Two-Faced T

– On the strange things skin can do to perfume…

Yesterday, on the night of a full Cancer Moon, something exceedingly strange happened, something possibly explained by Moon Magic, but I’m not too sure because this sort of thing has happened before.

I’ve been suffering from a slight case of writer’s block, not anything debilitating, but enough to stare into space and the wall behind my laptop thinking…I should do…something.

So in a fit of pique, I reached for the large Southwestern gourd, carved, stained and embellished by a member of the Zuni pueblo tribe of New Mexico, that contains a selection of my samples and decants. This has been known to do wonders for my writing, and at other times the precise opposite. I never know, but on a night like yesterday, I’d take my chances.

Since yesterday was a fairly light day, perfume-wise, I thought I’d see what I’d spontaneously reach for to try again.

Into my hot little hands fell…Mandarine Mandarin and Bois de Violette by Serge Lutens.

It’s no secret I sold a fair chunk of my olfactory soul to Uncle Serge. It’s likewise not a secret that sometimes Lutens perfumes can be shape-shifting creatures that take you on journeys you never expected, to places you never knew or even wanted to know. Rather like a lot of the music I love.

Ambre Sultan is the perfect example of that, but there’s a topic for another blog post.

I’ve tried both of them before, and sat firmly on the fence of ‘maybe/maybe not.’ The last time I tried Mandarine Mandarin, the celery seed note bloomed to such an extent, it drowned out all the other notes and threatened to eat me alive, unless I gnawed off my arm first. This was supposedly an Oriental, a luscious, complex mandarin/candied orange/Lapsang Souchong/amber blend that on paper at least sounded like something I should love to death, but that day, the celery seed was out to eat me, and that did not make me happy.

Which, after all, is partly the reason I wear perfume to begin with.

Alors, then – no. Never. Not even in my nightmares, and trust me, with the book I’m writing, they’re plenty bad enough.

On to Bois de Violette. Now, I do like violets, and I love violet candies and candied violets, but the bottled variety, not so much. From reviews and raves, I gathered this was a different, not-that-kind of violet, so I was looking forward to it. Violet paired with Atlas cedar, it couldn’t be too bad. So I thought before applying.

It promptly dropped me into a gargantuan pencil box of very expensive art pencils – and stayed there. Violet???? What violet? This should have been titled Bois de Viol, because it was…rape by pencil shavings, enough to fuel the Ècole des Beaux Arts and several sketch artists for at least ten years. Yikes! I used kitty litter that smelled better than this! I’ve used cedar shavings on my rose geranium that smelled exactly the same.

Something was very wrong with these pictures. These were not the mind-blowers I had come to expect. I put them away in their Pueblo gourd and forgot about them.

Until a full moon night, a night I couldn’t write, and they flew into my hand as if propelled unseen by Uncle Serge, whispering in the ether…

“Really. You should try them. You’ll see.”

Two perfumes. Two wrists. On the left, Mandarine Mandarin, Bois de Violette on the right.

I waited the prerequisite five minutes, staring into my wall, wondering if I’d want to shoot myself.

Well, I do. For other reasons than I expected.

Mandarine Mandarin, that celery-seed arm-eating gargoyle, was on her best behavior last night. Holy Orange Blossom, this was glorious stuff. Mandarin zest and candied mandarin, orange blossom and black tea and… hello, lover, where have you been? Can I marry you, or should I just settle for embalming when I leave Planet Earth?

Opulent and rich and heady, my favorite kind of smoky citrus scent, the kind that slays the unsuspecting. Yes, I need that at my age. Whatever it takes. Take me. Please. Not like its sibling, Fleurs d’Oranger, which to my untrained nose is bottled sunshine-y days, this is an evening perfume that sends out certain messages of expensive dinners at Lapérouse in Paris, in one of the cabinets particuliers, champagne included and fireworks likewise.

I really need to get a life. Or else a less dangerous imagination.

On to Bois de Violette. Last night, there was no pencil box in sight, only the pensive, slightly melancholy yet flirtatious air of wood violets talking, not whispering, from a cedar-forest floor. I caught myself thinking this would be perfect for a Pisces kind of girl, someone sweet and cuddly and but with hidden depths you could never guess. BdV would be perfect for those days you should be concentrating on Serious Things, like splitting atoms or infinitives, just not so serious you want the world to forget you’re a girl after all, or forget yourself in all that serious cedar. Make no mistake, this is very woody in the best way, yet the violet sweetens it just enough to push it over the frilly edge of feminine, at least on my skin.

I had a bad case of perfume schizophrenia on my arms last night. Just call me Two-Faced T. Whether it was hormones, mood or the phase of the Moon, I didn’t know what to expect except the unexpected.

Be careful what you wish for. You will get it! Such as – a cure for writer’s block!

Have you had any surprises on your skin? Perfumes that turned traitor, right when you thought it was love eternal and everlasting, or else Demons of the Dark that hid their angelic side underneath, only to spring it upon you unaware?

Mandarine Mandarin and Bois de Violette are in the Salon-exclusive line of Salons Shiseido at Palais Royale, although Bois de Violette is also in the export line available at Luckyscent, Aedes and Barneys NY, Samples and decants can be bought from The Perfumed Court.

Image: Yours truly, seriously mangled.

16 thoughts on “Two-Faced T

  1. I love this phrase: “Holy Orange Blossom”. I think I will have to use it. 🙂
    I want to try Mandarine mandarin ever since the Non-Blonde reviewed it not so long ago.
    As to traitors, I have one SL – Chergui. I bought it in Paris thinking it was great never to wear it once I got home because it made me nauseous.
    And Shalimar is the one that went the other way around. 🙂

  2. Ines – feel free to steal the phrase! 😉 I, too, read Gaia's review and was infinitely jealous she got something I didn't – until yesterday, when I did!

    I've never tried Chergui, apart from the wax sample, which was candied hay and much else besides, but I can relate to traitorous scents…I bought a decant of Ormomnde Jayne Woman after I tried a sample, only to find it was so utterly…strange and musk-heavy in the dry-down I couldn't possibly wear it. I gave the decant to my sister (who loves it), and the scent to the villain in my story. You might have heard of her before – Lilith, Queen of the Succubi…

  3. What is it about Lutens that does this time and again? I am glad it is not just me, I have been seriously doubting myself (always the first instinct: trash yourself, that's what I went into therapy for all these years). Thank you for this enlightening piece of writing, T. And the plot thickens concerning scent twin-dom…

  4. No, B, it's not just you! (and do you know, it rarely is, even though like you I always start by doubting myself!)

    Strangely enough, I do believe you hit the nail on the head. By no stretch of the imagination have I tried every niche and mainstream line out there, but having said that, the Serge Lutens line is an unusual gang of shapeshifters. Some are instant and eternal love, and some are love/hate, and yet others are…well, the word gargoyles comes to mind!

    Because each of us are different, we each have different button pushers. For instance, I hate, detest and loathe Muscs Kublai Khan, not because it's a poorly constructed perfume – rather the reverse, technically, Lutens perfumes are all astounding! – but for no other reason than on me, it's beyond vile! I have issues with musks in general, mind, so personal preference plays a part, too.

    Why does this happen? Hormones are the obvious answer, but it could also be that our tastes and predilections change as we evolve, and we can grow to love what we once detested.

    Or not. Nevertheless, isn't it nice to know – that it's not JUST…you? 😉

  5. T, you call your sister Queen of the Succubi? lol What does she say about that? 🙂
    The more I read your writing, the more I wonder what your novel is going to be like.. Once you become a famous and rich author, I expect some free reads. 😉
    Regarding OJ, finally someone who understands. I have the same problem with all OJ scents, she seems to be using a musky base that my nose cannot stand because it gets in and won't let go so I smell that the most and the rest around it. I really can't wear her scents even though I can tell they are good. Just not for me.

  6. LOL! No…I gave the decant to my sister (in real life, for real!), and in the book I'm writing, I gave it to Lilith to wear.

    My sister and Lilith are nowhere related! 😉 My sister is a mild-mannered Virgo journalist and mother of two, whereas Lilith is a good deal more than that – besides being Queen of the Succubi!

    According to one fan I know, if you appreciate, say, Laurel Hamilton and Christopher Moore, or even Jonathan Maberry, you might like my book. Mind you, I've read none of them, so I'm in no position to judge.

    There's a link to the work in progress on my profile page, and scattered through a few posts here as well.

    I haven't tried any other OJ perfumes besides 'OJ Woman', but your comment gives me pause for thought. That musky base nearly killed me. I wish I could say why it does.

  7. lol
    Ok, I guess I got it a bit wrong then. 🙂
    Funny you should mention LK Hamilton. Last year I participated in a book challenge that made me go through all Anita Blake books again (I read all of them before throughout the years). I adore Anita Blake. She was my introduction into the whole urban fantasy genre.
    Are you published already? Or is the book still being written?

  8. I'm a published poet, if you can believe that, but not a published writer as such, apart from being plastered in many locations all over the WWW.

    The first draft and several blogs on the process are all finished and up on the blog. The second draft is underway aided by an editor and several proof-readers who pull no punches! When it is as polished as it can get – or an agent or an editor bites, whichever comes first – I intend to submit for publication because I'm that kind of arrogant.

    And meanwhile, going on the time-honored wisdom of “the more you do it the better you get”, I write…this blog on perfume, and another, on music and anything else that comes to mind, and with my hare brain, many things do. And of course, I comment, too, but you know that already! 😉

  9. I do hope your novel gets published and I get to see it in my bookstore. 🙂
    And I don't think it's arrogant to want to submit a novel for publishing, as much as I gleaned through other authors' blogs, you need to have some serious faith in your capabilities in order to survive the ordeal of getting published.

  10. Give it time, Ines – you just might! (at least, I think so!) But yes…a certain arrogance or bedrock faith in your story and your ability to write it – not easy to come by because writing is a solitary business – is necessary, or you might as well forget it.

    On the other hand, I have to say, an appalling amount of !”#€%&/§!…erhm…bad-to-horrible novels get published for reasons I have yet to fathom.

    I just think…I'm better than that! I mean…if rock'n'roll, God, the Devil, a VERY bad divorce, ambition, sex (of course!) and the End of the World As We Know It (no aliens involved!) isn't enough to get 'em reading, then what on Earth is? You work in a bookshop – do you have an answer to that one? 😉

  11. Ooops again. 🙂 It seems I don't have a great way with words. When I said my bookstore, I wa referring to a bookstore here that I frequent so much, people working on foreign books know me enough to suggest what I might find interesting and I have a standing discount. 🙂 That's why I call it mine, if I can help it, I don't buy books anywhere else.
    I do hope though I'll get a chance to read yours eventually. 🙂
    I keep wondering how old are you…

  12. If I may, then you might find several answers to your questions up at the top right of the blog page. There is a separate page called “Who is Tarleisio”…

    As to the “How old”…my standard answer is…”Old enough to know better and too young to care!” (That shuts 'em up! 😉 )

    I know about bookstores and claiming ownership! I have a few in Copenhagen that are mine…and I'd never dream of buying my books anywhere else, unless it were the Strand bookstore in NYC, or City Lights in San Francisco, or Shakespeare's Sister in Paris just because of the associations…

  13. Butting in on the convo:
    I've worked in or managed a bookstore for more than a decade, and I think QD is best-seller material. I also think you're going to give the Twilight kids something to grow into.

    That's my two cents. 🙂

    –fan-girl, no 1

  14. Dee, feel free to butt in on whatever convo, whenever!

    I do belive/think/delude myself you may be right, and I say this as someone who hates, detests and loathes the entire Twilight series. But then again, I'm SO not…their demographic!

    Signed, a diehared Lestat fan…

  15. Aghrhh!

    I just wrote something really clever, then accidently deleted it.

    (That's a good line. I'm going to use it again.)

    When I was first reading this post, and the comments, I thought, Maybe I should re-visit Louve… I can almost taste that sticky cherry just thinking about it!
    At the very least, it will make a good “Things I Hate” topic! 🙂

  16. I do so know what you mean, there have been a number of very memorable instances of trying things different days and getting completely different experiences with perfumes. I always say, if someone you know whose taste you respect really loves something, give it that multiple try until you get what they mean if it doesn't happen immediately for you. I do so hope you will revisit Chergui, in liquid form, I don't know the solid, but I wish I did. You will not regret it. It needs peace and quiet tho. Not too much emotional or mental agitation, the subtlety may be lost. So many joys in perfume! Yes, it seems writing requires lots of refueling with experience and reading and tons of sensuality — it's that demanding, but considering your capacities as shown by the writing here I sure you will prevail!

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