Penelope Is In — 1 January 2014

 

Dear Penelope,

I was having a discussion with some friends (guys) last night, and the following question came up:

Is there any plausible way to buy perfume for a woman?  One of my friends said he didn’t especially like the perfume of a woman he was dating, not because it was bad, but because it actually reminded him of a cologne he wore in the past!

I’m sure you can figure out the other variants of this question:

  • the woman’s perfume is actively disliked
  • the woman’s perfume reminds the man of someone else
  • the man likes a certain perfume, but is afraid that making a specific perfume request might offend the woman

Might be trivial, but we need to know!

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

Trivial? Forsooth! Any inquiry into the proprieties of buying women perfume strikes me as both eminently serious and strongly to be encouraged.

I wouldn’t worry too much about offending the lady in question by suggesting that her perfume needs to be replaced. She is putting on perfume to be attractive to her man, and if the current formula isn’t working, she’ll almost certainly want to change it up. Frankly, I think most women would rather smell like gorgonzola than wear perfume that reminds their man of somebody else.

Unless your friend’s girlfriend likes her perfume more than she likes your friend (which, if true, is something your friend might as well learn now), she will almost certainly be open to the suggestion that she change it to please him. There is a mild implicit criticism, of course — that her taste was somehow lacking — but there is an easy way to smooth over that problem.

Take her perfume shopping. I can just about guarantee that this offer will enchant the girlfriend. I know I tend to respond extremely well to proposals that involve shopping with someone whose company I enjoy for things that will make me feel pretty and hot. The odds are good that the woman in question shares my view. If your friend happens to like a particular perfume, he can steer her towards it at the store and make it clear to her how much he likes it. That kind of testimonial goes a long way on items like this. (And if she hates it, he’ll save the expense of buying her perfume she’ll never wear.)

Lest your friend quake at the prospect of any kind of shopping with a woman, reassure him that this will probably be fun for him too. Perfume shopping is not like going clothes shopping with a woman, which involves lots of waiting and standing around. For one thing, it’s interactive.

Unless the decision is made right off the bat (i.e., if the woman is guided toward the man’s preference and accepts it straightaway), perfume shopping will entail lots of shpritzing onto the woman’s wrists, backs of hands, and forearms (as well as onto little cards, which is what they actually want you to use for testing at the store). Those wrists and arms will then be waved repeatedly under the nose of the man so he can venture an opinion. (Yes, his nose will get confused, but he needn’t fret. It won’t seize up completely.) This little dance can be both goofy-fun and sexy-fun, provided both parties approach it in a similar frame of mind.

My only caveat is that your friend should brace himself for a shock when he hands over his credit card. Perfume is expensive. But consider it an investment in the relationship. After all, from that day on, that bottle of perfume will represent that particular man in the girlfriend’s eyes. And the man will no longer have to tolerate being vaguely repelled by his woman’s scent — indeed, he’ll probably love it. 

Got a question for Penelope? Write to AskPenelope@ricochet.com.

Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. Neither Ricochet nor the writer of this column accepts any liability for the outcome or results of following the advice in this column. Ricochet reserves the right to edit letters for length and clarity.

  

There are 51 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @dash

    “Take her perfume shopping”

    Yes, sadly for us guys, unless she has previously specified a brand, this is the only viable option. Buying perfume for a woman on spec is a guaranteed waste of money, as it will invariably be either relegated to a dusty shelf for all eternity or bartered among her girlfriends for goods, services or future favors  (if there’s one who is in fact compatible with the pathetic juice you have so ill-selected, and the odds on that are slim to none).

    You have about as much chance, using only wits, imagination and  advertising, of choosing a perfume that a woman likes and will actually wear as you have of winning the lottery three weeks in a row. Trust me on this: it’s a fool’s errand. The key to success is, as always, Let Her Choose.

    But take heart, perfume shopping doesn’t need to be excruciating. It can be a time to explore your imagination, to relax, let go and allow your mind wander, free from the cruel shackles of reality. Or it can be time spent productively, computing your tax return or designing 200 cell spreadsheets in your head, for instance.

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Inactive
    @ManfredArcane

    Wake me up at the part when Anonymous asks whether there is a “plausible way to buy lingerie” for a woman.  Especially if he is contemplating “taking her lingerie shopping.”  :)

    (I apologize in advance if that is the next post.) 

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Coolidge
    @Skyler

    Women don’t necessarily buy perfume to impress men or a specific man. Many just like it for themselves and identify themselves with their chosen scent.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DavidHoltkamp

    Penelope, the perfume shopping idea is simple and brilliant! One of your best…

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Listener
    @FricosisGuy

    I second Penelope and Dash. Perfume shopping can have its rewards…wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more.

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Inactive
    @CrowsNest
    Judith Levy, Ed. Those wrists and arms will then be waved repeatedly under the nose of the man so he can venture an opinion. (Yes, his nose will get confused, but he needn’t fret. It won’t seize up completely.) This little dance can be both goofy-fun and sexy-fun, provided both parties approach it in a similar frame of mind.

    A fine point, and overall excellent advice. I will keep this small gem of a game in mind in future.

    I wonder if timing doesn’t also play a role here (as in everything). Does broaching this subject too early in a relationship send the wrong message: I’m controlling, you must change? Even if the intention is simply: I don’t think that scent complements your other attributes as well as another might?

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Member
    @PaulDougherty

    Mmmmmm Gorgonzola .

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Lance

    Apparently the store Sephora has a program wherein you put together a gift box of sample viles of seven or eight perfumes, with the intentions being the recipient can sample and test the variety at her leisure and return to the store to pick up a full size version of the fragrance she liked most. I know of this because my wife, an expert gift giver, came home one day from shopping celebrating the idea’s brilliance.—— Aside from that, giving perfume requires confidence and money. If you have the two, go to Nordstom and revel in the ,artery that is their approach to customer service. The Nordstrom fragrance department is the gentleman’s ally to gift giving as Tiffany’s and their little blue boxes are for jewelry. It just takes the confidence to ask for help and the wherewithal to follow the advice.

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Inactive
    @IsraelP

    Isn’t this a recipe for trouble if the man thinks there is a budget and the woman thinks there isn’t?

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Dramman

    Women’s answer: Above

    Men’s answer: Just give her a bottle of Chanel No. 5

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Inactive
    @TheKingPrawn

    I can think of any number of ways to not get this right.

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Inactive
    @flownover

    I introduced my wife to my favorite perfume when we married, I lucked out as she liked it and has preferred it over all others since that day years ago. The perfume (Fracas) is harder than hell to find, but I did discover a perfume store in Seattle called Parfumerie Nasreen about 20 yrs ago and the lovely Nasreen calls me every six months or so to alert me to inventory levels, new shipments, and price increases . An ally like that has been invaluable.

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Member
    @DuaneOyen

    Women buy perfume to impress other women, the primary reason for all other fashion choices as well. Ask any guy how much he likes longer hair being cut off or otherwise manipulated, exotic eyeglass frames with thick bows and prominent colors- which other women ooh and aah over.  He’ll usually say he prefers her hair about the length it was when they met, and the glasses, if necessary, as unobtrusive or invisible as possible- an appliance, not a fashion statement.  Rubber Duckie is irresistible in sweats and tennis shoes.

    Myself, I have no sense of smell, a common malady for those with sinus/allergy (polyps) issues, so I ask our daughter what perfume to buy and replenish the stock as needed when Rubber Duckie needs more.

    Perfume as an enticement to “her man” is utterly unnecessary.  To quote Dennis Prager’s re-work of a popular comment, “Show up naked and bring beer, and the beer is not a requirement.”

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Member
    @

    If I weren’t against such laws I would want a law against wearing perfume, or at least over dousing. I’m sensitive to perfumes and feel like some people are trying to poison me (at church, in an elevator, etc.) Cigarettes have nothing on perfume. And please don’t hug me- I’ll have to go home and wash my clothes and take a shower! Although to be fair, one of our guys at work was toxic with cologne and spilled it in the office one day. Everyone about died before it was over.

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DocJay

    First off I have a confession. I am physically attracted to Penelope. Why? She seems so wholesome but that tilt of her head tells me she’s all that and a bag of chips in the man loving department. Judy, this has nothing to do with you so step aside please. Secondly, Penelope gets a bottle of Obsession. She has no choice. Man I love that scent, pure aphrodisiac to me. So now ever time I look at Penelope, I will smell that smell, triggering olfactory rememberances of the most scintillating nature.

    • #15
  16. Profile Photo Inactive
    @barbaralydick

    Happy New Year All!! 

    For some reason, body chemistry has much to do with how a perfume reacts on a woman.  Choose one you like but on her it may be terrible.  Taking her shopping is the terrific way to overcome this.

    And men.  Consider carefully your own choices of cologne.  Too many of them are downright wretched (especially in overload when one can tell who’s coming down the hall or who’s on the other side of a closed door).  Once, after a co-worker had been sitting in my office for a few minutes, I thought I smelled bug spray and foolishly, after sniffing the air several times, remarked  that some exterminating must be going on and why hadn’t they done it in the evening while the offices were empty.  I did try to show a bit of embarrassment when I realized my error, but in the end didn’t care too awfully much as he was such a twit.

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Contributor
    @judithlevy

    Well chosen, Doc. I’m a Coco gal myself (with the occasional venture into Calvin Klein’s Euphoria), but Penelope loves Obsession.

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Inactive
    @KayofMT

    I have a friend who lives in France, and for years would bring me samples of parfums, most of them making me and her gag when applied to my skin. One year she brought me a sample of Givenchy III and I love it, it smelled right on me, and most of my dates seemed to like it. I rarely wear it, and only a tiny drop for a special occasion. Rule of thumb, if you can smell yourself, you have too much on.

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Contributor
    @Midge
    Skyler: …coupled with people claiming to have allergic reactions to smelling faint fragrances is all pretty amusing.

    Here’s the thing. If you have allergies or asthma and you react to someone else’s fragrance, you don’t whine about it. You just inconspicuously take your rescue medication and move on.

    It would of course, be stupid to wear that particular fragrance yourself.

    Whether you believe it or not, these reactions do occasionally happen. And the proper way to handle them does not include being a drama queen.

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Shoshanna
    Judith Levy, Ed.: Also, do you have perfumes that you associate strongly with certain periods of your life?

    Absolutely. 

    At 15 I loved the heady hyacinth warmth of Jontue, which at that time was new to the market and quickly became my first go-to scent. 

    By my early 20s  I was living in Greece, then Israel, and somewhere in that period discovered Opium, which became my signature scent for the next ten years. 

    In my early 30s I confess to falling for Obsession– along with millions of other women!– and wore it almost exclusively until my 40s, at which point I’d outgrown its… lack of subtlety. 

    For most of the next decade, depending on my mood and the  circumstances in which I expected to find myself, I alternated between Shalimar and Sublime (an exquisite floral chypre from Patou), and had no intention of abandoning either one.  Then one day I came across Hermes’ 24 Faubourg, and that was that. 

    I strongly associate each of these scents with different periods of my life, places in the world I’ve lived, traveled, worked, and the people I’ve known, loved, and even hated.  They’re my history.

    • #20
  21. Profile Photo Contributor
    @judithlevy
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Judith, You might enjoy Bois de Jasmin’s blog. She works in the fragrance industry and specializes in knowledgeable, well-written reviews of perfumes.

    It looks delightful, thank you.

    • #21
  22. Profile Photo Contributor
    @judithlevy
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: And you might find this ad copy written for Les Elixir Charnels as hilarious as I did. Especially the sentence “It´s time to play my favourite game, the one where I blindfold him and drop onto his skin a sprinkling of black peppercorns and a trickle of chocolate.”

    I can’t stop laughing. And the reviewer’s commentary is fantastic. My favorite parts:

    Who did they write this for, and why? I mean, bless them, are the folks at the Guerlain counter supposed to pass this on to the consumers? Or is stuff like this written to keep the owners´ relatives employed while driving me slowly insane?

    …HIERATIC? Oh, for Pete´s sake. What, it had better flow than sacerdotal? They couldn’t work in gnosis? Or chthonic? Or maybe they were meaning it in the Egyptian sense, I don’t know.

    • #22
  23. Profile Photo Contributor
    @judithlevy
    Shoshanna: At 15 I loved the heady hyacinth warmth of Jontue, which at that time was new to the market and quickly became my first go-to scent. 

    Whoa, Jontue! I haven’t thought of that stuff in a long time. For the longest time I thought it was actually “John Too”. (Apropos of which, my mother, whenever she heard the phrase “by Prince Matchabelli” at the end of a perfume ad, said she would always imagine a row of little kids pulling their shirts up to compare bellies.)

    You’ve really piqued my curiosity, by the way. I’ve got to check out Hermes’ 24 Faubourg. 

    • #23
  24. Profile Photo Contributor
    @judithlevy
    Skyler: I’m thinking all this talk about each woman’s “chemistry” being different, coupled with people claiming to have allergic reactions to smelling faint fragrances is all pretty amusing.

    Are you responding to the somewhat loose use of the word “chemistry”? It’s shorthand, really. What we’re saying is that for whatever reason, perfumes smell different on different women. Years ago, while out shopping one day, Claire Berlinski and I tried on the same perfume, and it smelled utterly and completely different on the two of us — you would never have guessed that we were wearing the same perfume. 

    And as to your other point: I go splotchy around some fragrances (not many, fortunately), which I can only imagine is an allergic reaction to an ingredient. 

    • #24
  25. Profile Photo Contributor
    @Midge
    Judith Levy, Ed.

    My only caveat is that your friend should brace himself for a shock when he hands over his credit card. Perfume is expensive. But consider it an investment in the relationship.

    Don’t. Ever. Buy. A. Full. Bottle. As an initial purchase. If you can help it.

    Get sample sizes instead. Free samples (from, say, Sephora). Or handmade decants, which can be bought online from several sources:Surrender to ChanceThe Posh PeasantThe Perfumed Court

    Another (perhaps less cheapskate-looking) alternative is to purchase gift samples of several perfumes from an artisanal perfumer. For example, Sonoma Scent Studios offers a selection of 20 different perfumes for 75 bucks. Not bad – expensive enough to be impressive, but versatile enough to be practical.

    It takes several wearings to decide whether you really like a perfume well enough to use a full bottle – and, if you’re prone to allergies, whether it will give you a reaction.

    With tactics like these, perfume can be an affordable luxury.

    • #25
  26. Profile Photo Member
    @JimmyCarter
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake

    Don’t. Ever. Buy. A. Full. Bottle. As an initial purchase. If you can help it.

    Get sample sizes instead.   · 28 minutes ago

    I buy Her a copy of People magazine; when She’s done reading it She can rub Herself with the perfume inserts.

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake

    With tactics like these, perfume can be an affordable luxury. · 28 minutes ago

    • #26
  27. Profile Photo Member
    @
    dash:”Take her perfume shopping”

    But take heart, perfume shopping doesn’t need to be excruciating. It can be a time to explore your imagination, to relax, let go and allow your mind wander, free from the cruel shackles of reality. Or it can be time spent productively, computing your tax return or designing 200 cell spreadsheets in your head, for instance. · 13 hours ago

    And here I was thinking you were incredibly romantic to take a woman shopping for perfume… The shopping would score many, many points of love though even if you are also thinking about ways to improve a spreadsheet. Another way to boost the whole score and double it to mega love would be to go for coffee afterwards and discuss the name of the perfumes she nearly chose.

    • #27
  28. Profile Photo Coolidge
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    One technique I have used in the past is to purchase a custom scent package. This allows the lady to devise a scent she likes that is unique to her. The envy points she gets as she tells her various acquaintances that the scent is custom made for her from XYZ of Beverly Hills or ABC of Paris translates directly into relationship points. ;)

    • #28
  29. Profile Photo Inactive
    @OldBuckeye
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: My current favorite is Lalique’s Encre Noir, which is a men’s cologne. (I prefer wearing men’s colognes to a lot of women’s perfumes, actually.)

    Le Baiser du Dragon and Dior Dune are also favorites. I would love Cinnabar and Opium if only they didn’t make me sneeze. · 5 hours ago

    I have liked Cinnabar, Opium, and Dune in the past, so now must search out your other mentions, MFR! However, those are only “winter” scents for me, as they seem too heavy in the heat of summer, as is Prada’s L’eau Ambree. The scent I always return to when I get bored with others is Estee Lauder’s White Linen.

    • #29
  30. Profile Photo Inactive
    @RedFeline

    Don’t like to rain on the parade, but perfume can be unpleasant, to say the least, for people with allergies: eyes run, throats dry up, people feel ill. 

    Nowadays, lots of public events, including Cineplexes, request that people don’t wear perfume, out of consideration of those with allergies.

    Too bad, because perfume can sometimes smell nice! It can always be worn at home. 

    I wonder if any perfumes have yet been created that are allergy-free?

    • #30
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