Mother's Day is just around the corner and some guys are probably wondering what to get their sweethearts. (Hint: If you can buy it at a hardware store, it's not a good choice.) Perfume is a traditional gift, but a lot of guys don't have experience with fragrance shopping. So as a public service, I'll devote the rest of this column to explaining how to buy perfume at a 'professional fragrance boutique.'
As far as I can tell, selecting a new perfume involves talking to very thin women dressed in severe black clothes who loiter around the Perfume Department. As a guy, if you make eye contact or even slow down when you're walking past them, they'll jump out in front of you and try to spray you with perfume. It's a game to them. When things are slow, they'll sometimes chase you past Accessories all the way to Shoes.
When my wife shops for perfume, she'll bravely walk right up to these women and strike up a conversation. Then they'll ask her questions in secret perfume-code that would make more sense if she were shopping for salad dressing ("Citrus, spicy, or herbaceous?") or was looking to re-stucco the house ("Splash, spray, or dab?")
My wife and the perfume-women will speak earnestly about back notes, essential oils, and rounding-off. Eventually they'll ask her what type of perfume she's currently wearing. (In my opinion, a real perfume expert should be able to tell what fragrance you're wearing by sniffing, like James Bond identifying a glass of wine: "You're wearing St. Lychee d'Abigail No. 47 -- and you spilled some Mocha Frappucino on your shoe. Decaf.")
Eventually, the perfume-woman will make a selection from the hundreds of small, yet hideously expensive glass bottles displayed all around. Then she'll spritz some industrial strength fragrance on my wife's wrists who will rub them together in a special way that is supposed to 'warm' the perfume, but which could be secret female sign language, for all I know. After a moment, she and the perfume-woman will both inhale deeply.
And neither one will like it. There's some unwritten perfume rule that says the first selection is never the right one.
They'll repeat this process 4 or 5 more times completely ignoring the fact that they didn't even bother to wash off the other perfume! I suppose it doesn't really matter. That very first whiff had already bludgeoned their olfactory senses into the next county. After the first perfume, all the other selections could have been liquid fertilizer and there's no way either of them would have been able to tell.
As far as I know, my wife has never actually bought any perfume this way. Strangely, the perfume-women don't seem to mind. I suspect the whole perfume selection ritual is a charade to mask the passing of vital underground information through the wrist-rubbing code, like: "Long live the revolution! The next meeting is at Marge's house. Bring a dish to pass."
Admittedly, it's a baffling process. Imagine if guys used this same method to buy paint:
Man: "I need to repaint the doghouse."
Paint guy: "Summer or winter?"
Man: "Um, this weekend actually."
Paint guy: "No, is the dog a summer or winter?"
Man: "Er... He's a Golden Retriever."
Paint guy: "Definitely a summer, then. What color is the doghouse now?"
Man: "Blue. We used some left over paint from the garage."
Paint guy: "Ok. Here's a nice color that we just got in. It's called 'Periwinkle Sunset' and it comes in a very nice washable satin."
[The paint guy dabs some on a stir paddle, waves it in the air for a few seconds, and then flips the switch on a 10,000 watt Klieg light.]
Paint guy: "How's that look?"
Man: "Gaa! I can't see!"
Paint guy: "Hmm. Ok, let's try this one. It's called 'Azure Waves'. It comes with a bottle of body wash and a loofah. [The paint guy dabs some more paint on the stir paddle.] What do you think?"
Man: "I... I think I've gone blind! My eyeballs feel sunburned..."
[Paint guy frowning.] "You know, that's not working for me, either. Do you want to try something with a touch of plum?"
My advice to you Mother's Day perfume shoppers: Try to get something with a little plum in it. And bring a dish to pass just in case.