I have never counted my perfume collection. I’m just not ready to know my “number.” That’s partly because I’d have to admit to those times I exaggerated and told people I have hundreds of fragrances when I maybe only have 60. But I’m also not ready to find out that I have even 60, because having 60 bottles of perfume seems obsessive. Still, if I were to guess, I’d say I have maybe 67 bottles — and 122 samples. Samples are key. For commitment-phobes, they’re a trial period; for me, they’re a chance to be someone else. I began using perfume to play pretend as a 5-year-old, when I spritzed on some of my mom’s. It was Fracas. I still sneak some from time to time.
The occasional dalliance with smelling like someone else aside, I’ve had a habit of wearing perfumes seasonally, for roughly three-month periods, since I was 18. The thinking behind this is that when I am 90, I can smell a bottle and be transported back to the summer of 2014 or a particularly emotional breakup. I kept up with rotating perfumes throughout my 20s, but I’m worried that 90-year-old Sasha will have a harder time conjuring specific chapters of her 30s, because I’ve already spent an entire year of that decade wearing a particular scent that I can’t seem to abandon: Sophia, a fragrance oil from 1509.
My friend Rachel and I have a theory that perfume wearers can be broken down into two groups: those who want to walk into a room and be asked what perfume they have on, and those who want to leave a room and have people wonder what perfume they’re wearing. I am the former — I need instant validation. This is why the Sophia scent has stuck. It has garnered countless compliments, including from double-masked people who stopped me to ask what I was wearing. Rather than smelling it all day on my wrist, I smell it around me. I smell it under the covers. It permeates the spaces I occupy. It carries with me wherever I walk. In choosing a perfume, you may think it’s the opening scent that makes an impression. But it’s actually the dry down — the scent that lingers once the product settles — that’s most important, because those first notes always fade. The beauty about Sophia is that its opening and dry-down scent are the exact same, which is why I like to compare wearing it to an extended honeymoon.
Every person who has purchased the fragrance (sometimes minutes after smelling it on me) has fallen in love with it, too. Perfume is incredibly alchemic: On one wrist, a scent can smell more powdery than gourmand; on another wrist, that same scent can smell more smoky than powdery. Sophia camouflages to a wearer’s body chemistry like this, but it manages to maintain the same amber note no matter who wears it. Someone once told me it smells like a waterfall. My boyfriend has said, “It smells like you,” which gets at Sophia’s ability to enhance (but not overpower) a wearer’s natural body chemistry. The way it lingers reminds me of when you borrow a sweater from a really-good-smelling friend on a chilly night and, days later, can still smell that sweater. Discovering Sophia at the start of my 30s was actually perfect timing, because I’m falling in love with the decade almost as fast as I did with the perfume.
The perfume that started my obsession with buying perfumes
At some point, I realized I became a Perfume Person because I am a diehard nostalgic. I’ll never forget when, at 18, I smelled Bond No. 9’s Saks Fifth Avenue For Her on a friend. I got hooked on the scent and then started to try others, beginning a collection that continues to this day. But even as I switched to new fragrances, I’d occasionally spritz on some of this to get sent back (scent back?) to that first whiff of it. Each time, I’d vividly recall the delight of smelling it on my friend, fascinated by how a nose, apparently, is all you need to time travel.
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