You know, I’ve been doing this blog for over two years now, and it always surprises me what captures the imagination and interest of the fanbase. Last time I wrote about some missteps with deodorant, and you wouldn’t believe the responses I received. Not just emails, but people who know me in real life and who are friends of the blog have stopped me to talk about their own misadventures in pit control. An impromptu round table discussion about scents and deodorants broke out at a recent dinner party and some interesting things were discussed. For example, did you know that the “scent” molecules associated with deodorants attach themselves to your hair? So that means if you’re a lady who decides to shave the ol’ pits, then there’s no real need to buy scented deodorants. Fascinating, eh? As far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as TMI when it comes to lady grooming. I’m always a student in that department.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this blog business is 1. Know your audience and 2. Give them what they want. (Actually that’s two things, but I’m a librarian, not a mathematician).
So with that in mind, I’m going to talk a little bit more about scents, but I’m going to focus on cologne this time.
Before I do that, let me just say that I was in Safeway today, picking some stuff up for supper, and I found this weird discount shelf near the back next to the yogurts. I’ve been going to this grocery store for a decade, and this is the first time I’ve noticed it. Anyway, on the second shelf were a few discounted deodorants. Guess what kind? Yep, you got it. Old Spice Matterhorn. The very kind I was considering, if careful readers recall last post. So I tossed one in my cart. When I got home, I had a couple of second thoughts. I mean, discounted deodorant: why was it discounted? What was wrong with it? Does deodorant go bad? Was it “gently used” or something gross like that? Will I get a weird rash? I can see buying day old bread or even quite ripe avocados, but what was I thinking? Am I putting myself in danger? I’ll report on any side effects, be sure of that.
Let me preface my remarks by reminding readers that I don’t have a very good sense of smell. Ever since my teens, I’d say smell was my weakest sense, which has probably been a blessing in many situations over the years. I wonder what my strongest sense would be? Maybe touch? I’m great at touching things. I can close my eyes and tell you if something is rough or smooth or squishy or firm all day long, if you want me to. Just let me know. So no matter what I say about scent, I am not an authority.
I associate Grade 7 Christmas as getting three memorable gifts from my Grandma: a chess set, a copy of “The Westing Game” by Ellen Raskin, and a bottle of Brut cologne. I still have that chess set, “The Westing Game” was probably one of the only “non-Bellairs” books I regularly read as a kid, and I was delighted to see it was referenced in a season one episode of “Veronica Mars” and that bottle of Brut represented my very first foray into using “cologne”. I’m not sure what possessed my Grandma to get me cologne. Maybe because I was in Jr High and going to dances and probably getting a little interested in “the ladies”, I’m not sure. In any case, I’ll never forget that little glass bottle with the chain around the outside with the little dog-tag stamped “BRUT”. All Christmas I put a little Brut on before I went out. Just a little dab behind the ears, just like how my Grandma showed me, and I was set. I don’t think I overdid it. I thought I was pretty cool. That lasted for just a few weeks until a girl at school, an older girl of grade 8, told me that BRUT was actually short for BRUTAL, and I immediately stopped wearing it. I didn’t tell my Grandma I had stopped, but I was mortified that an older girl noticed it and set me straight. I was off cologne for AT LEAST two years.
It wasn’t until grade nine that I thought I wanted to try it again. I decided on Old Spice. Nowadays, Old Spice has those self depreciating commercials with the guy on the horse etc and has tried to reinvent itself as “cool”, but back then Old Spice was the choice of Uncles and Grampas. You may find the reason behind choosing Old Spice as a bit twisted. I was a HUGE fan of the movie, “Jaws” and there’s this scene where Roy Scheider is looking out the back of Quint’s ship, The Orca, and is dropping some chum, hoping to attract the great white shark. The smell must have been just awful, especially for someone like Roy Scheider’s character, Chief Brody, who was not accustomed to the ways of the sea, and you can see him holding a bottle of Old Spice and dousing a handkerchief with it and holding it to his face. Call me crazy, but I just wanted to smell like Chief Brody. I learned my lesson from BRUT and used the Old Spice sparingly. I didn’t get any comments, positive or negative, and so I soon lost interest.
The next cologne for me, in early high school, was called “Fahrenheit” by Christian Dior. I’ll be honest, I was mostly attracted to the cool bottle. The cologne itself was quite distinctive and pungent, maybe not as bad as Paul Rudd’s “Sex Panther” but pretty close. The smell was really, really strong, apparently. So strong that my friends actually organized an intervention for me in Grade 11. I was confronted after school by Ed, Steve, Jon and I think Corey. They basically said that the Fahrenheit was too much, and that it was giving our friend Grant a bad allergic reaction whenever he smelled it. I wasn’t as thin-skinned as I was when the grade eighter told me about the true meaning of BRUT, so I took a more stubborn Irish, “fuck you, guys” approach and continued to wear it for another month or so, but I soon saw the light when I was not being invited to things and so it was “So long, Fahrenheit”.
I think there was a short period of Calvin Klein’s Obsession thrown in at the end of high school, but the Obsession didn’t last long. I don’t think even long enough to get through a whole bottle. If I remember correctly, I had to have my cologne vetted by my friends after the Fahrenheit incident, and my heart wasn’t really in it.
My longest single obsession started when I read a GQ article about famous people and the scents they wore. I was intrigued by this particular scent called “Green Irish Tweed” by Creed. I had never heard of the Creed company, but this particular scent was created for Cary Grant, and was also worn by Prince Charles and Clint Eastwood. I couldn’t imagine the common ground between Cary Grant, Prince Charles and Clint Eastwood, so I made it my mission to find a bottle of Creed’s “Green Irish Tweed” and make it my cologne too.
This was the mid 1990s, before you could order anything you wanted online, so it really was a challenge. None of the stores in my city carried it, or even heard of “Creed”. I visited a specialty shop in Toronto. They had some Creed products, but none of the “Green Irish Tweed”. My search continued. I half-assedly looked for a couple of years, and it wasn’t until I was in London that I decided to visit Harrods. I figured if I could get it anywhere, I could get it at Harrods, and I was right. The clerk in charge of scents knew exactly what I was talking about. She even referred to the company as “Monsiour Creed”, as he was from Paris. Despite his cultural handicap, Harrods still carried him. I thought I might mention the Prince Charles connection, but I was pretty intimidated. She produced a bottle, and I couldn’t believe the price. Pretty much Prince Charles would be the only one who could actually afford a bottle. I can’t remember the exact price, but a small bottle was over two hundred pounds, closer to probably three hundred, maybe more. It was so expensive, there even wasn’t a “tester” bottle open, so I couldn’t even give it a “sniff”. I guess if you’re buying Creed’s “Green Irish Tweed” you don’t need to know what it smells like. I came all this way, so close, and stymied at the last minute by cost. I really couldn’t justify spending that amount of money, and since I had just spent a “pretty penny” on a hand-crafted Sherlock Holmes chess set, I was endanger of going over my duty limit anyway.
“Anything to declare, sir?”
“Only that I smell fabulous, like Prince Charlie, don’t you agree?”
I think the clerk could sense my disappointment, and she smiled and said, “we do have shaving soap in the Green Irish Tweed scent and it is much more reasonable”. 40 pounds for a bar of shaving soap isn’t exactly bargain basement, but I wasn’t leaving empty-handed and so I happily purchased it. I tried sniffing it through the nice sandalwood box, but I couldn’t really try it out until I got home. It was luxurious. Soft and subtle, I would only shave with it for special occasions. That bar of soap lasted almost ten years, and then a coworker who visits London every year surprised me one Christmas with a replacement bar. I still have it today.
Around this time, someone bought me a bottle of “Hugo Boss” cologne. I don’t know if it is a particular stripe or brand. I just know it as “Hugo Boss”. I think maybe my Mom bought it for me. I guess I can attribute most of my scents to my Mom or Grandma. That’s a bit weird, huh. It has a nice, non-offensive smell to it, and again, I would only wear it on special occasions. I’m not one of these “cologne every day” kind of chaps. I seemed to have finally found my groove. Creed’s “Green Irish Tweed” shaving soap, accompanied by a little splash of the “Hugo Boss” and I was ready for a night on the town.
The only snag was that after the birth of our daughter, my wife gathered up all the things that she might accidently get into in the bathroom and pack them away downstairs. You’re already one step ahead of me, reader. Yes, the “Hugo Boss” was among the offending substances. So for awhile, if I wanted to give myself a squirt, I’d have to slip downstairs, open any number of rubbermaid bins marked “POISON!” and try to find the “Boss”. It was quite an ordeal, but I did it. Safety first, am I right? This worked fine until one day about a year ago when I couldn’t find it in any of the bins.
“Oh, I’m sure it’s down there somewhere, you just haven’t looked hard enough” was my wife’s usual response. She eventually got so fed up with me that she decided to go through the bins herself, but after a good half hour of poking around, she emerged sheepish.
“Maybe it got thrown out. I can’t find it. Can’t you just use something else?”
So that’s where we’re at. Sure enough, at the top of the medicine cabinet, behind a bunch of contact lens solution (POISON!) that somehow was overlooked by my wife, was a tiny bottle of “Old Spice”. Full circle: back to Junior High. I’ve been using that for the last few months and I haven’t received any comments, positive or negative, so I’m guessing that’s want you want right? If you can’t actually smell it, you’re probably not using too much.
And if it’s good enough for Chief Brody, it’s good enough for me.