As with all things, there are some troubling habits that can surface in the lives of some perfume enthusiasts and collectors. This article is in no way a flippant judgement about these issues – simply observations made because I’ve been there, and I’d like to support freedom from debt and the anxiety and depression it causes.
Let’s air a few of the tell-tale patterns of an emerging perfume addiction.
1. Obsession. What starts as an appreciation, and then becomes a love and total fascination for olfactory stimulation via fine fragrance acquisition can easily become a monster. As addictive as heroin or gambling or alcohol, perfume addiction can become a serious problem. If you find yourself increasingly spending endless hours browsing online sites and retailers, constantly reading and checking reviews and forum discussions about current fragrance trends, and tirelessly pursuing empty bottles and boxes and labels and ribbons for sending decants, making up samples for swaps, auctions etc then you might need to take a big, deep breath and slow down.
2. Spending. Bought any new bed linen lately? Put a deposit on that trip to Tasmania that you’ve always wanted to take? If all your available funds and all possible borrowed money options are locked up in purchases of perfume well into the future of say, 4 easy payments, then maybe it’s time to check in with your self. Even if you have plenty of money, but you are running out of room to stash the hoard… then step away from the BUY IT NOW button and go for a beautiful walk outside.
3. Ecology. Spouse or partner or friends or neighbours or kids or colleagues beginning to raise an eyebrow at the number of times you ask them to smell something?
‘What… another new perfume?’
People finding reasons to look over your shoulder when you’re on your phone, tablet or computer because they are beginning to fear the phenomena they are perceiving to be really getting out of hand?
‘Don’t you think you have enough perfume?’
4. Consequences. A few fibs slip by, eg
“when did you buy this?” – ‘oh a little while ago’ , or ‘oh it was one I’d forgotten about and found in the back of the wardrobe’ or ‘oh my nice friend from Borneo gave it to me – she didn’t like it’ and ‘err, ummm I really forget’
If you spend any portion of your day feeling guilty, ashamed, afraid, self-disgust or panicked about how much money you’ve spent or pledged or signed up to spend on perfume, it’s time to take yourself gently by the hand and have a little heart-to-heart.
5. Instagram. Setting up endless studio shots of perfumes – whether new, vintage, second-hand or even nearly gone? I ask you just to ask yourself why am I doing this? You might well answer ‘because I jolly well enjoy doing this’ – but I would counter that response with an observation that doing so is perhaps participation in a cultural phenomena of perfume addicts finding secondary ways in which to revive the flat spot in the week when a parcel of new purchases isn’t being delivered. There’s nothing wrong with that, but please take your emotional temperature to learn how your perfume-related (inter)actions might be increasing or causing anxiety and depression.
6. Facebook. If you are part of a perfume discussion group that gives you a hit/charge, keeps you up way past your bedtime, enrages you, isolates you, ignores you, or causes you to feel invisible or even resentful because your ‘fume stash is far less ostentatious than the endless array of new acquisitions of others with more money… then maybe you are in the red zone and it’s truly time to take a break. One way to gauge levels of addiction is to make the connection between needing to justify one’s habit by associating exclusively with other friendly addicts. Discussing the fine points and debating the nuances and urging others in the tribe to ‘go on, just buy it’ is a safety-in-numbers construct. “Perfume isn’t illegal. Perfume isn’t shameful. For goodness sake, it’s only perfume? …right?”
I deeply care about the folks that are feeling sad, lost, inadequate and trapped in an inexplicable perfume addiction. How did this happen? I have a few theories as to why this particular addiction takes hold of many of us. The main thrust of which is that the perfume industry banks on selling us a fantastic ‘idea’ of who we are whenever we spray ourselves with Eau de X. Prestige, luxury, allure, beauty, wealth and seduction suddenly leap out of the nozzle to envelop us in a cloud of wonder. But what truly dwells beneath the fragrant mask? Is there an emotionally vulnerable human being in need of comfort and reassurance? A deep hunger for acknowledgement and validation? Is there some degree of frustration and despair and desperation for a different inner state? A departure from anxiety? Depression and grief? Uncertainty? A need for more social clout? More power and more ‘reach’ in the world? Certainly that’s been the case for me.
My emotional needs were buried. I didn’t reach for L’Ambre des Merveilles because I thought it would rescue me from an unhappy childhood, I just loved the way it smelled and the aesthetic of the expensive bottle it came in. BUT… I’d read all the literature about the brand and I suppose, deep down, I just wanted to step inside the Hermes world of dressage and polo and grand prix saddles and Summers on the Cote dAzur. Whole bottles of L’Ambre dM, Caleche, 24 Faubourg, Terre D’Hermes and Jour D’Hermes later, and I didn’t even come close. I felt even lesser-than. And I was so much more in debt. And, for the amount of money I’d spent on Hermes perfume alone, I could have bought an economy return flight to Saint-Tropez. How did I stop? My financial circumstances were so finite that I had to stop. There was no more wiggle room. No more hidden cash caches of ‘what-if-I just?…’ to hurl at the passing parade of new perfume temptations that never ever cease, marching across the screen.
Three things happened.
1. I started to make my own. Creative practice of any and every form is truly the greatest medicine for the soul. It heals us emotionally.
2. I repeatedly reminded myself ‘it’s only perfume’. An ephemeral, invisible, chemical application that sits on my skin and hair (or clothes) and projects a pleasing scent for varying durations, and then totally disappears. Doesn’t feed anyone, doesn’t save anyone, doesn’t fix anything, doesn’t solve anything. If I didn’t wear any at all today, not much would actually change about me at all.
3. I went to see a remarkable hypnotherapist to crack the emotional code of my addiction, and I cried a lot about my messed up childhood, and then I went free. I remember clearly now – when all is said and done – it’s only perfume. And I love it.
Take care, and remember that one incredible signature fragrance is always far better than 20 bottles of less-than ideal scents to match with your uniquely beautiful self. Stay balanced, and be free. – TR
WIND RUSHING TO WORK (Acrylic on Canvas – TR©2002)