I went to high school in a fairly small community where there weren’t a lot of stores. Every girl in my high school selected ‘her’ Bath and Body Works fragrance and wore it constantly in body spray, lotion, and bath gel form. The locker room smelled like a basket of wax fruit every day after gym class. But I just couldn’t settle on which scent was going to be mine: I didn’t want to smell like a country apple or a sun-ripened raspberry, as much as I would have enjoyed eating either of those things. Ultimately, it was a men’s scent that drew me in: cool spring, which smelled like musk and rainwater. The woman at the counter asked me if I was getting a gift for my boyfriend, and, feeling ashamed, I said yes. But I loved every drop of the scent and wore it until I couldn’t squeeze any more out of the bottle. Since then, it has been men’s – and the occasional unisex – fragrances all the way. Recently, I got my hands on a sample of Calvin Klein’s Eternity Aqua for Men, and I’ve sported it every day since then.
Why am I more attracted to men’s fragrances than women’s? I tend to be quite feminine in other aspects of my style – I love filigree necklaces, jewel tones, and pencil skirts. But I’d rather smell like oil, rain, or leather than flowers. For some reason, I’m attracted to strong – and even borderline repellent – scents. I may be understated in the way I dress, but I can’t stand an elusive fragrance. My friend Michael and I can spend hours at CB I Hate Perfume in Brooklyn, trying out fragrances that smell like everything from bourbon to a lit match. Scent is the most personal of the senses – the most inexplicable, and the most erotic. The scents I’m most attracted to aren’t ones made of a mix of different flowers or spices – they tend to be strong, singular ones. I like the smell of bourbon because I grew up in the South and it makes me feel homey. I like the smell of grass because it reminds me of my grandmother’s back yard. Whatever it is, the list of my favorite things to smell tend to be classified as ‘male’ things, and so I find myself over at the men’s fragrance counter, rummaging around. The difference is that now I don’t have a problem telling anyone that the scent isn’t for my boyfriend – it’s for me.