One Two Many



A while ago, an ongoing debate asked a very relevant question: Are there too many perfume bloggers?

Too many people weighing in with their highly subjective opinions, too much snark and snobbery, too many self-proclaimed experts who apparently don’t know nearly enough about their subject matter?

It was one of those questions that needed to be asked, and also a question I not only had to think about, but think about for a good long time. The fact is, there are indeed very many perfume blogs. Here’s another fact: in 2011, over 1200 new perfumes were released. Most of these will have a very short shelf life and disappear without a trace.

I hate to state the obvious, but honesty impels me: Very many perfume blogs, regardless of the blogger’s expertise and/or lack thereof, will also have a fairly short shelf life and disappear without a trace. I say this not because I’m a raging snob or safely planted in that elevated stratosphere of perfume blogging superstardom (which I’m emphatically not), but because I’m a realist as well as a blogger who has been banging on my keyboard for many reasons on many topics for over three years now.

Take it from me: Blogging on any topic is damned hard work, just as writing is damned hard work. Since you didn’t ask, I will also tell you something else: writing about perfume, that most ephemeral of art forms, is one of the hardest topics of all to write about.

Once upon a time, so all good fairy tales begin, I was so destitute, I couldn’t afford to buy perfume at all. Not so much as a designer imposter. All five of my cherished perfume bottles were empty. For a perfume lover who had never gone without since age 14, this was a very sorry state of affairs. I felt diminished in several dimensions I couldn’t explain to anyone without sounding like a superficial idiot. Whether it was because I felt severely starved in an aesthetic sense or plain and simple masochism, I began to trawl through online perfume retailers just to absorb the fumes by proxy, so to say. I’m not sure how it came about, but I distinctly recall standing in a niche store in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the fall of 2003. This was a store that sold such exclusive brands as Annick Goutal, Comptoir Sud Pacifique, Creed etc, and there was T the Total Newbie asking about a certain Serge Lutens, which they didn’t sell.

Somehow around that time, I began to read the few perfume blogs that existed at the time and continued to do so, as I even do today. As I did, I learned all those things I ‘knew’ with my nose if not my brain, and as I became more enlightened, I also became determined never to settle for anything less than olfactory revelations. I wasn’t ordinary, so why shouldn’t my chosen perfume reflect that? The writers who taught me so much and aroused my curiosity for good and bad told me so much about a world I never knew, explained my dissatisfaction with the sorry state of affairs at my local perfume counters, and all the while, I soaked up the words like a sponge to savor later, since I still couldn’t afford to buy any.  What I could do was dream of the day, and surely it would happen some day, when I too might know a little of those genies and stories glittering in a drop of exquisite perfume.

Then, three things happened – all interconnected. First of all, I finally gathered up the nerve to send for the ‘Petit Livres’ of Serge Lutens, so I could sniff what all the fuss was about. I was so unnerved, I then proceeded to write a few of them into the storyline of my novel-in-progress, Quantum Demonology.

Finally, during that last long haul to the finish line of ‘The End’, I started a perfume blog of my own. Why? As a writing exercise! I went on the premise that if you can write about perfume, you can write about anything. This is true, but for other reasons than you might expect.

Here’s what I didn’t expect: that anyone would ever read what I wrote about perfume. I wasn’t aware that I did anything at all different than those bloggers I idolized, didn’t know that I could have my own unique perspective to add to the fray until people whose blogs I read began to comment back on mine.

This is how friendships are forged – on the anvil of a common passion. I am inordinately proud to say that not a few fellow bloggers have become my friends, and have made it possible for me to continue to write about what unites us all – perfume.

I have never written professionally, have no professional contacts with the perfume industry, and I’m not an expert on the subject in the slightest. What I am is first and foremost a writer. If I’ve managed through the words I’ve chosen to convey a sense of what a perfume smells like, what emotions it evokes and what stories it tells me – as all the best perfumes do – then I’ve succeeded.

I write on the time-honored supposition that Your Mileage May Vary. I may rave about something you can’t stand. I may also suffer the rare snark attack when I encounter something I hate, but that doesn’t happen so much any longer. Since I began as a blogger, my tastes have expanded to such a degree, that even if I can’t wear a perfume I review, I can at least appreciate the concept, the execution, the very art it is. I review what speaks to me, and I review only what I want to, even though I’m now privileged enough to receive samples from perfume houses who hope I’ll write about them.

As for the writing part…I can’t write like anyone else. I’ve tried and failed – miserably. I read reviews so flawlessly written, so lyrical, so perfect, I turn green with envy. That never lasts long, since I also believe there’s more than enough room for everyone. But the moment I sit down in that sanctified space to indulge my inner aesthetic inclinations, I have no choice but to put it all behind me and write as only I can. I learn as I go, and I never know where I will go…writing a review as a narrative, writing as a journey, writing as a tightrope walker between that first word and that last sentence, and I can’t go back but only forward.

I think the wannabes, the snark monsters and the posers will eventually give themselves away for what they are. I believe that what passionate perfume blog readers want to read is a genuine voice and an authentic perspective that comes from the heart and is written con amore – with love. Love for the subject, love for the revelations, love for that ephemeral, ever-changing art that is…perfume.

Whatever you love…if you love it enough, if it fills your multiverse and makes your heart expand, if it makes your world go round and makes you feel a better, greater, more beautiful person, you’ll want to shout it from the rooftops, sing to the clouds…sing it out to us all! Share your love…there’s more than enough room for everyone, even you and even me.

Which is why I do it, after all!

The real question is…why do you read it? 😉


23 thoughts on “One Two Many

  1. I read the post asking the question and the many ripples it generated. I didn’t think it was worth answering it until I saw you taking it seriously. This question is a little bit like asking “are there too many people in the world? Oh, please a couple of you just die!”. Blogging is personal, non professional expression. Anyone who thinks that you have to fulfil certain conditions to blog is obviously taking blogging too seriously and probably themselves too. They are mistaking blogging with lobbying or with claiming long overdue recognition.

    I think you are the last blogger who should justify their reason for blogging. Your personal style and point of view speak for themselves.

    1. Hey Christos, how in sync are we? We posted at exactly the same time (and as soon as I read your first two sentences, I was thinking, he has the same feeling as I do on the subject). 🙂

      1. Hey Suzanne! Great minds think alike! I think we should start the blog police committee and decide who should blog. After all we are such great minds! LOL

        Good laughs aside, this question made me a bit angry. Who died and made you Hitler?!

    2. And Christos, that’s the issue in a nutshell – someone, somewhere, is taking the subject, the bloggers and him or herself waaaaaaay too seriously! I like to think I don’t…if my chosen illustration is any indication! 😉

      We’re here. We share our discoveries, agree to disagree or not as we choose, we laugh, we sniff and we live and we learn! We write. We breathe.

      And we say…’shame on he who thinks ill thereof…’ Especially wannabe dictators! 😉

      1. And blog readers are not sheep: they can “read” what each blogger’s agenda, expertise, qualities, shortcomings are and they can choose who to read and follow!

        Love you Tarleisio! :*

  2. Though I find that question “Are there too many perfume bloggers?” quite tiresome, I really appreciate what you wrote here, Tarleisio. I agree: as corny as it sounds, love is the guiding light for anything I do in my life. It’s why I write about perfumes and don’t worry about having a small audience; it’s why I read the blogs that I do (which quite often are the smaller blogs where I feel a love vibration– a sense of friendship–with the person writing). And though the perfume blogosphere has grown to the point where it is hard to keep up on the reading and commenting, my personal feeling is that anyone who wants to write, should write. It’s hard work–and “the right to write” (to borrow a phrase from Julia Cameron) does not mean you have the right to expect an audience; that’s something you have to earn. But if you put your heart into what you’re doing, you will earn one.

    1. I do believe you’re right, Suzanne…put your heart and soul into anything, and someone, somewhere will be bound to notice!

      Just as you did…when I wrote a tale about a courtesan, a conjuror and a cynic…And to think …the adventures we’ve shared since then, you and I! We’ve earned them, don’t you think? 😉

  3. When I saw the title of this post and the first couple of lines in my reader I was worried that it would end with you announcing the end of your perfume blogging. I was relieved to read through and find out that I was mistaken.

    I’m very much a lurker because I’m relatively new to the fragrance obsession and feel like I have so much to learn. In any case, I just wanted to tell you that I appreciate your blog and your perspective even though I don’t think I’ve ever commented here before.

    1. Morsie! What a pleasure to meet you and hello to you, too! The end of my perfume blogging? Are you kidding? I have a white hot ‘stop press’ item burning a hole on my desk as I type – as it’s been burning a hole in my imagination since it arrived – so how can I stop so long as I still have something to get excited about? (and this is…quite exciting!) So long as I can get excited, I will write. So long as I write, I live. So long as I live, I breathe, and so long as I breathe…I will…breathe in! There you have it!


  4. Very well said! I write AND read about perfume for love, and also because I love learning about this most fascinating subject, so arcane and yet so precisely technical at the same time, depending on whether you are conceptualizing it, making it, marketing it or smelling it as customer, every facet of perfumery captivates me – as does your writing!

    1. Flora, do you know…when words like these come from someone I’ve been reading since those bottle-less days, that’s very high praise indeed! But I do see precisely what you mean – both the technical aspect in its precision and, well, architecture (as all great perfumes have) and in what the perfume says to you. I think what fascinates me most about it is that it is at one and the same time a physical reality in terms of, well, juice and an ephemeron – both tangible and iintangible at the same time.

  5. I read because I’m inherently curious about darned near everything!
    I’m actually only recently into scents; I react badly to many cheap synthetics. I love smelling kitchen spices, natural teas, plants when I hike. Scent is very hard to describe; I was just pondering how many perfume blogs use pictures to help describe scent (one non-verbal sense to describe another). Perfume is a whole new world to explore.

    1. The problem, Nekosan, as you say, is that scent and perfume is very hard to describe. For one thing, as I came to learn, smell completely bypasses the language center of the brain and heads straight for our amygdalas, which handle our emotions. So we don’t really have a language for scent, and hardly a vocabulary. Images can be one way to illustrate it, adjectives and similes are others. I can’t dissect a perfume or even a naturally complex scent like peppermint (I drink a lot of fresh peppermint tea) without trespassing into my emotions and describing what I feel. That’s how it works for me. But I will tell you that my writing has improved immeasurably for it, even if I feel after every review that it still wasn’t entirely what I wanted to say! 😉

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel like it’s important to explain why we do what we do, not to be defensive, but to lay it out for ourselves. I started my blog a month ago and I spend probably 2-4 hours a week on it. I work full-time, have freelance writing jobs, and try to have a social life. But I make more time writing for my blog that I do taking care of chores around the apartment (my laundry is done, finally!). It stimulates me intellectually and emotionally to write about perfume, and I adore all of the wonderful people I am meeting in the process. Rock on, sister blogger!

    1. Mad, you’re very welcome! I think you’re right – it’s sometimes very healthy to put your justifications in perspective. Like you, I work full time, I have several writing projects going, I’m the single parent of a seven-year-old and owned by two cats, and there never seem to be enough hours in the day for doing everything I want to do. Like it does for you, perfume stimulates me intellectually, to the point where my fiery nature takes over and I have to tell my surroundings about it – and they could, mostly, care less! 😉 Which is where the perfume community comes in – and such wonderful people I’m privileged to know – including you! Of course that means that I doubt my housekeeping would ever get a stamp of approval…:D
      Since I write the way I do, each blog post – including this one – takes me 2-3 hours to write, and given that the only time I have to take is after a 16 hour day when Super Mario Jr is in bed, it doesn’t happen as often as I like.
      The best thing about it, though, is all the friendships I’ve made. The worst thing is..keeping up on all my correspondance…;) My inbox is exploding exponentially!
      Rock on, sister! Indeed I will and so will YOU! I have that white-hot ticket to write about tonight…:D

  7. Blogging is an exercise and the best blogs are those that reveal the struggle one faces to nail a slippery little idea onto the page (you do that amazingly well, by the way). Ever since I started blogging I find ideas popping into my my head all the time, like when I’m shampooing. I vow to remember those thoughts just long enough so I can write them down, only to find they have washed down the drain with my soap bubbles. An audience would be nice, but not always necessary. On the other hand, I can’t seem to get enough of perfume blogs. It’s the gourmand in me. Fressen nicht essen!

    1. Maggie…I LOVE that…”fressen nicht essen”!!! Wallow in it, don’t eat it! A very precise description!

      I know how you feel about ideas that are washed down the drain as soon as they occur…but I’ve learned a few tricks to get them to stick…First of all, I carry one or another of my notebooks everywhere I go. Even if I just write down one disjointed phrase, it tends to stick. Second, what I call my Simonides trick. Memory works by association. If I attach a concrete object to an idea in my mind – say, an idea about a blog post while I’m cooking dinner, and this happens – I”ll see the oregano on the spice shelf above my stove. Oregano+remember this idea about too many bloggers. All it then takes is a glance at the spice rack and…there’s my idea! That did happen! 🙂

  8. I agree with what others have said in not really taking this question seriously. It just seemed like such a silly question to me, for all the reasons that you and others have articulated. But I think you, more than anyone, have articulated why it’s not just “perfectly fine” for however many people who want to to write about perfume, but why for some of us it is a necessity. And I’m not surprised that you wrote this, because you, my dear, are a Writer. With a capital W. Hugs. 🙂

  9. The thing I find most bizarre about this whole discussion of proliferating bloggers is that it’s just a sign that MORE people are falling down the rabbit hole. How could that ever be a bad thing? We’re always lamenting that far too many perfume houses pander to the lowest denominator. Don’t we want to get to the point where there are enough of us to start really wielding our influence? Our community is getting too big to have just one large conversation, it’s just a natural development in the perfumista ecosystem that micro-communities are springing up.

    As to why I read, that’s simple. I want to LEARN. As my evil scent twin pointed out to me yesterday, she thought it was funny I portrayed myself in my first post as a tortoise, because I’ve certainly not been slow in reading everything I can get my hands on. Knowledge is powerful, and intoxicating, and exciting. So I say Yay! to the internet and the freedom to learn.

  10. I thought about all that for a while and, hoping that this is the last discussion on this topic for a while, I want to say that I find that ironic that people like you – with a writing talent, or Birgit – with the perfect blogging discipline and determination, – feel compelled to answer that question when I – one of those nobody with no expertise in anything – wasn’t even bothered enough by it.

    Oh, and answering your question: I read it because I like you. Not even your writing (though I enjoy that too) but specificly you – Tarleisio.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s