“Oh come with me/my little one/and we will find that barn/And grow us grass and apples there/and keep all the animals warm/And if by chance I wake at night and ask you who I am/Oh take me to the slaughterhouse/I will wait there with the lamb.”
–Leonard Cohen, “Stories of the Street”
Sometimes, lately, I look in the mirror and see this good-natured little blonde milkmaid-type chick and I have no idea who she is or where she came from until she gets this serious frown on her face that looks like vaudeville, a comedic moue. And then I remember that I have gone natural and what I look like now is how I was intended to look all along. After dying my short hair dark as soon as I could get away with it (i.e., after I moved out of my parents’ house), I kept it that way for the next nine years with only the odd interlude of bright red or purple breaking up the monotony. I haven’t touched a box of hair dye or seen a pair of scissors in about nine months now, and the results have been strange. I woke up one day and realized that my ex-boyfriend thought he had a blonde girlfriend for the entire six months we dated, which explains a lot about why things didn’t work out. When I see an old friend in the street, I can see their confusion in trying to adjust their ideas of who I am according to what I currently look like. Since I am pretty much constantly doing the same thing myself, I can relate. You think it’s just hair color until you do it to yourself. It’s a full-blown personality crisis. And everyone knows sweet little blonde milkmaids don’t get those. Are you beginning to see my dilemma?
This is why a perfume like Caron’s Pois de Senteur has such a powerful ability to depress me. Its warm honey/hay/flowers thing is exactly the scent for some buxom young farmer’s daughter, some Daisy Duke hanging out of a hot rod with absolutely no clue that all the boys can’t take their eyes off her twitchy little jean-shorts butt. And it is the absolute opposite of anything I have any business smelling like.
I’m reasonably sure that when the somewhat stuffy French house of Caron composed this fragrance in 1927, they were not thinking about dumb, bouncy T&A rolling around in a pasture, unless it was some sanitized Marie Antoinette version of the same fantasy. The name means “Sweet Pea,” and sweet pea is indeed a prominent note. It’s what causes Pois de Senteur, straight out of the bottle, to smell a bit like the conversation hearts passed around at elementary school Valentine’s Day parties. The conversation hearts soon dissolve in a puddle of lovely, pungent paperwhite piss, send up a creamy-peppery cloud of carnation steam. The icky-sweet combination of hyacinth and lilac wring their prissy purple hands at the raw impropriety of this scene, but they are soundly ignored once that dripping, syrupy amber/honey/hay accord kicks in with its sweet pastoral invitation to rut. Pois de Senteur smells “dirty,” but only to a pervert. It smells “sticky,” but only to a prig. It smells “rustic,” but only to the pretentious. I really like it.
In my blonde incarnation, I could probably even wear it out of the house without freaking anyone out. I don’t think I would, though. I’m too aware that I fall too thoroughly onto the perverted/priggish/pretentious end of the appreciation spectrum myself to pull it off. You can’t un-brunette yourself just by growing in your blonde roots. It’s like Marie Antoinette playing milkmaid: it’s great fun, but it’s also obnoxious and pisses everyone off. But at the same time… tough shit, everyone.
The picture is a painting called “A Milkmaid With Her Cows on a Summer Day” by Julien Dupre, which was totally ripped off without permission from www.artxchangenetwork.com
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