When I was in high school, I had an iconic woman in my life who worked with our high school drama department. I thought she was basically greatest person on earth1. She frightened me a little the first time I met her, as all people worth knowing do, and she was smart, practical, a little sassy, and always looked like a million bucks. Seriously, immaculate. And, as a result of her doing a lot of costume work for us that put me in close proximity to her as she pinned up dresses and tunics and once a weird giraffe costume, I knew for a fact that she also smelled great. Like seriously the best smelling person I’d ever met. I finally asked her what her secret was. How do you go through life with such an amazing aroma wafting off you?
Perfume, she told me. My idol wore perfume. This blew my mind in a way it should not have, and I thought to myself, Successful iconic women must wear perfume. In that moment, the two became inexplicably intertwined.
I should preface this by explaining that I was raised by a low-maintenance woman whose idea of getting dressed up was putting on mascara and matching socks, so normal woman things like wearing makeup and nail polish and pulling hairs out of your eyebrows never occurred to me as things people did. Perfume was not a word in my vocabulary until this day I realized maybe people did not naturally smell amazing, but actually had some help2.
“It’s Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue,” my idol told me, and I nodded like I knew perfume came in more than one kind before just that moment.
So the next time my mom took me to the department store to buy jeans3 I snuck over to the cosmetics section. It was a frightening place—all those makeup counters and giant faces printed on display stands and strange beauty devices that looked like medieval torture implements and women in black with very intense painted-on eyes. But I forged through this strange land, located that little blue box4 of Dolce and Gabbana perfume with every intention to buy it and smell as beautiful as my idol.
Except I didn’t realize until that moment that perfume was expensive. That one bottle was more money than I was spending on anything as a teenager. More money than I spent on my prom dress. Probably more money than I’d spent all year combined. I gingerly put the bottle back and resigned myself to giving up that dream of smelling like a beautiful, successful adult woman.
But then I put a squirt from the tester bottle on my wrist and sniffed. It smelled so good, and I just wanted it, in a way I had never wanted anything that wasn’t books or theater tickets. The smell that to me was growing up and being something, someone worth looking up to. Being someone I could admire and be proud of.
So right then and there, I made a vow. I would come back for this perfume when I had done something worth smelling that good.
I don’t remember how many times since then I have snuck into department stores to spritz myself with testers and then run away before anyone figured out I wasn’t going to buy it, or how many knock off bottles of this perfume I purchased at sketchy European markets, or when the vow I made morphed into “I will buy this perfume with the money from my first book advance.” But somewhere along the way, I promised myself that with the money from my first book sale, whenever that came or however much it was, I would buy myself a bottle of this grown up, successful woman perfume.
Friday night, Marx and I went to Macy’s.
There it is! The little blue box, and inside that box is a little blue bottle! And in spite of the fact that I look like I am going to eat it, I did not5! It is mine and I am wearing it now and even though it still seems like an exorbitant amount to pay for a bottle of perfume the size of my fist, it feels like a weird milestone. In book life, and adult life, and smelling-good life6. One step closer to being like the people I admire.
- She’s still pretty high on my list.
- I’m guessing this is about the point in the story where you are starting to wonder to yourself, “Where’s this going, Kenz?” Hang in there.
- I cannot emphasize how low maintenance we are.
- Most magical things come in blue boxes.
- Though if it tastes as good as it smells, I would.
- Yes, I am wearing it right now and yes, I do keep smelling myself. And I smell GREAT.