I don’t know about you, but Miss Piggy makes me very uncomfortable. It’s something about her simpering giggle, barbie doll wardrobe, penchant for bubble baths, and the fact that despite all of her florid femininity, she doesn’t understand that being a pig is not a good thing. I’m also really freaked out by her interspecies relationship with Kermit, a small, mild-mannered, and socially conscious frog. In this case, the gag is a little too effective, inspiring something of a literal gag when I imagine Kermit’s helpless expression and flailing muppet-arm as La Piggy, resplendent in the reverse-cowgirl position, crushes him. It’s not that I feel bad for Kermit. Kermit would. And the thought of Miss Piggy’s delighted mock-protests under the large-yet-gentle, furry paws of say… Fozzie… doesn’t sit any better with me (although, Animal, on the other hand…). So it’s not just her sex life. There’s something about Miss Piggy herself that makes me understand, uncomfortably, that she is based on a stereotype of women that has some of its roots in a reality I don’t like. Then begins the long downward spiral of second-guessing who I have chosen to become. By rejecting Miss Piggy and everything she stands for, have I automatically signed up for the opposite team, the feminity-rejectors, the butches, the women who say “that’s not funny” when a man tells a dirty joke and then wonder why they can’t get laid?
As I am loath to put myself into the equally undesirable second category, I spent years of my life trying to come to terms with Chanel no. 5, a bohemoth Miss Piggy of a perfume if ever one was made. This stuff is so ubiquitous among girly-girls of the world that twelve year-old boys everywhere probably think that this is what pussy juice smells like. To be fair, it is not Chanel no. 5‘s fault that it has oversaturated its market due to, among other things, Marilyn Monroe’s tragic endorsement of its possible substitution for pajamas. Things do not become grotesquely popular in a vaccum. There are reasons why women love this stuff. They just happen to be the same reasons that make me uncomfortable in the pink-powdery company of Miss Piggy.
My first Chanel no. 5 was a small bottle of the Elixir Sensuelle that I received as a gift from an infatuated strip club regular. The bottle was cute; a clean little glass rectangle with an old-school parfum-style stopper. And on my skin, the smell wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t… anything. A little soapy, a little flowery, a little powdery. It struck me as the epitome of a gift that a man gets a woman whom he doesn’t, and never will, know. After giving it a few tries, I passed the bottle along to my friend Sara, who didn’t like it either.
Fast forward a year; I’m fully obsessed with all things olfactory at this point and I wanted to give the pink stuff another shot. Sara was more than happy to pass the Elixir Sensuelle back to me, and I tried it again with the same results: meh. I went to a Macy’s and tried on the EdP from a store tester. Now this, this was something else: a huge pink beast, devoid of any beasty (or even, for that matter, human) characteristics while still maintaining the impression of being huge. Jasmine from Grasse, Rose de Mai, aldehydes, yadda yadda yadda… Chanel no. 5 smells like girl, pure and simple. Unfortunately for me, the girl prototype represented by Chanel no. 5 has nothing to do with the kind of girl I am, or, more importantly, the kind of girl I want to be. I felt like I was walking around in a mask all day, as though I had put on an elaborate and heavy Anna Nicole Smith wig and a pair of pink polka-dot kitten heels. Nope. Strangely enough, after smelling the EdP, the Elixir Sensuelle held new allure for me: it wasn’t good, but at least it wasn’t that bad. Sort of a Diet No.5 instead of the full-calorie version.
The final nail in the Chanel no. 5 coffin came when my friend Heather and I made candles one afternoon. Perversely, I bought an entire vial of a designer-impostor bodega oil scented with a close impersonation of No.5, and proceeded to dump the entire bottle into the wax for a giant pink three-wick candle. Heather and I were almost gassed out of her house. I kept trying to convince myself that I liked it. I didn’t. “It smells pink,” said Heather, her eyes wide and horrified.
This was somewhat comforting, because Heather is the girliest person I know. If she could reject the smell of Chanel no. 5, I was in no danger of butchdom by not liking it myself. That meant that there was a middle ground in there somewhere, a gray area between Miss Piggy and, say… Ann Coulter. And that eventually I would learn that this is an okay place to be.
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