Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Perfume for the Mama, Parte Una

"I want perfume for my birthday."
That's what the mama said to me yesterday in the middle of the drugstore.
It was the first time she ever requested something special for her birthday. Usually, when asked, she'll say, "Nothing. Don't get me anything."
The moment after she said she wanted perfume, I got scared. Did she want to buy perfume right then, right there?

Thankfully, not! The only perfumes you can get in a drugstore stink as bad (or worse) as the odor you smile while driving by a compost factory, or a field freshly laid with manure, or plain old skunk spray. Yuck.  I'm not even talking about the minutes after the eau has dissipated and you're now sniffing the burn of alcohol and who-knows-what chemicals. Sigh.
Most perfumes give me a headache. Some make my nose get stuffy. Worse yet, others make my face start itching.
Still. The mama doesn't ask for much.
So, this afternoon I jumped through the hoop, and spent hours on the Internet researching perfumes. No synthetics, please.
Finding perfumers that sell products with only natural ingredients—flowers, herbs, spices, etc.—was easy. Finding stores in my rural area that sell those products was not.
Finding online sellers was also easy. Finding sellers who don't  just take Paypal and who can deliver the items by her birthday was not.
The most difficult obstacle, as many of you are probably wondering, was this: How do I choose a perfume when I can't smell it?
Fortunately, the best Web sites had scintillating descriptions of perfumes that gave me a sense of what they may be like—a scent like rain in a fir forest, or a tropical jungle, or a Sunday afternoon with girlfriends, or a step back in time to Paris in the 30s or to Italy during the Renaissance era.
Wow! I never thought of perfume like that.
The descriptions were fun to read and the scenes were enjoyable to pretend in my head. Did you ever think of red or blue or orange having a particular scent? I also liked reading the ingredients that went into making a perfume and what you would be smelling like not just at the beginning but also at the end of the day.  For instance, a fragrance might first smell like the deep richness of a redwood forest, a couple hours later like the quiet of forest paths, and much later,  like spicy dried moss hanging on the north side of trees.
Perfume is soooo complex.
What perfume did I finally choose for the soon-to-be 90-year-old mama? And, how did I decide them? Stay tuned.