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Monday, July 31, 2006

From the Mouths of Husbands - Mr Colombina Reviews Perfume and Other Ads

Recently, Colombina has devoted some posts to the topic of perfume advertisements … odd ones, hot men in the ads etc. I’ve been invited to give my opinion on perfume ads.

OK … firstly, ads in general are just getting weirder for weird’s sake. Watch any Levis commercial these days, and it’s clear that the ad agencies are more concerned with winning (inside-the-industry) awards for “creative” ads, than they are with actually selling jeans.

Just when you’ve stocked your wardrobe with a few pairs of the latest jeans, they go and change the style on you. You’ve just spent a week’s pay to get the latest (over-priced) flared, straight leg, stone-washed, bell bottom, hip huggers when they pull the plug on that line and start peddling super relaxed fit, boot cut, low rise, tapered, slouch, tab twills cargo crop, drainpipe 501s.

But they manage to do this by changing the ads with the changes in jean styles. Only the ads tell us nothing about the jeans themselves. Not long ago, they showed us really bendy people twist their arms and legs in a bone-breaking contortionist style … whilst others were running through walls … and now Wrangler shows us a young girl walking in a straight line through crowds of people, ala Richard Ashcroft – the lead singer (and main wanker) of The Verve in the “Bittersweet Symphony” video. Meanwhile a female sings the Johnny Cash classic, “I walk the line.”

It makes me want to get up, get dressed, grab my visa card and head straight for the mall to get some jeans every time I see it. (not)

I think it was worse in Britain. In the five plus years we lived in England, Colombina could recall the countless befuddled looks and cries of “BOLLOCKS!” from me, sitting in my TV chair.

But really the perfume industry takes the cake when it comes to ridiculous (artsy-fartsy) ads. I like ads that are straight forward and actually tell me a reason or two to buy the product being advertised. Is that too much to ask?

Instead you usually get images of women walking across a table like a cat with lots of clouds. The music is a cross between new age Yanni and elevator muzak. The images flash with quick cuts and trendy camera angles and make as much sense to me as calculus. Then it generally ends with a ballsy male voice reciting the perfumes slogan ... something meaningless like ... "La Joie for women .... Live the nuance."

Or ... "Incontinence for Men ... Indulge in the Dementia"

Think of cosmetics and beauty ads for a moment. It sounds like they are telling you something about their product. But they do so in such a vague and assumptive way … as if you the viewer should KNOW what exactly it means when they tell you their product now contains … “Swiss Botanicals” or “Norwegian Formula.”

They'll tell you their product has been "clinically tested" to do this, that or the other. I bloody well hope their tests are being done in a clinic! I'd hate to think they were testing their products on the street or pehaps on Taliban detainees at Gitmo! Maybe the reason they use all this scientific-sounding double speak is because their products don't actually do anything! You're getting older ... you spent your youth baking yourself on a beach every chance you got ... a little European cream is not going to keep you from looking like a saddle.

But … yeah, at least they are telling us something about the product. But just what the hell are Swiss botanicals anyway? That could mean any weed growing on the side of the Alps. Does it mean their product will enhance your beauty so that you look like Heidi?

Is it just me? Or did all young boys often fantasize about what Heidi grew up to look like, long after "the grandfather" had passed on?

Some thoughts on the matter ... (and perhaps a little pay back for the men who had to look at Colombina's naked men in her "Ads that make you go. "How you doin?" post.)

What are the Swiss known for anyway? (No offense Andy) They are known for chocolate,
neutrality, cuckoo clocks, cheese and semi-legal international banking. But man do their botanicals make an effective skin cream or what?

The Swiss have no language of their own. Half the country speaks French and half the country speaks German. They are famous for an army knife. The fact that they haven't been in a war since the recording of time, might explain why their army needs spoons and screwdrivers and a compass a lot more than an actual blade.

The Swiss Guards are the ones who are actually charged with guarding the Pope. Perhaps that is why a 'crazed fanatic' was able to slip past, and shoot the Pope (while the guards were inevitably trying to ward him off by spooning and screw driving the attacker.

I did spend a week in Switzerland once... in Montreaux ... which is a beautiful place, filled with Prada, Gucci and Rolex shops. It sits on Lake Geneva which I suspect is the source of the botanicals.

I guess that I have heard that the Swiss do apparently have some kinds of labs and clinics for such direly needed research into an “anti-aging” process and other important scientific experimentation. I know this to be true because I remember that anti-allergy research facility that Kojak ran in the James Bond non-classic, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”

Sometimes they aren’t as specific in telling you a product actually contains (non-specific) Swiss botanicals. Sometimes they just tell you it contains “Swiss Formula” – which I don’t think is Swiss baby milk. Sure, it sounds good on the commercial. They say it in such a way that if YOU don’t know what ‘Swiss formula’ is then you’re some kind of dunderhead who’s been living in a cave and only buys beauty products from Amway.

Of course rivaling the Swiss formula, are the products containing “Norwegian Formula.” Yes
from the land of smelly vikings and frozen fjords, there comes a formula of some sort. My guess is that is contains salmon and heavy water.

I've also spent some time in Norway (Oslo). Again, a beautiful place and with lots of beautiful Scandinavian people. But until they tell me just what the heck Norwegian Forumula is, I have my doubts. Still, I suppose it sounds better than, "Urals Formula" or "New Jersey Formula."

It’s too obvious to say that perfumes just use sex to sell in their ads. It’s sex alright, but filtered into some sort of Fabio-esque, Eurotrash, Swedish-film-maker, pretentious, drug-induced neofeminist, post modernist Harlequin book cover. It ends up (to me) being about as surreal as cyber sex between Lewis Carroll and Timothy Leary.

Here are the paradoxes before me. Firstly, women say they resent being used as sex objects and that women are exploited. Yet these products are marketed predominantly to women. They may occasionally throw in some bare-chested Brokeback cowboy, but generally, they are marketing to women, using naked or semi-naked women. If women were truly appalled by this, they wouldn’t buy the product. And as pretentious and superficial as the trendy metrosexuals on Madison Avenue might be, I sense they would refrain from their soft-core porn approach if women boycotted the products.

To me it’s the same logic as when I hear staunch feminists deliver diatribes about the gross exploitation and unreal role models (and future eating disorders) that waif-like supermodels impose on young impressionable girls. Yet if women truly wanted to stop this, they’d stop buying up copies of Glamour, Vogue and Cosmopolitan by the truck loads. Any way, I digress.

Before I go any further, let me say that I have no problem what-so-ever with seeing nude women. In fact, I like it. But that’s what porn is for! If I want to watch basketball, I watch an NBA game, not the Ecuador division II league.

Let us take a look for a moment, just at some of the ambiguous slogans used by some perfumes over the years.

"Between love and madness lies Obsession." — Calvin Klein

"Do You Dare?" — Britney Spears - Curious, 2004

"Promise her anything, but give her Arpege" — Lanvin

"Very you." - Givenchy

"Fragrance of excess." - Miss Sixty

"Unlock the secret code of seduction." - Armani Black Code

"J’adore." - Dior

"Her kiss. Her body. Her perfume." - Chanel N°5

Yeah OK …sure ….

Firstly, “between love and madness” lies a stalker or some John Hinckley type.

And ‘do I dare’ do what exactly Britney? To let my infants drive the car? To get fat? To be married for longer than a weekend?

“Promise her anything, but give her Arpege”? Yeah that’ll work.

“Very You” just scares me! How do they know who I am? Are they working with the cinematic distributors who always seem to know where I am? (“At theatres near you”)

“Fragrance of Excess”? I always thought excess was a bad thing? Oh that’s right, perfumers want to appeal to the decadence of women. “Yes I always return my library books on time and brush between meals but I buy Miss Sixty, so you know I’m a real Hellenistic wildcat!”

“Unlock the Secret of Seduction”? Sounds more like a slogan for Spanish fly or gamma hydroxybutyric acid and other date rape drugs. I suppose it’s a good slogan to market to Americans. We prefer the easier, answer in a bottle than to actually work at something. Why bother joining a gym, getting in shape and maybe showering when I can seduce someone using this stuff?

“J’adore” is French. OK. I get that. Perfumes are mainly French and supposedly the sound of the French language is romantic. That being the case, one could use the slogan, “l'odeur de vieilles chaussettes” … which translates to “the smell of old socks.” But speaking of translations … unless I am mistaken … “J’adore” translates to “I love” (whilst Je t’adore would be “I love YOU”). So I love … I love what exactly?

“Her kiss, her body, her perfume.” Well if it’s HER perfume she doesn’t need to buy it then does she? She already has it!

What is wrong with a straight forward slogan? …. Something like … “Chanel …it smells GOOD!”

Maybe the best slogan ever (as far as I am concerned) for a beauty product belonged to Suave shampoo … “Does what theirs does, for less than half the price!” Could it be any more straight forward? It tells me the product works as well as the competitors but costs less. Consider me sold!

Some ads, I suspect, are supposed to be sexy ... but come on ... Celine Dion on a swing? That skinny Canuck with the horse face made for radio? I'd get more excited watching geriatric aerobics while bobbing in the icy North Atlantic ... fighting off Kathy Bates to cling to the last piece of Titanic flotsom

By the way, I think they should also put disclaimers on perfumes … like: "You might smell like the man in this ad, but you'll never
get a woman who looks like the woman in this ad."

Or ...Opium – “does not contain opium!”

Or “tested on some of the best smelling, now blinded rabbits in the world.”

Some ads, again are trying to be sexy but look more like exhibit A in a sexual harrassment case.

Jovan doesn't even call theirs a perfume. They call it 'musk oil.' And of course we all know (thanks to The Captain & Tennille) the magical, mystical, erotic world of musk ... Thanks to the classic: "Muskrat Love."

If you REALLY want men to take an interest in perfume ladies … may I suggest hitting him where he lives!

How about a "Chanel No. 5 Car" on the Nascar circuit?

Why not try selling perfume by the six pack?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Perfume Ads That Make You Go... How You Doin'!

After a hot, humid, stressful week, after having wasted too much time analyzing PretentiousScentsWithAnnoyingLongNames, after the Chypre Rouge fiasco and after over a thousand visits to Ormonde Jayne site to see if Orris Noir is finally being sold (please don't tell me I am the only sad individual to keep checking there compulsively!) ... after all that one needs some mindless entertainment, some eye candy. Thus I present to you my Hit-Parade of Hottest Guys in Perfume Ads. Please also visit Aromascope, who, to keep things in balance, will allow you to feast your eyes on Hottest Ladies in Perfume Ads.

Cowboys Are Hot... are some soccer players...

...and astronauts...

Family men, men with little babies are really hot.

Not many would agree, but sweaty, horse-riding Ottoman soldiers with yatagans are hot.

Enrique Iglesias is hot indeed...

Aquiline profiles are hot... are barechested guys staring at the horizon...

Can't see this guy's whole face, but I like what I can see...

How you doin'!

...and you!

...and you!

...and you too!

Cartoon guys in Dior ads are ridiculously hot:

And of course, no Hot Perfume Guys Hit Parade can possibly be complete without this stunner:

Have a great weekend, everybody!

The ads shown here are from Parfum de Pub , Images de Parfum and Tauer Perfumes.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Perfume Review: Serge Lutens Miel de Bois

Review by Tom

Miel de Bois is one that (metaphorically) separates the Men from the Boys. It's a honey scent, but one that is like no other. It opens with a harsh, concentrated sweetness that (for me, and I'm in the minority on this one) skates this side of {ahem} pungent. Honey, of course is perfumed by whatever flowers that the bees got the pollen from, hence the different kinds available in your local gourmet stores. Clover honey is almost a completely different honey that say Acacia or Girasole honey. The honey that opens Miel de Bois must have been taken from some very interesting bees indeed, ones that might have been getting pollen from wild boar. Wild boar with issues. All served in a box that was hewn by axe. Axe with issues. It's musky, resinous, woody, ozonic, boozy and in my opinion, wholly wonderful. Not to say that it didn't take some time for me to get to this point, at first I recoiled in horror.

After 20 minutes or so, the spikey opening is gone, leaving a wonderful woody scent with accents of hawthorn and iris. The honey is still there, but not the killer-bees-on-crack of the opening, this is a muted sweetness that underscores the smoky wood and incense. It's immensely wearable in both summer and winter, and like a lot of SL's scents, it's entirely unisex (men, use a steady hand).

Miel de Bois is in the export range, available at Aedes in New York, Barney's in the store (not online oddly), and sometimes on eBay from people who buy blind and swear it smells like cat pee. It strikes me re-reading this that I am being very flip; I do love this scent, much like one loves a kitten that one never knows when kitten will purr, or claw, but loves kitten nevertheless..

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Perfume Review: MoslBuddJewChristHinDao, A Unifaith Fragrance by Elternhaus

Everything about MoslBuddJewChristHinDao, “A Unifaith Fragrance” by Elternhaus rubs me the wrong way, the cumbersome, awkward name, the affected, precious concept, the price. According to Elternhaus (“a family of unruly children”, which doesn’t make fashion but transports “an attitude to textiles and other carriers of thought via text”),

As an object, the perfume’s effect is multilayered…cosmically, aesthetically and sensually. It’s directed against limited partisan political and religious thinking, which always produces violence. For this reason, the Elternhaus perfume object may be understood politically, but if it had to be categorized, it would be, at the most, cosmopolitan.”

The description very carefully omits to point out how exactly Elternhaus means to fight “limited partisan political and religious thinking” with their perfume. Does it make the world a better place just by the very fact of its existence? Should it be made morally obligatory for those at the wheel of power to wear it? Should the airplanes spray MoslBudd on the many war areas of our troubled little planet? If we all shell out $300 and start wearing this, would there finally be peace on Earth? And how about those unable to pay $300 for the honor of wearing this perfume? Is it not rather ironic that such a socially-politically-religiously-conscious scent, a scent so laden with deep, benevolent meaning, has such a hefty price? Is a significant part of the profits going to be devoted to some sort of REAL peacekeeping effort, to some actual anti-violent action, to the building of universal tolerance of all towards all? Because if not, this is no more (and no less) than just another fragrance.

And that brings me to perhaps the most important question…what about this particular scent is so special, so miraculously wonderful that it makes it such an effective (non/anti)weapon against the evils of limited thinking? The answer, I am afraid, is…nothing. MoslBuddJewChristHinDao is a pleasant enough, slightly spicy woody-incensey fragrance that adds nothing new to the genre. It starts with rich, peppery incense and an enjoyably salty-savory note reminiscent of dill pickle marinade. The woody accord, rather similar to that in Donna Karan Wenge, grows stronger and is soon joined by an ambery, subtly incense-like, delicately floral note that I believe is labdanum. In fact, if you took Wenge, layered it with Labdanum and added some pickle juice, the result would be your very own ScentThatWillSaveTheWorld. MoslBudd is nice but not nearly nice enough to justify the ambitious premise and the grand price.

Perhaps, I am just a slave of my limited thinking. Perhaps I put words into the mouths of Elterhaus “family” and, with their mission statement, they really mean nothing more than the good old Beauty Will Save The World proclamation. A perfume IS after all a piece of beauty, an art object, and as such does make this miserable Universe a little more bearable. But if so, other perfumes have been doing it for ages. A beautiful Guerlain scent, or, to take a more modern example, a gorgeous Lutens one, would have the same “multilayered effect” and be as cosmopolitan. The difference is that a Guerlain creation, even as or more expensive than MoslBudd, professes to be nothing more than a beautiful scent that might put the wearer into a pleasurable sort of reverie and perhaps into a better mood. The Sous le Vents and the Farnesianas and the Fumerie Turques of this world know their limitations. They are not “directed” against anything, they don’t promise to stop violence, to break barriers and to build universal tolerance. But they are beautiful, intriguing and they smell nice. Nothing less and nothing more.

MoslBuddJewChristHinDao is available at Luckyscent, $300 for 50ml. The image is from

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Perfume Review: Serge Lutens Chypre Rouge

Chypre Rouge is the latest fragrance to join the export part of Serge Lutens collection. The official description outdoes all the previous ones in its sheer poetical obscurity:

I remember looking at the forest ground, covered with dead leaves, and finding it both macabre and beautiful. Something caught my attention: a strange patch of moss at the base of a tree, it looked as if it were bleeding, purple and red. Ceremonial dress, splendid and dying, lit by the rays of a nearby clearing. “Don’t deny, you will confess!” In this doorless dungeon we look for an exit. Thin light comes from a murdering hole.
Eagle nest, precious stones, coat of arms, standards, what are we made of? Eternity, limpidity, freshness, beauty, velvet softness. A secret continent of which we would be the body, in golden darkness, moss of spices and vermeil. The kiss of a choirboy on the ring of an archbishop.
Softness and depth, secret in scents where, laying our cheeks we can only dream.”
(Please read the full text at Senteurs d’Ailleurs)

Chypre Rouge starts with a strange juxtaposition of a green, vegetal smell of celery and a dark, dry and smoky smell of coffee. It smells as bizarre as it sounds, and is quite wonderful. When immortelle joins the mix, Chypre Rouge becomes better still, since the note accentuates and enriches the spicy-vegetable aspect of the fragrance. Because of the immortelle note, Chypre Rouge reminds me a little of Annick Goutal Sables, however, the former lacks the syrupy thickness of Sables; at that stage of its development, Chypre Rouge is a much drier, much less sweet scent. At one point, I smell a sharply fresh-floral note that might be lavender and that, in conjunction with immortelle, makes me think of Dior’s Eau Noire. The woody accord of Chypre Rouge is smoky and warm, somewhat reminiscent of Chene…And, to conclude this orgy of comparisons, somewhere towards the end of the middle stage, Chypre Rouge acquires a sweet, darkly gourmand, licorice undertone, which makes it scarily evocative of my arch-enemy, Lolita Lempicka

Objectively speaking, the combination of sharp “vegetal” notes, smoky woods and sweet anise/licorice is striking and interesting. Despite the fact that I provided here a list of scents that somewhat remind me of Chypre Rouge, this is an entirely original, very interesting composition, certainly on a par with Lutens’ other weird and wonderful creations. Unfortunately, although I admire the idea and its execution, because of the Lempickaesque licorice drydown, I am unable to enjoy Chypre Rouge. I humbly predict, however, that the fragrance will have many fans, both women and men. I should also add that, like Cèdre and Daim Blond, Chypre Rouge is an Haute Concentration Eau de Parfum, and has great lasting power.

Right now, Chypre Rouge is available at Senteurs dAilleurs in Brussels and at Salons du Palais Royal in Paris, however, it should be arriving to the States in the near future.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Perfume Review: Guerlain Bois d'Armenie

Bois d’Armenie is delicate and transparent, it is a vision of an ethereal, light smoke emanating from the burning incense, or, as the case might be, from Papier d’Arménie, the scented paper used as incense since the 16th century, which served as an inspiration for this fragrance.

Patchouli is immediately apparent from the very beginning, as is iris, but these two notes do not show their earthy side here. They are airy, wraithlike. The rose is there too, but it is a gentle, eerie rose, not a ripe, sensual flower in full bloom. The sweet piquancy of coriander is rather subdued, the musk is but a hint, and the woods are soft. The scent speaks in delicate whispers; it evokes an image of a beautiful ghost, of an almost-translucent apparition. It is the scent of a spirit; it is bodiless.

Bois d’Armenie is undoubtedly beautiful; it is masterfully and thoughtfully done. Along with Rose Barbare, it is certainly the most interesting of the now four fragrances in the L'Art et la Matière collection. I must admit that I expected a more intense, earthier, woodier, darker scent, however, the more I wear Bois d’Armenie the more I appreciate this attractive, understated, soulful blend.

As far as I understand, Bois d’Armenie is currently sold only at Guerlain’s Champs Elysées store in Paris and costs €140 (please, correct me, if I am wrong).

The first image is from La Maison Guerlain. The second, Black Smoke, is from

Saturday, July 22, 2006

New Scent from Ormonde Jayne, Orris Noir

According to The Times, a new Ormonde Jayne fragrance, Orris Noir, will be launched at the end of the month. "It’s called Orris Noir, or Black Iris, and it’s a spicy Oriental. It’s got pink pepper, cardamom, iris (obviously), coriander seed, bergamot, pimento berries, myrrh and patchouli in it, among other things. It’s one of those perfumes that is both com­forting and sensual; it’s exotic but not overpowering, and it smells like a classic even though it’s new."

Friday, July 21, 2006

From The Mouths of Husbands - Mr. Colombina on "Fear and Loathing at the Perfume Counter"

My recent guest posts (and the guest posts of other husbands on other perfume-based blogs) seem to have apparently started a little bit of a discussion (as seen on the comments of these guest posts) and perhaps there is even more discussion in emails and “makeup alley” forums. (Yes I am aware of “makeup alley” and that it has nothing to do with atonement whilst bowling).

These discussions seem to centre on the theme that husbands have no interest in, nor knowledge of perfume. And whilst this may in fact be technically correct. I chose this next guest post as an opportunity for the wives and girlfriends out there to understand the harrowing experience it can be for the perfume-ignorant male to shop for fragrances. Knowing we are unarmed in aromatic wisdom, women still want and expect their man to go through this redolent retail ordeal with each birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s day etc.

I think it’s time one man stood up and shared with you, his bloodcurdling and hazardous undertaking each time he nears a perfume counter. I am sure the females are not aware of the pressure, the angst and the right stuff a man is required to endure in order to get his sweetheart … well … the right stuff.

We men, would not send you out to buy us snow tires or chain saws. But yet each time there is a date circled on the calendar, we must slog our way out to the perfumery, knowing we haven’t a clue what we are doing and feeling as out of place as Keanu Reeves writing an acceptance speech. We grovel our way into the store, looking like a dear husband in the headlights!

Here is my story …

Submitted for your approval … Mr. Colombina… an average middle-aged heterosexual husband goes in to a department store. His intentions are noble … to buy a present for his wife… to give her something she could cherish and be proud of him for selecting. But for all his good intentions, his intellect is about to be challenged. His senses will become clouded. In this strange and alien world, he will be befuddled with inane concepts, French words and evil, life-sucking sales women … and he will be lucky … to survive. For Mr. Colombina has just entered ….

The (eau de) Toilette Zone

The perfumaniac-blogger wives, and readers of fragrance blogs, have no understanding of the bizarre and hair-raising experience it can be for a normal male to enter the (eau de) Toilette Zone! Armed only with one’s primal sense of preservation and a visa card, this quagmire of smells and fiscal insanity is enough to make a grown man cry. The daunting challenges before him require the bravery of a medieval knight in a gallant quest … for he must slay the dragon sales lady (metaphorically speaking – though tempting in reality as well) and escape with the bounty of aromatic salvation in order to maintain the domestic bliss of his kingdom.

One hears strange and indiscernible utterances in this zone. Things like “yes I can really feel the chypre coming through in this one!”

Or, “No, that’s too camphoraceous. The last one was a bit fatty and snuffed candle. I’d like something a little more floriental but with a hint of fougere. Perhaps something less tallowy … spare me the nuancers but something with ample substantivity!”

“Do you have something a bit coniferous? Maybe with leather notes and lingering resinoids?”

For many other men, this experience takes on the surreal nuance of an uncharted voyage … a place where up is down, black is white and everything is expensive. He can choose to go through the looking glass with an open mind and give in to the allure of the newness of the experience. For even if he has journeyed here many times before … each visit is replete with new treachery and peril.

Still … like experiencing LSD for the first time, this cacophony of sensual stimulation … though completely devoid of reality in his world… can be welcomed with the same adventurous trepidation with which he might mount the world’s scariest roller coaster.

This chance to experience the mind-numbing realm of these extra-terrestrial nose creatures is lurking in the darkest deepest recesses of his (otherwise logical) mind … as an opportunity to openly invite his world ... and all he thinks of it … to be turned inside out. He is about to engage …. A PERFUME COUNTER of the third kind!

Men of Earth, we must protect ourselves! We must gain knowledge of our enemy so that it may be understood. We should organize, train and arm ourselves for this final frontier. We should boldly go where no straight man has gone before… to purchase strange items with strange names… to seek out new lives and new civilizations before it destroys the very fabric of maleness left in the universe!

"Evasive Action Mr. Sulu! That Thing's Trying to Spritz Us! Uhura, Open All Hailing Frequencies! Mr. Chekov, Fire Photon Torpedoes!"

The perfume counter sits in the middle of the department store … the furthest spot from any escapable exit. It is the cornerstone of the three most perplexing commercial entities to the common male …. The jewelry counter …the cosmetics counter and the perfume counter.

History records the voyages of many brave male souls who have ventured into this Bermuda Triangle of feminine zones, never to return. What are the strange forces that dwell in this world? UFOs? Prehistoric creatures who’ve sought refuge and managed to escape man’s detection? Or is it some other supernatural power from Madison Avenue and Rue De Folie?

Men are befuddled at any counter that doesn’t sell lunch meat. Each jewelry, cosmetics and perfume counter is an island, fraught with confusing tactics and language, designed to steal your money, your dignity and your logical world. Enter at your own risk. You have been warned!

Let’s face it. Buying a gift for your woman … or any woman is never easy. While they act like they would LIKE a surprise, in fact they know what they want and just want you to figure it out.

Whether it’s a birthday, mother’s day, Christmas, anniversary or any occasion … Colombina will ALWAYS want perfume. Fortunately she generally arms me with a list (ALWAYS STICK TO THE LIST) with at least a dozen choices …each carefully described.

I usually just hand the list (and my wallet) to the woman at the counter and ask her not to make it hurt too badly. It reminds me of when I was a small boy and my mother would send me to the corner grocer with a list pinned to my coat.

Of course though, I never remember which department stores carry which brand so the rather stern prim and proper sales woman will look at me like I’m a moron for presenting her with a list that includes fragrances exclusively sold at Bergman GoodDorf or StrawMacy’s, when in fact I am standing in Marcus Niemann or where ever I stumbled in to.

I’ve learned from the past, that the following stores should be avoided for perfume purchasing at any cost: Walgreens, Sam’s Club and above all … THE DOLLAR STORE!

Occasionally, when there is another male at the perfume counter, I have attempted to listen to what HE says … hoping he might be bisexual and thus better informed. If he sounds like he knows what he is talking about, I just repeat everything he said verbatim.

As my father used to say …
“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man has the cheapest car insurance.”

The first tactic designed to confuse men is when the sales woman sprays a bit of several perfumes on some kind of specially treated litmus paper.

Then the department store nazi/dominatrix informs stupid old me that the fragrance will smell different on each woman who wears it. So it could smell like chrysanthemums on one woman and smell like what? … maybe garbanzo beans? Teen spirit? … on another woman.

So all I know is how it smells on a piece of cardboard. Or sometimes, they will actually spritz the sample right onto my wrist, which ironically is right on the vein that a suicidal person would slit, and that thought begins to get tempting. If I am ever to have a makeover, I want it performed by Dr. Kavorkian.

Then the next scary female is always telling me about something new … to confuse me.

“I’m sure your vuhman vould like zis new scent called “Eau de Fromage.” It’s zee latest ting from Paris”

And the whole time I am thinking,
“don’t look her in the eye …don’t look her in the eye!”

So I ask the saleswoman which is the cheapest? Normally this is a mistake. I have learned (through forced involuntary celibacy) that this is the WRONG one to choose. A good rule of thumb is when selecting a perfume, shy away from anything you (as a sport-minded, semi-worldly male) have heard of … particularly scents named for celebrities … especially B-list celebs.

“Oh honey, I thought you would love Dr. Phil’s “Psychobabble”

“Darling, here’s a brand new scent called “Regis”!

Even once I’ve selected a brand … when I say selected, I mean was steered to … Even once I have done that … I then must decide between the parfum, the parfum de toilette, the eau de parfum, the eau de cologne and the eau de toilette.

Eau de pain, Eau de pain Will Robinson

In general, a man can not browse the shelves at the counter for more than a nano-second before at least three different women will ask, “Can I help you sir”? … and in a condescending and contemptuous tone that translates to, “Can I sell you something over-priced today you stupid person of the male persuasion?” They team up on you until you feel trapped. Don’t even
try the “I’m just looking” routine because your every action will be monitored more tightly than the North Korean nuclear program.

Ultimately you will succumb and buy something … anything … just to get out of there … maybe spend a few minutes in the sporting goods or electronics departments just to get the testosterone flowing again. It is a very emasculating experience. I find it to be the equivalent of a retail castration, or a ‘walletectomy’.

The sales woman at the perfume counter is generally older than the cosmetics counter girls … n
ot unattractive but a bit scary in her dark business suit and white blouse … a string of pearls and almost invariably, a broach. She might have her hair in a bun and some reading glasses on a string around her neck. She looks like a kindergarten teacher which is appropriate, since she will treat me like a 5-year-old. Americans should picture a cross between Martha Stewart and Miss Jane from ‘The Beverly Hillbillies.’ Whilst British readers should picture someone more like Lorraine Kelly.

Often I will get suckered into buying some fragrance (that the store usually can’t give away, much less sell) by the promise of a “free” gift. If I spend $200 for less than a bloody ounce of ANYTHING … I hardly think a two dollar cosmetics bag is ‘free’ but these ‘free’ gifts always make for good stocking stuffers.

When you stop and do the math. Let’s say a decent fragrance was $50 an ounce. That means that if you bought a gallon of the stuff is would cost $6,400. It’s enough to make me absolutely dizzy with happiness to pay $3.00 a gallon at the gas pump!

I know that when I’ve strayed from Colombina’s list that the perfume I bought is going to sit on her shelf (at the very back) from now until there’s peace in the Middle East. It would be nice if every once in a while she had the common courtesy to dump a little of the stuff down the sink, so I could at least think she was using it.

Getting back to the saleswoman at the perfume counter. She is also without fail ALWAYS going to try to get me to open a charge card account for the promise of an extra 10% off. Yeah like, other than for the wife’s perfume, I do any shopping at a department store that doesn’t have ‘mart’ in its name.

Her condescension aside … I always have the feeling, that beneath that stern exterior and the DKNY suit, the woman is wearing a rubber teddy and will lash me with a cat-o-nine tails each time I mispronounce a designer’s name. “It’s Ralph LORen you idiot. Not Ralph LoREN!” Man I need help.

Even when I know what fragrance I’ve come in to purchase, I know I am going to get some grief from the saleswoman which makes me nervous and then I screw it up..

“Excuse me, do you carry the “Truth” by Kevin Cline?

“The Truth? YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH! … Oh …and it’s CALVIN Klein you dimwit!”

In order to spare myself this indignation, I have in the past, attempted to buy per
fume over the internet. I mean since I suffer from anosmia anyway, what does it matter if I can’t smell the fragrance before I buy it. That only serves to confuse me anyway.

Once I bought (over the internet) a fragrance named after Colombina’s home town – “Samara” (in Russia, not Iraq) and it said (online) that it was a knock off (IE rip off) of the Guerlain scent, ‘Samsara’. Named after my wife’s home town? … smells like a Guerlain fragrance? $10 for a really huge bottle? Sounded like a winner to me. That sat on the back of Colombina’s shelf for a very long time until one day she accidentally dropped the bottle and it broke. She’s clumsy that way …always accidentally breaking perfume bottles … ironically, just the fragrances I bought her (that were not on any of her lists).

That’s the problem with there being SO many fragrances. There are so many bad choices …(For Example) Love’s Baby Soft, Chanel No. 6, or Britney Spears’ ‘Bi-Curious’ or whatever it’s called.

Still, the perfume counter is always a far safer bet than the cosmetics counter. A gift of cosmetics is the gift that says, “I don’t like the way you look, so here’s some stuff to change that. You’d think that the perfume counter sells gifts that say “I don’t like the way you smell,” but actually that only applies if you give deodorant as a gift (which I have done – but only as a ‘practical;’ stocking stuffer). Men, if you do venture to the cosmetics counter … trust me on this one … do not (REPEAT - DO NOT) be lulled by the simple and easy “gift set” on the tables between cosmetics and fragrances.

The hooker-red lipstick will go down about as well as buying her a new mop for her birthday. And the Crayola 64 eye shadow color assortment will be appreciated as much as giving her a beermeister.

And I don’t know how to buy cosmetics for Colombina anyway. Her natural beauty requires no make-up in my opinion. (brownie-point alert!)

It’s easy to get lured towards the cosmetics counter though. The girls working there are generally much younger and less scary. In my opinion they always look a little bit slutty (not that there’s anything wrong with that). They kind of look robotic and dim but remember, they have a semi impressive job title (cosmetologist – which has nothing to do with the Russian space program by the way) whilst the perfume lady is not a perfumologist.

I don’t understand this marketing though. Although they ALWAYS seem busy, plucking, tweezing, brushing, waxing, blending and combing as well as applying foundations and finding the right “spring color” for someone’s ‘skin tone’ Surely a middle aged Tammy Fay- look-a-like customer is never going to look as good as this 19 year old former Hooters’ waitress.

When it comes to gifts for women …AVOID buying clothes like your life depends on it …because it does. Get a size too small and your woman will feel fat. Get a size too big and your woman will think that you think she’s fat. (Lose/Lose situation). Don’t even try to think you could get her sense of style or fashion correct. You can try to read Cosmo and Vogue and Glamour and all the other rags to try to “get a peak at the opposition’s playbook” but as a male, you’ll never understand it anyway because it’s written in woman.

You see there is male logic and then there is female logic and ne’er the twain shall meat. Male logic is too … well … logical, to understand female logic. Remember, only a woman would spend two hours getting ready to go out for 15 minutes.

Plus with clothes, you apparently must always be aware of what color is ‘this year’s black.’ When I hear someone say “red is this year’s black,” I always feel sorry for the confused snooker players out there. I wander occasionally through the women’s clothes area and my fellow
men will back me up on this when I say that I am convinced that all the women who see me in their section are convinced I am a cross dresser. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder when exactly did department store mannequins start sporting nipple erections? And why do women want to buy a blouse that’s hanging on what looks like a woman smuggling a pair of sewing thimbles?

My fellow men .. fear not the perfume counter. Remember, even if it makes us feel useless and clueless …even if it robs us of our natural sense of the order of things … of economic sense …even if the experience makes us feel two inches tall …. Ultimately we can take comfort in the fact that all of us … from Joe Q. Average construction worker … to the big shots and movers and shakers of this world … have survived the perfume counter. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Sure, life would be easier if our women asked us to get them the latest version of 'Madden' … or the newest titanium fishing pole …but that’s not going to happen … so be proud …be male … and get in there … face the music … buy something French that doesn’t have the word ‘fries’ after it … and then get the hell out of there as fast as you can with as much money left as possible.

To all the women out there:

If you can't understand why men find it so difficult to get you the right gift... think about this for a moment.

You dye your hair, wear false eyelashes, contact lenses and form-fitting clothes ... you apply makeup and tan-in-a-bottle ... you wear support hose and wonder bras ... and you pluck your eyebrows only to draw them back in with a pencil. Half the time we can't even remember what you really look like, much less what things you like.

Your perfumes have names like; "Enigma", "Hidden" and "Mystery"!

'Enigma' by Alexandra De Markoff'

Hidden' by Anne-Marie Perrisol

and 'Mystery' by Naomi Campbell

Even your lingerie is a 'secret'!

So at gift time ... I guess it’s the perfume counter by default … a man's best (slim) chance to get a gift she’ll like … especially if she gives you a list!