Fragrant Encounters In The Real World


I’m standing in the checkout line at the supermarket tapping my foot, because it’s the slowest line– it always is if I pick it.  I’ve got the Sunday blues even worse than usual because yesterday I spent the day in Soho, visiting Osswald, which is my idea of heaven, dining at four star restaurants, and shopping like the bill is going to be sent to someone else.  This is the life I think I deserve, but today I am back in the life I have made for myself, trying to squeeze in food shopping between driving my kids to social events in three different counties whilst dealing with a migraine.  (I am not British, I have lived in New Jersey for all but four years of my life– just using the word whilst is an indication that my affectations are back in full force.)

The person in front of me has four hundred dollars worth of groceries and five hundred dollars worth of coupons.  I’m standing there trying to develop an interest in Jessica Simpson’s diet and Demi Moore’s dating habits in order to avoid going into full-scale Linda Blair mode because I am now pinned in where I am by another person behind me and I’m also claustrophobic.  


It is finally my turn with the cashier and I am expecting the usual, “Do you have a Price Plus card?” so I am astonished when she smiles at me and says, “What is the name of your perfume?”

I am wearing Praline de Santal by Parfumerie Generale, which is not exactly an easy fragrance when it comes to civilians– my kids have told me they hate it and my husband, who knows better by now than to say such things, says merely “It’s okay.” I’m intrigued by the compliment but unsure how to answer. When I get questions like this in the real world it turns into a tedious exercise in futility. “Oh really? Is that by Gucci? Do they sell it at Macy’s?” Even my coworkers at my day job, who love designer frags and have absorbed by now the fact that they have never ever heard of what I am wearing, get a glazed look when I try to explain the niche fragrance community.

I decide to simply answer her question. “Praline de Santal.” And she gives me a huge smile and says, “It’s beautiful, it smells like roses.”

This is the point where I stop looking at her as an obstacle to my afternoon of rushing around and REALLY look at her. Praline de Santal smells nothing like roses, but this does not distress me. It has been my experience that people who have not yet trained their noses to pick out notes smell something they like and it translates in their brain as something else they like. When I really look at her I remember her. She is in her early 30’s or so, Central American with a thick accent indicating she’s a recent immigrant, probably working minimum wage, and she has impeccable taste. She has complimented me before, on Neela Vermeire Trayee, one of the finest fragrances on the market. I thank her for the compliment and go on my way, but this interaction has made me think. I’m going home and making her a decant of the Praline de Santal, and the next time I see her, maybe I’ll make a friend.

What do you do when people who are not part of the fragrance community enquire about your scent?

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12 Responses to Fragrant Encounters In The Real World

  1. Deanna says:

    Beautiful — and the beauty is available to those who see and smell and listen and feel. Unfortunately, I must live among the Sensually Asleep as few people in the South have ever asked me about what I’m wearing!

  2. Tora says:

    Oh Do make her a decant! Recently, I was dropping off some clothes at the Goodwill, and the girl who helped me unload my car told me I smelled fantastic. The next day I brought her a decant of Hilde Soliani’s Cristina. While (whilst?) we have not become friends, I made her ridiculously happy. And that’s what it is all about. Great story Nancy!!

  3. Vicki PW says:

    I have actually gotten compliments on DSH Jitterbug in Florida and from diverse people too. If I didn’t have enough to do a decant I would just have them go to the perfumer’s site since most are so generous with samples.

  4. Nancy, one of my most memorable compliments was when I was out of town at a hotel. I was wearing Incensed by Smell Bent and the guy who complimented me on it was so so passionate about the way it smelled using every curse word under the sun to describe how much he liked it, I told him where he could find it and something tells me to this very day he found it and owns it. Lol

  5. Tara says:

    Loved this story, Nancy. I hope you see her again to give her a decant. That’s such a thoughtful gesture, and I bet it would make her day.

  6. angie says:

    Love this Nancy! Can’t wait to hear about her reaction.

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