirt

23. Brown High Heeled Boots

24. Black ballet flats

25. Day/Play dress(es) – Think Alicia Silverstone in the Amazin’ video. Not tooo hippy dippy. I already have the floral one. Could be worn with leggings?

* I won’t be purchasing all these items. This is just a list of items that would be welcome in my wardrobe.

* The total list has about 50 items on it.  That is true.

Fall Wishlist 2011

All Saints long sleeve dress
$44 – allsaints.com

Ted Baker tee dress
49 – johnlewis.com

Carven long sleeve sweater
58 – theoutnet.com

Reiss shirts blouse
110 – johnlewis.com

James Perse white short sleeve shirt
$50 – jamesperse.com

Aryn Glasser hoody
€179 – conleys.de

J Crew vintage chambray shirt
$98 – jcrew.com

H M studded jacket
30 – hm.com

Levi s romper
$55 – macys.com

Madewell knit legging
$22 – madewell.com

Ribbed stocking
$20 – topshop.com

Madewell knee high heels
$325 – madewell.com

Repetto ballerina shoes
$280 – ssense.com

Steve Madden black heels
$85 – heels.com

POL gold silver earrings
$17 – target.com

G by Guess post earrings
$15 – gbyguess.com

Rhinestone jewelry
$5.99 – tillys.com

Dr. Martens 1460
$120 – zappos.com

Converse All Star Oxfords Shoes
$30 – piperlime.gap.com

SO Striped Varsity Jacket
$20 – kohls.com

Minnetonka Thunderbird Ii
$39 – zappos.com

Happy Rex Manning Day! – Fall Fashion Lookbook 2011


Part One of Fall Fashion 2011 (Tune in later this week for my 2011 Wishlist)

For past Fall Fashion posts:

Fashion 2010

Fashion 2009

Fashion is a huge ocean of which some waves I ride, and some I ride out.  The past couple years definitely had some trends I was into.  While I’m not a huge Mad Men viewer, I don’t mind the sweeping sixties vibe that followed in it’s wake, but with all the benefits of women’s lib already fought and somewhat won.  Still, while I love mid-twentieth century fashion all the way from the 20’s-70’s, the heart and soul of who I am (for better or worse) resides in the years 1991-1995.

I waited patiently for many years.  Sure, fashion hinted, or rather hiccuped in this general direction.  A ripped leg here, a doc marten there.  But now…now the 90’s that I know and love have returned to the fashion world.  Leggings, slouchy sweaters, tartans, doc martens, rugged mixed with classic.   Sure most of the mags are touting 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s fashion but if you look, that’s not exactly what you will see.  That combo, combined with the demands of 21st century lifestyle has ressurected the decade of my style influence, my artistic soul, the 1990’s.

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I am above most things, a movie fan.  This isn’t to imply that the 90’s were influenced by movie fashion.  90’s fashion was almost entirely influenced by the music scene.  What I love about 90’s movie fashion is that it is edited and it is usually not the point at all.  Lucky for me, that equals inherently wearable outfits.

Friends, do you know what I’m getting at here?  Do you know what I’m saying?  I’m saying Cher from Clueless represents everything about this season for me.   I’ve been waiting, dear God, 15 years for this.

Ignore the pouty face, this outfit is one of my favorites from the movie and the essence of what I'm looking for this season. Cropped sweater, button down, plaid skirt, and you can't see them, but she's wearing mary janes.

But let me not get ahead of myself.  Last year, while poodling around in my physical look book (a couple of very messy but inspired binders full of clippings) I sorted out the genres of fashion that I love and that work for me.

  • Classic
  • Dancewear and Dance inspired
  • Bombshell
  • Baroque
  • Bohemian
  • Romantic
  • Glamour

The 1990’s have a solid representation when it comes to Classic, Dance, Baroque, and Bohemian.  I love the Bombshell look and I LOVE Glamour but this year, I’m going back to my roots.

The following are examples of 90’s movie fashion that are serving as my inspiration this season.

"I really think Musictown is torn on the revealing garment issue. "

There is not an uncropped sweater to be found on those ladies.  Worry not, for I am not a midriff barer.  But I AM a cropped layerer.  And thus I shall continue to be.

"Okay, so you're probably going, "Is this like a Noxzema commercial or what?" But seriously, I actually have a way normal life for a teenage girl. "

"I have direction." "Yeah, towards the mall."

I love schoolgirl chic: button downs with sweater vests, little shift and wiggle dresses, tartans,  mary janes and wide headbands.  If viewed through a nineties lens, you really have created the ideal space for my style to work.  Thus Cher is one of my fashion icons.

So is Buffy.  The original Buffy.  See this post for a full run down on Buffy style, particularly her prom ensemble.

"Get out of my facial."

"Great. My secret weapon is PMS."

I am IN LOVE with this outfit, varsity jacket included.

Even the cheerleading outfits kick ass!  I mean, I WAS a cheerleader.  These things appeal to me.

How funky is your chicken?

The following picture is important to me, for you are seeing my high school style sitting next to my adult style.

"I totally paused!"

But the boys have much to offer.  The following examples ARE early nineties, but by way of the 50’s and early 60’s.  No fashion era is without influence.  Take for example, the regency era.  Think Jane Austin.  Those fashions while being their own look, have a distinct Grecian feel to them.  Just an example.

Anyway, I give you the boys of Dead Poet’s Society and School Ties.  The clothing is 50’s prep school, but the slouch, the attitude is pure 1990’s.

"I sound my barbaric yawp."

"The honor code is a living thing. It cannot exist in a vacuum. "

Here is a pic from My Own Private Idaho.  This is unisex fashion that looks sexy on anyone.  Honestly!  Picture Alicia Silverstone in that leather jacket.  It would rock!

"I'm afraid if I shared your wine, I might catch this awful disease you appear to have. My jacket would grow little zippers all over it and my toes would have jingle bells on them like those there. "

In a bit of a different take on 90’s fashion, here is the character Carrie (Michelle Forbes) from the movie Kalifornia.

"Too graphic. Too overt. Not suitable for mass consumption."

Her style is simple, severe, and awesome.  It’s grey tshirts, black tshirts, that incredible haircut, and one of the best leather jackets in movie history.  The cigarette is nearly it’s own character.

In that same vein, we have the ladies of The Craft.

Their skirts were either very short, or very long.

"Hail to the powers of the Watchtowers of the East."

Let us not pretend the maxi dress is something new.

This is my fave: prep school style combined with early 90’s attitude.

We are the weirdos, Mister.

The trap (that I consistently fell into as an adolescent) of 90’s fashion, for women, is that it can quickly become so masculine, it’s shapeless and sloppy.   So what I hope to be at 30 is what I wanted to be at 13.

If you combine Alicia Silverstone’s fashion in Clueless with her looks in the Aerosmith Amazing, Cryin’ and Crazy videos, you have now seen my Fall Fashion Inspiration for 2011. Ditto for Liv Tyler in Empire records and the videos.

Say what you will about Aerosmith.  I have mixed feelings myself, and they are all ignoring the past 15 years.  Those are three of the greatest music videos ever made.  It doesn’t hurt that I had a huuuuuge crush on Jason (NOt, I repeat, NOT Jeremy) London.  Have you seen Man in the MOon??? (Not Man ON the Moon…that’s the Jim Carrey pic).   Okay fine.  Amazin’ is the least amazing of the three videos.  The whole virtual reality thing sort of dates it.  Okay, fine, I love the song Amazing.  I totally do.

But look at her dress!!!

That dress with Doc Martens is perfection.  She hitches a PLANE with it.  Not a car.  A PLANE.

Moving on, with a slightly more beachy vibe, we’ve got Lori Petty in Point Break.

Add a touch of the West for the ladies of Gas Food Lodging.

Let us not forget Singles.  The single most 90’s movie ever created.  I defy you to find one MORE 90’s.

I know that, if you are a fan of the early nineties, you would expect to see Reality Bites here.  Howev, while I love Betty Page, the Betty Page bang doesn’t work for me, nor does the waify hipster look of the movie.  I’m as preppy as the nineties get, which isn’t very.  But it is enough.  And it is what ultimately leaves me just a bit cold towards the movie.  I respect it!  It just isn’t “me.” In me there is a conflict of yuppie, hippie and grungey that basically rivals that of the plot of PCU.

I’m in my element, people.  I’ll come up with a wishlist tomorrow, but I think you can see where I’m headed.  We are shaped by the styles of our coming of age.  I will now attempt to improve upon them.

Salute Your Shorts


Spaz from Meatballs

I recently read a blog post that made me smile with delight:  6 Things I Learned From Sleepaway Camp.  My days at camp were some of the most uproariously wonderful times of my youth.

In retrospect, I’m not quite sure why I loved camp so much.  On paper it makes very little sense.   If given a choice between playing outside or in, in always won.  Unfortunately for me, my Mom rarely gave that choice.  I was told to go “blow the stink off” which is a Midwesterner’s charming way of saying “go play outside and quit bothering me.”  I had asthma.  I hated and was appropriately terrible at sports.  I only liked swimming if the water wasn’t too cold, and when you go to camp in northern Michigan, the water is ALWAYS too cold.   I was allergic to grass, pollen, trees, and ragweed.  The only things I really had going for me was my love of boys and my ability to tan.

Turns out, that’s all I needed.  That and the fact that I come from a long line of Camp People.  My Mother and Father actually look like this:

70% chance my Dad is wearing this right now

They were even Camp Counselors together and every picture looks like something from Wet Hot American Summer.  They even had a Camp Toilet Paper Monster named “The Viper.”  Camp People are a mockumentary waiting to happen.

I loved camp with an intensity only matched by my early adolescent lust for the male counselors.  Not that long ago, I looked at a few pics of said counselors wondering if in fact they were actually “hot.”  Answer:  they were.  And I married a guy that looks like a combo of two of them.  I haven’t tested Will’s abilities in Burp Tennis, but we’ve only been married five years in June.  We have to save SOMETHING for retirement.

I still subscribe to the American Camp Association Job Update and occasionally consider chucking it all and heading off into the North Woods to be Mr. and Mrs. Charming Camp Director.  Will would do it in a hot second.  I am held back by the availability of MAC makeup and schmancy cocktail bars.  I also don’t really like children.

I think what appealed to me the most about camp was the immediate and intense drama that occurs when 13 years olds live in close and filthy proximity.  The only thing I’ve found to match it is Non-Equity theatre backstages and lo and behold I’m an actor.  The only thing missing is a 19 year old boy with a guitar.  I long to harmonize the works of Ani DiFranco and the Indigo Girls with him, and still being innocent enough NOT to wonder why he knows those songs in the first place.   Unless, of course, he went to Goshen College in Indiana, which pretty much explains everything. (If you actually understand my Goshen college reference I either 1. Already know you. or 2.  Probably should.  And no, I didn’t go there.)

I don’t have anything left over from Arts and Crafts.  Mainly because, now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t think we did anything in there but marvel at the Art girl’s cool name, I believe it was Yaneken,  and her armpit hair.   I was ambivalent about Waterfront.  Waterfront always had the hottest counselors, but if I had my period, it was a total bust.  So that week of the summer was ALWAYS hit or miss in those respects.  I LOVED music and so did all my friends.  Honestly, the top three things for me at camp were 1. Hanging out with friends, 2. staring at boy counselors, and 3. harmonizing.  We were children of Folk Music-listening ex-hippy Baby Boomer parents.  Harmonizing songs was just what we did.  “You Are My Sunshine” was our biggest hit.

I remember that “getting dressed up” involved a shower, jean shorts that were not cutoffs, and a Hard Rock tshirt, with actual underwear on, not a swimsuit.  And shoes.  We must have looked like a bunch of gangly, pimply hillbillies most of the time.  I remember once during the week, we would walk to Lake Michigan in a big long line, roadside, kind of like when all the campers follow Sharon and Susan to the Isolation Cabin in the Parent Trap.  I remember the cook in the Mess Hall was humming “Something in the Way” by Nirvana and I thought he was the coolest most aloof and mysterious man I had ever met.

The Gang from Salute Your Shorts

On Sunday afternoon, when we finally arrived after a sweltering many hour trip from the church parking lot in Archbold, Ohio, everything felt so new and fresh.  By the time Monday lunch rolled around, it was old hat, everything was routine and I was having the absolute time of my life.

The only thing I never liked about camp and still to this day don’t quite understand is why you have to get up so damn early.  Summer Camp seems to have some sort of vague connection to the military in that you get up to Revelle, orders are shouted at you, and you occasionally have to pass “inspections.”  One year, knowing our Camp Director Gail spent her off season working at the Gap in Toledo, we spread every Gap item we owned onto our beds as some sort of tribute to her when she arrived for inspection.  Having now worked several horrid Joe jobs, I can imagine the gutteral sigh she must have uttered.  She did have a really cute navy blue polka dot bikini that I loved and have looked for for years.  I assume it was Gap.

I would usually get a couple letters from my Mom during the week, sometimes my Aunt Hope (who would draw very cute animals roasting marshmallows or something), and my Grandma.  In that I would usually get my first letter from my Mother on Monday, I’m surprised it didn’t say, “Dear Betsy, You are still at home.  I am watching you fumbling around with the washing machine.  Why didn’t you unload the dishwasher? Wash your hands.  Dinner is ready.”  Instead they usually said wonderful Mom things like, “We miss you so much.  The cats are lonely.  I cleaned your room and found a dead mouse.  Finster [cat] must have left it for you.  Maybe weeks ago.  Dad says we can order pizza when you get home.  Love, Mom”  I would write one very pathetic and dirt-covered letter to my Grandma Kohart which I would forget to mail.  My Mom would then mail it the following week.  My Grandma would keep it forever, and then 15 years later it would be returned to me when my Mom was going through my Grandmother’s things, which is weird and surreal.  If I had known I would ultimately be writing that letter to myself, I think I would have said, “Dear Future Betsy,  Will I marry Joel the hot counselor?  I really hope so.  From what I am reading in Kari’s YM, this is what I am led to believe.  Will I ever have long hair?  It’s shoulder length now.  I plan on never cutting it.  If I don’t marry Joel the hot counselor, do I marry Keanu?  Love,  Betsy.   I sort of wish I could write myself a letter at camp from now.  I would say, “Dear Little Betsy,  You don’t marry Joel.  Just know it.  Feel the pain.  I think he knocks someone up later, anyway.  BUT you totally marry someone hot, so don’t even worry.  Put sunscreen on at Lake Michigan this year.  I know you didn’t burn last year, but you do this year.  Also, don’t make that dirt angel.  Everyone thinks you’re gross.  A Snack Shop Special is a kiss, so quit bothering Kristy your counselor about it, and also feel free to tell your cabin mates that Kristy is well-stocked with Snack Shop Specials due to her supplier, the Grounds guy.  Just FYI.  Have a good summer!  Also, chill out, you are kind of a spaz.  Love, Betsy.

Actually, my first two kisses occurred at camp.  One was during an ill-advised round of Suck and Blow.  The other was from the aforementioned Greg the Grounds Guy.  Before you freak, let me explain.  I mentioned above the mythic “Snack Shop Special.”  The girls that week were absolutely falling over themselves trying to find out what it was.  We begged and pleaded with the counselors, PLEASE TELL US WHAT A SNACK SHOP SPECIAL IS!!!!!  I was bothering Kristy and Greg one evening.  When Greg got up to leave us for the evening, he walked over to me and smooched me on the cheek and said, “That’s a snack shop special.”  Probably the only time I’ve ever been rendered speechless.  Certainly when the card fell during the game of suck and blow, I informed the poor 13 year old boy who was responsible how oddly cold and slimy his lips were, but only after a very dramatic EW!!! and much sleeve wiping of my lips.  I bet that kid thought I was a real asshole.  I’m also just now realizing that a  Snack Shop Special is so obviously sex and that the counselors merely tamed it for the ears of children.  Very sly.  Very sly.  Well done.

Sharon and Susan contemplating the Snack Shop Special

I remember when I would return home the following Saturday, everything at my house  smelled clean and fresh, and it felt like I had been gone for potentially years.  Until the next day, when I wouldn’t unload the dishwasher, my sisters and I swatted each other, my Mom shrieked and everything was back to normal.  Seeing any non-Camp friends after that week, I would inevitably inform them how drastically my life had changed.  How I had matured into a graceful swan, and I was really sorry they weren’t able to experience such womanly transformation.  I would inform them that I had met the man I would probably marry.  His name was Joel.  He played guitar as phenomenally as Burp Tennis.  He had obviously tried pot at some point.  And really loved Pearl Jam, which had to have been a sign from God that we were meant to be together as, I too, loved Pearl Jam.   Then one of us would become distracted by an overwhelming craving for a Popsicle and all would return to normal.