Scented candles. What are they for? Ask a man, and you might get varying answers – for masking the stank of indifferent housekeeping; for turning one’s home into a firetrap (bonus if careless children and pets serve as the arsonists); for frittering away money; for making grown men sneeze. Like cushions, scented candles seem an item of home decor most men could do without. Indeed, 90% of candles are purchased by women. Yet candles grace seven out of ten households and come in more than 10,000 different scents for US customers alone.
As the autumn nights draw in, even earlier now that our clocks are set back, the clever advertisers at Glade invite you into the mind of their typical female consumer, so you can see what all the scented fuss is about. “LET TEMPTATION FILL THE AIR,” Glade’s ad proclaims, as a sultry alto invites you to “Dare to let fragrance take you places you never thought you’d go…”
The first place you never thought you’d go is apparently behind some dark curtains, where a handsome young buck – almost certainly younger than you, the consumer, are – approaches. He hands you an invitation. To a “glampfire”. “Enter If You DARE,” it reads. Glampfires are mad sexy and everyone knows it – his invitation couldn’t scream sex any harder if he’d stapled a condom to it.
You open the French (therefore sexy) doors to enter a Moorish bar with a French (therefore sexy) bartender. The tender gently strokes the length of the bar with a soft cloth. What elixirs does he display to tempt you with? Glade home fragrances, of course! After all, what could be more intoxicating?
Once suitably drunk on the power of home aroma modification, you meander deeper into the bowels of this Moorish palace, hand trailing languidly along an ivy-covered banister. Thanks to the power of Glade, the palace’s interior is overgrown in a riot of vegetation – entire pine trees, herbaceous borders popping out of jars. You turn your head and there, before a bower of autumn blossoms dark as sin, is The Moor himself. He takes you by the hand, teeth gleaming, into a nocturnal bower. He is there to help you discover yourself…
By, er… taking your picture, of course. After all, SC Johnson, purveyor of fine Glade products, is still a family company. (It has a wife company and little kid companies at home.)
Gazing at your own pale, sapphire-eyed image, you realize you are a femme fatale – as exotic as blue-eyed white girls get. Your narcissism thus sated, you draw near to an amber-colored candle. You are Alice in Wonderland, and the tiny orange peyote buttons tricked out like miniature magic pumpkins hold the key to your dreams – and beyond.
The courtyard door, grown impossibly small – dollhouse-like, opens. An almond-eyed Nubianess, grown towering by comparison, beckons. Her swaying steps will lead you to the place beyond your dreams.
What is this place?
A tea party, of course! The petits-fours are all pumpkin-spice flavored; the cups, impossibly dainty. Doll’s cups – all women are secretly children still longing to play tea with their dollies, dollies brought to life in exotic grownup form by the power of Glade’s “magic pumpkins”. The Nubianess’s downcast gaze suddenly lifts to meet your own, and you are transported once more – transported direct into Eden.
You pluck a magic apple (labeled just for you, O fairest) from the golden tree. Through the flaming, aurulent forest wafts flamenco music. Because why not? Don’t apples remind everyone of flamenco? A woman in a red dress appears in the distance. She is sinuous. She is exotic – a femme even more fatale than you are. She is Huma Abedin, and she is dancing just for you.
Now all afire with Glade-scented sapphism, you rush toward her, offering the apple. Once the fruit is within her orbit, the magic of her gaze teleports it directly into her own hand, and she takes a bite…
That is what awaits you with Glade’s invitation. Toldja glampfires were mad sexy. “Ignite your daring side,” the sultry alto croons. The dark curtains rustle. If the Moor, the Nubianess, and Huma weren’t enough for you, that young buck is still waiting in the wings…
So, intoxication and polymorphous perversity. That’s why scented candles are so popular – they’re nose porn for women. Or at least that’s what the good folks at Glade promise. And they would know, right?
“Feel tempted,” Glade suggests, suggestively. And for a microsecond, I am tempted – tempted to suppose Said was onto something with his critique of orientalism: though I’ve never thought ill of orientalists myself, the “exotic”, “oriental” tropes on display in this Glade ad are an intersectional deconstruction just waiting to happen. (Hello, Everyday Feminism!)
Now, perhaps you might still think a woman could be forgiven for believing that all scented candles are good for is making one’s home smell marginally nicer while adding a little ambiance by way of fire hazard. But women, if your scented candle doesn’t ignite your daring, dissipated, exotic side, you’re doing it wrong!
And men, the next time you see a woman in the scented candle aisle, cautiously sniffing the bounteous variety on offer, give her a little privacy…