Le Labo Deux

Dear Dorigen,

So, here’s the thing, I cut ties with Neroli 36. I just fell out of love with that scent. I placed the half empty sampler on its pedestal with the other Le Labo (and Aveda) sprays and walked away. I sometimes peer at them.

I now fully embrace Fleur D’Oranger 27 and Bergamote 22, so much so that I’m usually wearing both. Bergamote is on the wrists and D’Oranger, on my neck (or basically straight up my nose and everywhere, at all times). Like, if I didn’t work remotely, HR would have written me up. Like, if I was a Peanuts character, I’d be Honey-Bee walking around in a cloud of orange blossoms and lime-oids and grass and mahogany wood blocks, probably. Like, if I was on a reality TV show, Dr. Kirk Honda would have things to say about my self-soothing through excess, while insisting he’s not pathologizing me from afar.

Pete is either immune or immediately used to this new scent layer, because he hasn’t commented. Except for that one time I retried Ylang 49; he complained that it “stings the nostrils” and he started sneezing.

Can you smell me from 500 miles away? Does it smell healthy?

Love,

Em

P.S. Thanks for the pronunciation correction. Le-LA-boo. Not LEE-la-boo.

Le Labo

Dear Dorigen,

Thanks again for the wonderful gift of Le Labo fragrance samples. These scents linger, so it took me some time to appreciate each on their own merits. I don’t have a nose for the specific notes of scents, but I appreciate the imagery and sense of place that they each gave me.

Presented in the order in which they were first sniffed and with my favorite two *starred:

SANTAL 33

For Santal 33, I get where Eddie Bulliqi is coming from with “10 Years of Santal 33: Why Did it Capture the World’s Nose?” Yes, it is a scent likened to an art gallery. But, like most art galleries, it’s perhaps too aloof. This scent is not inviting. Santal 33 is to be worn on other people propped on pedestals, while an audience admires and interprets notes from a distance. I don’t want to hug myself when wearing Santal 33.

NEROLI 36*

Neroli 36: I want to bathe in it; eat it; sleep it; luxuriate it. I think Neroli 36 was created in a lab for nefarious purposes, a chemical for heightened intoxication. It’s like a return to the womb. It’s like a journey to another planet. Neroli 36 may one day kill me.

ROSE 31

Rose 31 is a shade too floral for me. Or maybe Roses de Chloé already took me to the desert and captured my heart.

LYS 41

When first spayed, I immediately disliked Lys 41. It smelled mechanical? But that initial harsh note soon went away and then it smelled similar to Neroli 36, but less potent. A whisper. Or maybe that really was Neroli 36, seeping from my pores. Either way, I don’t trust Lys 41. It think it’s trying to trick me.

FLEUR D’ORANGER 27*

Fleur D’Oranger 27 is a kitchen-with-high-vaulted-ceilings. It’s not an empty kitchen. This kitchen has delectable foods in bowls on counter tops, bird of paradise leaves (not flowers), and ample sunlight. I want to spend time here chatting with you.

BERGAMOTE 22

Bergamote 22 is a clean bathroom at a very expensive hotel. I appreciate the universal loveliness of the masculine and the feminine balance, but I don’t want to spend time in bathrooms, no matter how luxurious.

AMBRETTE 9

Ambrette 9 is a tan, speckled vitamin swallowed while at a beach.

YLANG 49

Ylang 49 is a darkly lit room just before a long, relaxing massage. It also has the promise of candies. Like, someone’s grandma is waiting for you to finish your massage, so they can give you a handful of candies.

THÉ MATCHA 26

Likely because I’ve never tasted matcha before, my first sniff of Thé Matcha 26 went to something familiar: the image of a sphere of bright white shaved coconut. Sadly, in my ignorance, this false imagery has remained.

PATCHOULI 24

Patchouli 24 is a luscious campfire, set ablaze for royalty.  

I’m curious to learn which are your favorites and what you thought of all of these special scents.

Love,

Em

P.S. I think about Neroli 36 when it’s not with me. In these moments, I wonder if it’s thinking about me or if that’s just part of its game.


Dear Emily, 

I am so glad to be on this journey with you! I generally hate perfume and have left rooms because of overly scented people (including one young man I was interviewing for a job. He didn’t get it). I have tried over the years to find a scent I could wear but most perfumes are too floral, sweet, clingy (on the “feminine” side) and too musky, oily, heavy (on the “masculine” side).

Kudos to Le Labo, because they have figured out the formula for beguiling a lifelong perfume-hater like myself into spending hours sniffing and researching scents and spending my childrens’ college money on their wares. I have drunk the Kool-Aid. And my home smells like a bordello. I had heard about Le Labo and learned that every striving artsy New Yorker smells like Santal 33. I also learned that the Santal 26 candle is the official scent of the illuminati, so obviously I was ready to jump on the bandwagon and give it a try.

I ordered the 17-scent “Discovery Box” and embarked on an olfactorial (now a word) journey, which obviously, you had to join me on. The rest of the world appears to be embarking on the same journey, because when I tried to order the box for you it was wait-listed. I went ahead and ordered you the 10 I liked most. In this way, I have spared your nose from some of the more offensive scents in Le Labo’s arsenal (I’m looking at you, Baie 19 and Labdanum 18. I still have nightmares about Jasmine 17).

The entire line (even the florals) have masculine notes of either musk, cedar or smoke, and when they go full macho, it’s pretty gross. Another 13, for example, per my notes, “smells like an expensive men’s barbershop that Johnny Depp (himself an arbiter of scent) goes to.” It was commissioned by highbrow arbiter of fashion/arts/culture, AnOther Magazine, which was founded by Kate Moss’s baby daddy Jefferson Hack, so, you know, “cool.” Unwearable, however, if you are not an aging, but still virile multimillionaire clinging to your rock n’ roll youth. Now that I think about it, I might need to send you this one just because it is apparently so evocative.

On to the scents. They are each named for the primary scent note and a number, which indicates the total ingredient count.

My favorites:

Bergamote 22

Per the naming convention, the main scent is “Bergamot (Citrus bergamia), a type of citrus fruit native to Italy NOT to be confused with other citrus fruits such as bitter orange and sweet orange” (fancy) and as you can see from this tastefully art directed image, other ingredients include cedar, grapefruit, cotton, a matchstick and part of a floorboard. I love it. It’s fruity and a little floral and has that cedar note that apparently is my kryptonite. I learned through this process that my scent MUST HAVE CEDAR. I want to smell like I’ve just run in from the rain through a grove of orange Italian citrus trees and have just changed into the cashmere lounge-wear that I store in my bespoke cedar closet. This is ALMOST it.

Le Labo image

Santal 33

The beer that made Milwaukee famous. The sauna in an expensive spa that is harder to get into than the Met Ball. Sandalwood. Musk. Cardamum. Deep floral notes. It is masculine, but beautiful.  

Thé Matcha 26

THIS is my favorite. According to Le Labo, it is “Introverted and deep by nature. It carries a noble stillness… it is a scented reminder of home, of welcomed solitude, and of all things familiar and treasured.” Yes, that sounds like ME. I love it. It has the cedar and bitter orange that I like from my citrus grove/cashmere closet fantasy home and a deeper note that I can’t place and will just call “crack pie.” Is it Matcha? Is it Vetiver? What are these things? One can spend hours, days, a lifetime reading about arcane scents used in perfumery: their Latin names, their ancient roots, their medicinal properties, their complex extraction processes. (Vetiver is derived from the Tamil word meaning “root that is dug up” and is related to fragrant grasses such as lemon grass, though it is the extracted oil of its long roots that is used in perfumery. Vetiver smells “dry, earthy, woody, leathery and smoky… like uncut grass on a warm day.”) As I said, I love it. It’s woodsy, earthy, a little tart, very dry, with no cloying floral or musky scents. It is the scent of the best version of myself. The intellectually curious, effortlessly chic woman who runs with the wolves. The sapphire- and amethyst-adorned rover of ancient forests. I found myself breathing into the wristbands of my clothing, feeling my body relax.

I proudly held my wrists out to my husband, declaring that I HAD FOUND MY SCENT. “Eh, he said. Not for me. Smells like a man.” I am heartbroken and may never wear perfume again. 

Fondly,

Dorigen

P.S. A few more notes:

Neroli 36: This one dragged up a strong scent memory for me. I am in a small shop in Cambridge, MA that sells bongo drums and serape hoodies. I am 19. Essential Oils have just become a thing that people wear. Patchouli is a common one, but too crusty for me. I loiter at the oil wall as only 19-year-olds avoiding homework can loiter. I have found my scent. It is floral, sticky and sweet. It smells like Neroli 36. 

Baie 19: What young men think they smell like when bathed in Cool Water Cologne.

Rose 31: An incredibly wealthy, impossibly chic italian woman

A Shacket

Dear Dorigen,

The winter months arrived and so have the mighty shackets.

Shacket (a portmanteau of shirt and jacket) is an oversized button-down of a thick material (often plaid) and usually worn over a solid color turtleneck, t-shirt, or crop top.

left and right at Amazon, middle at Misspap

As soon as the weather dipped sub* 40°, shackets appeared on the backs of nearly every person I encountered. I recently got a bang trim and each stylist in the salon was wearing one, like they were handed their requisite shacket by the fashion police as they walked in for the day.

I like shackets in theory: they are gender neutral, they actually serve a purpose of keeping warm, they are available in a wide range of prices/colors/sizes, and they remind me of the snap-button shirts I coveted in college. While I have my eye on this color-block one, I am hesitant, because I don’t love when any fashion trend becomes so pervasive. As we each strive to find our unique purpose in life and present ourselves in the clothes we wear, why do so many of us choose to take on the day in a shacket, of all things? I suppose they’re more practical than a legging boot.

I must say that the word “shacket” reminds me of the word “shart” (a gross portmanteau of sh*t and fart). I learned this word from Cards Against Humanity, a game I played during a work holiday party my first (and second) year in the tech industry.

I shouldn’t have been so casual in my sharing with you that I played this card game at work, because when you asked me if I enjoyed it, I thought you were slyly inquiring about a potential Christmas present for me and Pete. Had I been more forthcoming about this game’s unabashed raunchiness, I could have saved you the embarrassment of blindly gifting Cards Against Humanity to your unsuspecting in-laws. This year, might I suggest a matching pair of warm shackets? Perhaps with pearl snaps?**

What article of clothing are you seeing everywhere in Nashville this December?

Love,

Em

*P.S. Speaking of words reminding me of things, using sub + any number makes me think of video game speed runners, who always strive to achieve a time “sub” a certain theoretical threshold (like completing Portal sub 7m). The videos on Summoning Salt are especially delightful.

**P.P.S. Pete recently declared that his would-be drag queen name is Pearl Snaps.

A Landscape

Dear Dorigen,

The leaves are falling and I’m breaking out the annual turtlenecks and forever sweater dresses. In my restocking from basement bins, I discovered a design theme: landscapes.

#1 The Grand Canyon

This Top Shop t-shirt depicting the Grand Canyon commemorates my visit to Nordstrom online that one time. I hear the Grand Canyon is lovely and my fear of heights will have no part of it. The t-shirt is headed into storage until next summer.

#2 The Mountain Postcard

This turtleneck, from The Kit, is in the aptly named pattern “Mountain Postcard” and will be in heavy rotation in the coming months. I like to think a young Indiana Jones is skulking behind these rock formations, tucking his hair behind his ears and staying on the lookout for robbers of ancient artifacts that “should be in a museum!!!”

#3 The Abstract Landscape Made with Love

When I wear this abstract landscape sweater from Anthropologie, I am often met with the question: “Did a friend make that for you?” When it’s mistaken for an amateur handicraft, that’s when you know it’s FASHION!

#4 The Favorite

This landscape sweater from Barrie was a UAL find; therefore, actually affordable. It’s my favorite article of clothing, but it’s so distinctive that it only makes an appearance once or twice a year. The inverted color scheme makes me think of the imagined time of the dinosaurs and the little pink barn makes me think of the YouTube sensation, The Hoof GP. Do not watch The Hoof GP; it’s gross; it’s great.

#5 The Costume

Valentino is fabulous and I picked up an inspired version of this space “landscape” sweater on Poshmark. It’s best worn with jeans, because when worn with a skirt, the amount of Ms. Frizzle comments I received was enough for me to order a curling iron and design a Halloween costume around it. Stay tuned.

What is your latest fashion theme?

Love,

Em

P. S. Also, purely hypothetical… Are you and the family puff-painting a landscape onto a sweatshirt for me for Christmas this year? No pressure. I’m a size L.

Quarantine Decadences

Dear Dorigen,

Like many of us, our world has gotten very small. Pete and I are gratefully able to work from home and we also don’t actually leave the house unless absolutely necessary (about once a month). My MS treatment has me at higher risk, so I am keeping all of the distance. I like to think that our two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo with a small kitchen and a two-chair porch is as tiny, precious, and decadent as Lizzo’s Valentino purse.

Below are some quarantine scenarios that I have been running into as I attempt to keep up the decadences.

  1. I have learned that my resting bitch temperature is 97°.
  2. I now own porch shoes.
  3. My face masks are just bandannas with hair ties and they are so thick that my glasses get fogged.
  4. So far, my coat closet and main bathroom are very clean, and I will eventually get to everywhere else.
  5. I also have workout plans.
  6. The one migraine I have had during quarantine was (I think) because of dehydration, so I am now keeping Gatorade in business.
  7. Thanks again for the many pajama bottoms; they have been especially handy.
  8. The first day that my bangs grew to barrette length, I mourned in a black shroud.
  9. Crawler earrings.
  10. Headbands take up too much back-of-ear real estate for glasses.
  11. Staying in the house for almost two months, my foundation is now 2 shades too tan for me.
  12. Basically, all that said, my phone doesn’t know me anymore. When I put my face to the screen, I am forced to enter a pass-code about 60% of the time. The phone is there to protect Emily, and I am no longer Emily.

I don’t know her.

How are you keeping up the decadences?

Love,

Em

P. S. I have also put together a ton of little baggies with carefully counted two servings of peanut M&Ms / one serving of almonds, and I have been eating around the almonds.

On Lock

Dear Dorigen,

We were not prepared for these strange days of sequestering for Coronavirus. Being at higher risk, I still didn’t actually think to work from home until a single day before my company suggested it for all employees, and then just a few days later the offices were closed officially and we are all working from home.

As someone who much prefers to go into the office than work from home, I have taken a lesser-worn t-shirt and started adding tally marks for every day of this unsettling lock down. I don’t wear this shirt very often, because when I do, I inevitably get the comment that I look just like Velma, from Scooby-Doo (my brunette bob, black glasses, and snarky looks don’t help).

Thanks again for the PJ bottoms; I am now in a non-stop-rock-block of day to night pajamas bottoms with work shirts (just in case I need to dial in to meetings with video). Although, in the beginning of the lock down for about an hour each day I would put on jeans, so that Pete and I could aimlessly walk over to Walgreens again and pick up whatever we forgot the day before – laundry detergent, drier sheets, deodorant, toilet paper (thank goodness) coffee, peanut M&Ms, etc.

Last weekend we naively went to Whole Foods to stock up on Against the Grain frozen pesto pizzas, which were absolutely sold out, as were all other grain-free frozen foods. Instead, we picked up what we could find – a sack of frozen salmon, sardines, cans of coconut milk, cans of artichoke hearts, black olives, cheese, ginger, and a bag of lemons. We have since been able to get a more substantial grocery delivery and this morning at 6am we went to the store and picked up more sardines. Now that Illinois is nearing 300 cases, we are officially staying home as much as possible

So, while we work and live at home, in our free time we are catching up on laundry and getting creative with the cooking. Oh, and I did yoga the other day.

How are you and the family getting through?

Love,

Em