Not so for me.
I began my search at Nordstrom, and that was a little disappointing in and of itself. If I had lived in a larger, more glamorous city, I would have begun my search at Neiman's, Saks or (if I were in Paris, for example) a small, independent perfumerie with a little women in an Hermes scarf who could take one look at me, sum up my personality as intelligent chic and come wafting out of the back of her shop with the perfect blend of delicate florals, a hint of spice and a touch of something none of us can really put our finger on.
I started at Nordstrom, with my daughter sullenly in tow, and I just said this: I want to find my signature scent. I like floral perfumes that are light and classic. I don't like musky scents that are heavy....you know, like 'Opium' from the 80s.
The salesgirl gave me a dozen samples. Chloe. Prada Orange and Prada Iris. Several Chanel (I really, really, really wanted my signature scent to be Chanel). Gucci. Hermes. Versace.
The salesgirl gave my daughter a sample of a Coach perfume, which was very sweet. I mean, I wouldn't wear Coach but little M. was in heaven.
Okay. I took them all home in a little silver bag and put them on my bathroom counter and began plucking them out each morning (my eyes closed) and spraying them at my neck and wrists and then spending the day sniffing on and off to tell if one or the other took my breath away and screamed: I.Am.Yours.
I liked them all. Some were heavier than others. Prada were especially clean and crisp. I never wore one and then felt, later in the day, that it was awful or gave me a headache....I never wanted to take a hot shower and be done with any of them. And yet, none of them grabbed me, made me want to throw down $100 for a tiny bottle and call it my own.
One afternoon my daughter wanted me to share her perfume sample, which I'd all but forgotten about. I indulged her and sprayed some Coach 'Poppy' on my wrist, doing a mental eye roll because let's face it: I'm not a Coach 'Poppy' kind of girl. I'm a Chanel kind of girl. I'm a Prada kind of girl.
I didn't think a thing about it until I sat down to watch 'The Good Wife' that night (I so want to say that I sat down to read a copy of The New Yorker instead), and I was sitting there and I realized that I was smelling my wrist, over and over again, and I couldn't stop. It was lovely. The smell was lovely and I didn't want to stop smelling it. I remembered then that I'd sprayed on the Coach that afternoon, and I sat there watching 'The Good Wife' with my wrist all but glued to my nose.
I went back to the Prada, Gucci and Chanel for two more months. I tried very hard to love them. My husband returned to the States, and I tried very hard for him to love them so that maybe I would love them even more. Finally, I went to Nordstrom and asked for my own sample of Coach 'Poppy.' I put it on one afternoon before car shopping. I forgot about it, of course, and as I was shopping for a new car, I kept thinking: wow, this dealer has great smelling cars.
Of course, it was me.
And so it is that I have found my signature scent: Coach 'Poppy'
When I wear it, it smells like me....only better. (Should I be in marketing?)
I love the way it mixes with my skin and my own natural scent. I love smelling my clothes after I've worn it. I just love it.
I realize some stuff about me that maybe was lurking in the back of my head (as all realizations usually do) about who I am, how I view myself and how I want other people to view me. I know that sort of thing shouldn't really be illuminated via a perfume, but for me that's how it happened.
I have to ask myself why I want a signature scent to begin with, and when I do ask that question I realize that I want OTHER people to view me a certain way: classic, timeless, established. When I think of women for whom these adjectives are used (Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Michelle Obama),I want to be like these women, and maybe a part of me feels that if I set all the exterior conditions, I will be.
So I try to buy cashmere, wear neutrals, keep my heels a decent height and remember to polish my nails and trim my cuticles and forgo the red. I wear my hair in a classic style, try to limit the make-up and carry a buff-colored leather handbag that I'm sure will last a lifetime. And even if I am not aware of it every minute of every day, I am, in my own way, trying to create a certain kind of person in myself.
That woman does not wear Coach 'Poppy' - which is only a degree or two separated from Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson.
Except, I do. I wear Coach 'Poppy.' I love it. I can't take my wrist away from my nose.
So, when the move is final and we are settled, I'm going to head to the mall and plunk down my $100 for a bottle of perfume that maybe doesn't fit into the idea of who I want to be but that fits in perfectly with who I already am.