Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Perfume of Contempt: Calvin Klein Eternity


When I was a child in the 90s, women all smelled like this--towering authority figures in denim vests with stiff pixies cuts a la Enya and Patty from My So-Called Life. If you were to go in any elementary school classroom in 1995, it would likely smell of Eternity. It instilled a kind of fear and respect in me even as it made me sick. It was fascinating and I miss women having this kind of presence; 2015 is all drab Soviet seriousness and scentless sourness and strident politics. Everyone has a castrated academic boyfriend/husband that prefers "the natural look" and hates perfume. If I smell perfume on a woman it's such a rare treat that no matter what it is, I love her. I love any woman wearing any fragrance that I can actually smell--that's how starved for it I am in liberal dystopian Austin.

Just thinking of Eternity makes my stomach drop. It's a sour green floral with a huge heap of cloves and a pre-calone aquatic overlay. If women at that time were not wearing this, they were wearing one of the other Grojsman blockbusters that had the same signature stomach-drop shock value. Here's a great quote about my idol, Camille Paglia, and Eternity from someone named Marnieworld on a forum that has nothing to do with perfume:

"My favorite Paglia memory has nothing to do with her teaching though. I have always had allergies and a bad sense of smell because of it. I mistakenly spilled a bit of perfume on my typing paper and handed in a paper to her right before Christmas break. When we returned I received my paper in a plastic bag. She said that she had to isolate all of the papers on her porch until she could determine which was the offending paper and it took her a few weeks to pinpoint me as the culprit. In addition to the comments about the writing she told me not to use so much perfume and compared me to Belle Watling of Gone With the Wind. Some students in another class that didn't like her, organized themselves to all wearing that perfume(Calvin Klein's Eternity) one cold day and it drove her absolutely insane. Not a far trip of course!"

Perfume of Contempt: Thierry Mugler Womanity


Five years after its release, I feel Womanity's time has come. When it came out, everyone was either underwhelmed that it wasn't as weird as the brief made it sound or thought it was fishy and repellent. I love the bizarre, humorous marketing and bottle that no one knew what to make of; in the 80s Mugler's (and Claude Montana's) designs were considered misogynous and unwearable, classic cases of homosexuals using the fashion industry to bind and enslave women, therefore it's a scream that he rolled out this fragrance with a satirical marketing campaign that parodies modern body-positive feminist self-help rhetoric. Remember the kooky website where women were supposed to connect with women and talk about the unshakable threads of Womanity stretching across the world? On top of this, the juice is pink (symbol of frou frou conventional femininity), evokes vagina stank with a nice salty oily Secretions-lite accord, and is topped with a terrifying metallic Geiger mask that brings to mind the cover of Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth, held on with a chain. The fragrance itself is sporty and fresh and highly wearable while also being ashy and gray and somewhat staid. This is high art; this is satire; this is a true transgressive statement done in the capitalist mainstream.