My Preteen Bedroom

Having shared a story recently about the hallmarks of ’90s and ’00s preteen bedrooms, I’ve been feeling a touch of nostalgia for my own (which I’ve since remade into the lovely and peaceful place it is today.)

In list form, the defining characteristics of my room, circa 2000-2008.

  • The most noticeable thing about my ‘old’ room, and the one that feels the most personally relevant to me today, was the wall paint.  My room was light blue, lighter toward the floor and slightly darker toward the ceiling, with lifelike clouds that may Dad and I (but mostly my Dad) painted.  I’m pretty sure that this was his idea, but I loved it very much and hope I didn’t break his heart too much when I suggested repainting my room around the time I was going to start high school.
    Home improvement projects with my dad are some of my happiest memories, and just as I remember painting our kitchen cabinets with him 4 or 5 years ago, so I remember painting the clouds long before that.  In my worn out Tweety Bird slide on sandals, putting a touch of gray paint toward the bottom to give that three dimensional feeling.
    Bonus: When I first moved into my ‘grown up’ room from my ‘baby room’ (which is now Mom’s ‘sewing room’), My Dad painted stars on the ceiling with glow in the dark paint.  They’re only visible at night and look like the night sky during the summer, the season in which I was born.  My clouds may be gone but the constellations have hardly dimmed.  It’s something I want to do, if and when I have a child.  So that means maybe we have at least one more father-daughter project. And I hope many more than that.
  • The inescapable bead curtains.  I credit my bead curtains with being my original instructor in the color spectrum.  The strands were each different colors of the rainbow with small beads and larger beads in the shape of stars, suns, and crescent moons.  The order of the colors- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, light blue, and purple.  I would sing them to myself ad can still list them in my head to the same tune- one that I unfortunately have no idea how to transmit via blog post.  And of course it’s only a short step from that to ROYGBIV, which we all know is of the utmost practical importance so far as preparation for life as an adult.
    Of course, the only problem is that sometimes the bead curtains fall down, especially if it’s in the doorway and a stampede of preteen girls are running through it during a birthday party, playing veterinarian (when time really is of the essence because those stuffed animals have to be SAVED, DAMN IT).
  • Speaking of stuffed animals, I had a couch full of them.  It was an old couch that we eventually replaced, and when we did replace it, it came up to my room and was covered with a white throw blanket sort of thing.  I had a completely obscene number of stuffed animals- a number that kind of shames me when I think back on it now.  But I would love to spend time arranging them on that couch, frequently in a giant pyramid, with attention paid to relative size, comfort, and which stuffed animal friends would make the most serendipitous neighbors.
  • Last but not least, I had a white gauze canopy over my bed (#IKEA) with a sensuously curved paper lantern (also #IKEA) hanging from the center. Also a bolster pillow which I believe was upholstered in a blue and black zebra fur cover.  I still have it but the cover is now white.

Honorable mentions: lava lamps, embroidered table runners on dressers, the tiny castle with battery powered fountain, the super annoying flower shaped electric doorbell, horse figurines all over the floor always, my framed Vincent Van Gogh sunflowers print, and one of those things where your name has been colorfully painted by a nice man in the street- I never see those anymore.


Links: But also it’s OSCAR DAY


My life is dark and full of terrors but also pretty good. I’m still getting over my stomach bug/food poisoning, my landlords are creatures from the black lagoon, I have an exam tomorrow and an exam on Friday and I am NOT PREPARED (Constance the Perpetually Unready) but I had a lovely time in Spain and Malta over my break.

What can you do?

I woke up at 3 am for my flight back to France and I’m a mess trying to gain the energy to shower and study, but today is Oscar Day and I have some time-sensitive links that should go up. And also procrastination.


Icebreaker Questions and Answers

Icebreakers and I have a tempestuous relationship.
Despite being something of a hot seat devotee and a major fan of random and revealing questions, my first memory of icebreakers is on the traumatic side.

It was the first day of 3rd or 4th grade.  Our teacher (Probably Ms. Ellis in fourth grade, this seems like just her brand of sadism) told us we would be going on an impromptu camping trip, passed around a roll of toilet paper, and told us to take what we thought we would need for an overnight stay.
I was pretty sure something was up. I may have been eight years old but I was no fool.  They needed my parents’ signatures to bus me to the Science Museum for a few hours. But still part of me was completely appalled at the threat of being spirited away for a night. And having to reveal my toilet paper needs? It was the height of humiliation.
You may have played this game before- you have to share a fact about yourself for every sheet that you take. I don’t remember what I did- probably something middle of the road like 5.  Someone took one sheet and another boy (I think it was Pedro) took about half the roll.

So while I have no problem with sharing some level of personal information and even less of a problem listening to other people’s stories (when it doesn’t border on the TMI) I hate the enforced ‘getting-to-know-you’ of icebreakers, which are really only good for uniting a group against the irritating and condescending authority demanding how many bones you’ve broken.

Which is a long way of saying I found 25 fun icebreaker questions and I’m going tonsure some of them.
Please do not be inspired to use these for their purported purpose of ‘team building at work’.

  • What was your first job?
    My first paid job was as a barista at a Barnes & Noble Starbucks.
  • Have you ever met anyone famous?
    The most starstruck I have ever been was when I met one of the horses who played Shadowfax in Lord of the Rings.
  • If you could pick up a new skill in an instant what would it be?
    So many I can’t choose: a language, hunting with falcons, parkour, an instrument…
  • Seen any good movies lately you’d recommend?
    Good Time wasn’t my kind of movie but it is being criminally overlooked. It came out in 2017.
  • Been pleasantly surprised by anything lately?
    The only things coming directly to mind are both today: Clinique’s eyeliner is in fact easy and liquid, and it sounds like Black Panther is super intersectional and has strong female characters.
  • Favorite band ten years ago?
    I was twelve, which was about the time I got my iPod and started listening to music for the first time. Honestly it was probably Aly and AJ or Avril Lavigne. Embarrassing.
  • What’s your earliest memory?
    I remember sitting on the rug at preschool and thinking to myself, “I’m three”.
  • Been anywhere recently for the first time?
    Grasse and Nice!
  • What was the first thing you bought with your own money?
    The first big ticket item I bought with my own money was one of those felted cardboard cat condos. It was two floors. We still have it. It was $80 and I had saved for forever. I think I was in Elementary school. I was a high roller.
  • Any phobias you’d like to break?
    Nope, spiders and I are good with where our animosity is, thanks very much.
  • What’s your favorite breakfast cereal?
    I’m such an old person, I like raisin bran. But I remember being young and loving the Cap’n Crunch I had at my cousins’ beach house. When I came home and asked my parents if we could buy it they told me it wasn’t sold in our state. Ah, the lies our parents tell us.

How to Reach Peak Feminine

I’m going to be honest, this is more of a rant/potential overreaction in response to a perceived injustice.

Perceived injustice in the form of something a friend/classmate said that I found both a) hurtful, b) thoughtless, and c) pretty damn problematic.
So definitely one of the lesser injustices in the world, but still something that raised a lot of feelings for me, which  am now going to get off of my chest.

The remark was something along the lines of stating that pregnancy= peak femininity. At know time in a woman’s life is she more truly a “woman” than when she is with child.


Okay, my problems with that statement first, and then a list of ways I think we can be EVEN MORE FEMININE.

  1. A lot of women cannot, in fact, get pregnant. A lot of women feel broken, less than, and incomplete because they can not give birth to the children they desire (or that society has conditioned them to see as the defining purpose of their lives). Many women feel like failures if they have infertility issues.
    I may be one of these women. For medical reasons, its quite possible that I won’t be fertile. I love children, and despite my fear of being a terrible mother and the pain of natural childbirth, having a baby is something  I would really love to be in my future (witness my obsession with baby names, children’s books, and all manner of miniature person paraphernalia).
    The takeaway here is- many women can’t have children and that doesn’t make them and less female.
  2. Defining the epitome of femininity as pregnancy- something kind of passive in that it is done to a woman by a man- is an issue for me.  It’s a really reductive view of what it means to be a woman- i.e. to be a baby-making machine, an oven for a bun, a brood mare, (your analogy here).  There is so much more to being a human woman than passing on your genes and prolonging the species.  And I’m not talking about boobs either.  It’s just such a dull view of what women can be. So biological, so without choice, so impersonal, so f*cking traditional and… medieval.
  3. Which brings me to I guess my last point, which is that society has conditioned women to see childbearing and motherhood as their final purpose, their definition, their ultimate test for hundreds if not thousands of years. It’s 2018. The idea of womanhood and femininity really needs to expand beyond basic biological processes to include all of the different things that womanhood and/or femininity (because anyone can be feminine, not only women- it’s a gender rather than sex thing) has to offer.  There are so many different ways to be feminine. So many different life paths you can take.  Deciding not to have children, being unable to have children, having an unconventional pregnancy or path to motherhood does not mean you’re not feminine or not a woman.

So here are some suggestions on alternative ways to reach peak femininity, that don’t involve getting knocked up. Or a penis. Or subjecting your body to drastic changes. Or a huge life choice that may or may not be what you want for yourself.

  • Take female-specific multivitamins.
    I have never felt more feminine that when popping a One-A-Day Women’s. Not sponsored.
  • Watch a chickflick.
    Do you self-identify as a chick? Is this a film you like? Then it’s a chickflick. Get it, girl.

You know, I can’t even do this anymore. I was googling ‘how to be feminine for more ideas that I could subvert, but they’re also a irritating, contradictory, and offensive that I can’t even complete this list.

Here are some favorites though:

  • Speak softly/learn to be shy (but also cool and be outspoken)
    No lie these four are all on the same list.
  • Smell good.
    Not like a smelly man.
  • Don’t cut your hair.
    After multivitamins, looking like Samara from The Ring has always made me feel particularly ladylike and attractive.
  • Avoid arguments.
    Well, failed that one.
    Yeah, bye Rosa Parks.
    And don’t even get me started on the angry black woman not fitting the ideal vision of femininity because I’m already going to explode.
    Yes, this is on the same list. Excuse me while I go jump in a lake.

I just looked at another list thinking of continuing but there’s so much more and I’m getting keyed up. It’s 8:30 am on Sunday and I’m calling it quits.

It’s funny how when there are huge systemic problems involved you can never actually success in getting your frustration off your chest because there’s just more and more and more and more.

Do I Have a Signature Scent? (No really, I’m asking)

Despite the best laid plans of mice and men I wasn’t able to post for the past few days (and by wasn’t able I mean I spent too much of my time reading blogs/cutting my own hair/studying for my upcoming tests for which I need to identify over 200 raw materials and some equally outrageous number of fine fragrances by scent). But I’m in France and I can recognize aldehyde chains of 7, 8, 9, and 10 carbons (by smelling, not counting) so really who’s not to say that I’m living my best life?

Maybe the fact that it’s a rainy week and I have no adequately waterproof shoes. But pretty close to my best life.

Switching gears now away from flawed footwear and toward the actual meat of this post which, I apologize, is not in a list form.  More just something i’ve been thinking about.

I remember reading an article sometime between 1 and 7 years ago about the desire for a signature fragrance.  One that really signifies you, reminds you and reassures you of your stable identity in distressing situations and, perhaps most importantly, that other people (significant others, friends, children) will associate with you.

I’m trying to find the article online but am being deluged with all of these guides on how to find your signature scent (I feel like the answer is pretty obvious: smell stuff).
But the article was more than about just desiring a signature fragrance. It was also about the conflict between wanting that one personal element and wanting to appreciate and express yourself with different/multiple fragrances.
Which is why I have kind of thought of signature fragrances for a long time as a perfumista pipe dream/something for the uninitiated and not very into fragrance.  It’s like the person who has one pair of earrings.  Maybe they have reached accessory nirvana but it’s more likely they’re just not that into earrings.

The last time I had a signature scent was early high school and it was some variation of Chanel Chance. I think Eau Tendre, but I also believe I wore the original before after a long and obsessive internal debate over the pros and cons of the original and the Eau Fraiche. Some things (and by some things I mean me) never change.
And then I realized how wide and amazing the world of perfume is, how varied and multifaceted and worth exploring.  The idea of a fragrance kind of went out the window, which I felt a bit regretful about, but also very excited given the way my horizons were expanding. Discovering a new world and removing limitations I had placed on myself.  Deciding to discover more facets of my ‘fragrance personality’- all of the things I loved, appreciated, was fascinated by, and with which I resonated- made more sense than hunting for The One Fragrance that would encapsulate everything that I wanted in a perfume (which would obviously be futile, especially as I became more exposed to all of the things perfume could be and all of the feelings it could give me).

Jump cut to now, maybe seven years later.  I don’t have a signature scent and I don’t have a very well-defined numbers of perfumes that I own (given a low number of full bottles but a pretty impressive number of small decants and samples that I would like to stay in possession of and wear semi-regularly).  The closest I have to a signature scent is Miller Harris’ L’Air de Rien (which I’ve mentioned before, ad infinitum), one of my rare full bottles and the first scent I bought as a perfume enthusiast, following reading reviews and the usage of a sample (the perfumista way (or at least my perfumista way)).  It smells like dust and horses and sweat and leather and cuddle musk and hay and vanilla and patchouli and soft spice.

But I still figured a signature scent was lost to me.  It’s true that in my years of testing literally thousands of fragrances I had reached a hazy understanding of what generally appealed to me and what would not, what I was excited to try and what I could pass on without a second thought.  My buying practices, sampling practices, and ‘wishlist’ practices have reached a kind of contented plateau.  There are a few things I want to own (most of which have been chilling on a want list for years) and want to test, but I feel pretty well sated.  There’s not much new under the sun, as they say.

And I had the feeling until quite recently that my preferences were all over the map.  And I tried not to read that as a sign of mental breakdown/multiple personalities/a not fully integrated personhood.

That’s one of the (relatively minor) things that being in this program has made me reevaluate.  Wannabe-perfumer conversation is obviously a bit different than the conversation of any other group of people. You could say that about any group with a shared and strong passion.  We play games where we pick a raw material to encompass a classmate’s personality.  We talk about our favorite scents. Things that we would like to mix.  We analyze one another’s personal scents.  Victor smells like frankincense and weed (which would have made for a really different but potentially more interesting nativity scene, when you think about it).  We read into each other in some kind of eerie but often quite eye-opening ways.

And so basically when I was told that I’m a vanilla-amber-patchouli-animalic girl it was kind of self-revelatory.  I’ve joked before about the disproportionate real estate amber perfumes hold in my fragrance library.  And I’ve personally avowed before that all I really want is to smell like small furry animals.

When Luis smells Musc Ravageur by Frederic Malle (amber, musk, patchouli, clovey-spice) and tells me it reminds him of me, I smile and say “Yeah, I love that and I wear Meharees by L’Erbolario, which is pretty similar”.

So I guess that takeaway here is that having a signature fragrance doesn’t necessarily have to mean one scent from one brand that you stick to for all the years of your life. Maybe it can be something a bit more fluid- shared patterns, shared notes, shared architecture in the fragrance construction. Maybe some brands do better for you than others.  Maybe some perfumers are your go to guys/girls.
Maybe your perfume collection can be more like a tapestry woven by the shared threads of your favorites.

That said.

The animal-musky-vanillic-amber family is really best suited to the colder months and climes.  I may need a reevaluation come summer.


Reading, Listening, Watching

What’s happening with me right now?

  • Reading (book): I’m two days and two chapters into Shirley by Charlotte Bronte. I’ve missed reading over the last month. We’ll see how long it lasts.
  • Reading (poetry): Weirdly obsessed with Wordsworth’s Intimations of Immortality right now.
  • Watching: I have to admit that I’ve been watching Game of Thrones to tranquilize my brain. I just finished season one.
  • Listening: I’ve been playing Aicha by Cheb Khaled pretty much every day on the way to school.
  • Eating: For breakfast, the pudding-like French soy yogurt in either pistachio or hazelnut-almond flavors, bread with doing jam, and fruit. For lunch, pesto, vegetables, and couscous. For dinner, vegetables and some protein type thing. Or my squash tofu curry.

Last Night/This Morning and Samples (of Perfume)

I think yesterday may actually have been my first all-nighter? To the extent that I have been awake since 8 am yesterday morning (it’s now three minutes after 4 pm, today). And I spent the night hanging around outside in Paris, so I don’t think you can really ask for a better first nuit blanche (all-nighter in French). Interestingly, this also coincided with Paris’ Nuit Blanche music and light festival, so there was lots to see and do. And the Marais is always pretty active on Saturday nights.

I have many more things to say about French Tinder (Did I already mention that there are SO MANY PEOPLE NAMED QUENTIN?) like I now know how to say mind games. These are the important life skills.

But in the meantime I just want to talk about perfume.

As in if I could magically have the samples that I want most (that aren’t on m decant wish list) what would I pick? (Also I bought Rose de Nuit by Serge Lutens on eBay recently and I’m super excited! I have been wanting that perfume for quite literally 6 years.

Also did you know there are more Dior Private Collection scents in the stores in Paris that aren’t available in the US? I have to say I didn’t find any of them particularly enrapturing, but they were fun to visit. My favorite would have to be Jasmin des Anges, which was much more a tart blackberry than a jasmine. But it was a pretty nice blackberry.

Okay, back to the topic at hand.

  • Ce Soir ou Jamais- Annick Goutal: A super nice and musky overblown rose that I haven’t yet had the chance to try in any meaningful quality. I think I might love it.
  • Rose Trocadero- Jardin Retrouve: I seem to be in a rose mood. I want this to be the fresh green garden rose of which I have been dreaming.
  • Kingston Osmanthus- Eric Buterbaugh: Too bad 10 mLs costs three weeks of groceries.
  • Equestrian- Sonoma Scent Studio: Obviously I can’t leave alone anything doing with horses.
  • Miyako-Auphorie: This one got a whole lot of buzz not too long ago and I still haven’t tried it. But I’m here for fruity suede osmanthus vibes.
  • Onyx- Sage Machado: Musky coconut? Neat. I want to try.
  • Noir Exquis-L’Artisan Parfumeur: I tried a bit of this in store and one point and think I may be very much a fan. SO cozy!
  • A bunch from Zoologist. But if I had to pick it would be Nightingale or Civet. Followed by Dragonfly, Panda 2017, and Elephant.
  • Suede de Suede and Dojima- Mona di Orio: There are two new Mona di Orios and I haven’t smelled them yet. Shame.
  • Mardi Gras- Olympic Orchids: Speaking of Civet.
  • Acqua Celestia- Maison Francis Kurkdjian: I keep smelling this in stores and wishing for a bit of my own.
  • Joyeuse Tubereuse- Guerlain: Only if I can’t find my sample. I have the sneaking suspicion it’s still in the USA.
  • Tabacca-Costamor/Frank 3-Frank: You know you need to smell it when you’ve been waiting so long the brand and scent name changes.
  • Tabac Tabou- Parfums d’Empire: Tobacco, honey, narcissus. Give me.

By the way also all of these from DSH 😛