Scents touch a special chord, not only in our olfactory systems but also in our hearts and in our brains. We all can relate to a certain scent transporting us to another time and place. It’s a magical transformation. The smell of certain things baking in the oven may take us back to our mothers’ or grandmothers’ kitchens. Being near water may remind us of all those carefree days as children swimming in the lake or nearby river every summer. The fragrance of certain perfumes may transport us to memories of loved ones and ones we’ve loved. Whenever I open my late mother’s jewelry box, the lingering scent evokes the inside of her house and memories come flooding back. Sometimes, people who have lost a special person, keep a bathrobe or favourite sweater that carries the scent of that person, to provide comfort.
Ever since the days of owning a single bottle of (cheap) Evening in Paris cologne purchased at the local five and dime store and proudly displayed on my bedroom dresser when I was a teenager, I’ve been charmed and affected by fragrance. I love the different moods each one presents. I adore the beautiful bottles. I feel so feminine and uplifted when I spritz myself each morning. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a sizeable collection and even though many, if not most of my bottles are probably past their best-before date, I cannot part with them.
When I first started working for Bell Telephone on University Avenue in Toronto in 1965, my girlfriend and I used to go into the drugstore behind our office building on our lunch hour and spray ourselves with generous quantities of expensive perfumes we couldn’t afford to buy on our clerk-typist wages. White Shoulders and L’air du Temps were always favourites. I’m sure there were many days when we came back into the office after lunch nearly asphyxiating our coworkers after we’d doused ourselves in lilac or lily of the valley perfumes of questionable quality. As they say, ‘those were the days, my friend’.
There was a time in the ’80s when blooming boomers were encouraged to adopt a ‘signature scent’. Offices were awash in Opium, Red Door, Obsession, and Poison. One of the girls in my office came to work every day drenched in Cartier’s expensive La Panthère. I’ve never been able to limit myself to just one fragrance. Some days I’m in the mood for floral; other days I lean toward citrus or spicey. Does anyone remember wearing Shalimar or Estée Lauder’s Youth Dew in the ’60s? Or Elizabeth Arden’s Blue Grass? We were so sophisticated. When I worked in Eaton’s College Street store’s cosmetics department in 1970, we had people who came in purposely to buy giant bottles of 4711. We also sold a lot of Jean Naté, Yardley’s Lavender and Chantilly in the pink bottle. Remember them?
My favourite fragrance is called Émilie by French perfumier Fragonard. Émilie is a blend that includes my favourite flowers, rose, and jasmine. I first experienced this fragrance in 2012 when I toured southern France with a group of ladies guided by decorating and style guru Kimberley Seldon. We toured the Fragonard factory in Grasse, France where we were able to see how they gather the blooms, then distill and manufacture the various fragrances according to which flowers are in season. I also once toured a small, second-floor perfume museum near the Opera House in Paris and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
After I originally purchased a tiny atomizer of Fragonard’s Émilie and it turned out to be so amazingly beautiful, I went to the internet the following year to order more. A few weeks later, to my great delight, a more substantial bottle arrived in the mail, all the way from France. Sometime later, however, I was disappointed to receive a notice from them that they would no longer be able to send it to me as postal regulations forbid certain chemicals and liquids being sent by mail. I guess I’ll just have to fly to France to restock. It’s available on Amazon from third-party sellers but I’ve never ordered from them so I can’t vouch for their authenticity. I did manage to pick up another bottle a couple of years ago when I was In France which should last me long after I go to the ‘home’. I only hope my fellow residents will enjoy it as much as I do—cough, cough.
What seems to distinguish the Fragonard perfume from so many (and there are soooo many) available on the market today, is the purity of the fragrance. Perhaps it’s just me, but whenever I try a sample of some new fragrance being launched, I find it inevitably leaves an unpleasant chemical smell on my skin, not the clear floral fragrance I’m looking for. So many perfumes today, even from the major perfume houses, contain so many synthetic ingredients that they all smell the same. And, as we all know, each one reacts differently with our individual body chemistry. Chanel No. 5 always smells like ginger ale on me while it’s divine on a friend of mine.
One day when I was in the Hudson’s Bay store’s perfume department, a customer produced a small gold atomizer like the Fragonard one I bought in France, asking the sales associate to find something similar. Her daughter had bought it for her, also in France, and she wanted to replicate it. ‘Good luck’, I thought, as I meandered off. I once read somewhere that Michelle Obama wears Cartier’s Délice which has a delicate cherry essence. I couldn’t get myself off fast enough to Holt Renfrew to spritz myself from the tester, hoping to capture just a tiny bit of her essence.
Even the scent of sheets dried outside in the fresh air is enough to send me into paroxysms of bliss. A whiff of fresh spruce can return me to the Christmas trees in my childhood home. Does the smell of wood smoke remind you of summer camping trips? The smell of Neutrogena soap always puts me in the hands of Dr. Cornish, an old dentist I had fifty years ago, in the days when dentists didn’t wear latex gloves, just washing their hands for every new patient. The unique scent of old-fashioned ivory soap reminds me of time spent as a child at a friend’s cottage.
Perhaps my aging nose has lost some of its sensitivity as the years go by. As my sense of smell diminishes, I pity the people fainting in my wake as I stroll down the street in a suffocating cloud of my floral scent du jour, oblivious to those with allergies or an aversion to fragrance. I absolutely adore fragrance and will never stop wearing it. For whatever effect scent has on our brains and hearts, I’m not going to deny myself.
Are you a fragrance aficionado like me? What’s your favourite and what memories does it evoke?
Have you taken a close look at men’s underwear lately, other than what turns up in your weekly laundry? I had occasion to peruse the men’s lingerie section of a major department store the other day and I can’t tell you how much fun it was. The names the marketing people come up with to describe men’s skivvies are just too hilarious. They surely deserve a Nobel Prize for creative fiction. The brand names are all riffs on size, power and even calibre! Check these out:
Urban Touch (seriously??)
What I didn’t see was:
I don’t think I’ve ever seen women’s underwear with similarly ambitious names. Our frillies are usually just called “Thong, Bikini, Hi-rise leg” or a similar fairly obvious description. Maybe there’s an opportunity here for creative marketers to jump on the bandwagon with new names for women’s underwear:
In your dreams
Men’s underwear names are ego-enhancing and denote power, which I am pretty sure is not always reflective of the contents or the wearer. But then, most women know men’s egos need constant stroking! Baby boomer women were raised to be good listeners. As soon as we started dating we were coached to ask our dates about themselves, and they were only too happy to oblige—for hours and hours and hours. We’ve already proven our staying power.
I know it’s always risky to generalize but when I read about dates-gone-bad in the agony columns in local newspapers, the challenges never change. Even enlightened millennials are forced to suffer through painful first dates with guys who are so self-absorbed it never occurs to them that we might have something of value to say as well. “All he did was talk about himself; his work, his car; his sports” is a common complaint from women in the dating market. And they wonder why they’re ghosted.
Some things never change, including what’s up in men’s underwear. Until attitudes change and women start insisting upon proof in advertising, we’ll just have to double check for inferior goods and not fall for false claims. If they aren’t willing and happy to meet us on equal ground and recognize that we’re also worthy of such labels as Heroine, Boss Lady or Conqueror, then just leave ’em on the shelf for some other less discriminating poor soul. Thank heavens we were born women and don’t have to suffer the stress of constantly stroking our ego, through our underwear.
I rather liked my letter to Santa last year, so I’ve decided to repost it in case he didn’t get it in time to fulfill my wishes:
Dear Santa: All I want for Christmas this year is . . .
For the most part I’ve been a very good girl this year, more nice than naughty and I’ve generally tried to be a better person throughout the year. By Santa standards that should qualify me for plenty of loot under the Christmas tree but the truth is I don’t want or need a single thing. I’m incredibly lucky and the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. This was not always the case. In fact, it’s the bumps in the road of life that make us truly appreciate the good times. Boomers are now reaching the age where we’re losing friends, partners and family members at an increasing rate. Where we once spent a lot of time and money attending bridal showers, lavish weddings and baby showers, we now attend too many ‘celebrations of life’. Which is why I’m celebrating the life I have now, every single day.
Over the years, holiday arrangements with family and friends gradually evolved toward less gift-giving and more sharing of good times. I’ve even heard about parents withholding some Christmas and birthday gifts from the grandchildren because they already have too much and don’t appreciate it. We still remember the younger grandchildren in our family with gifts from Santa but that’s only until they’re launched. Everyone has more than enough in material goods and we no longer need to populate landfill with our accumulated and discarded frivolous consumption.
Not having to troll the crowded, over-heated stores and malls for questionable gifts that will only end up at a charity shop has been incredibly freeing. No more Secret Santa exercises and no more heart attacks and bouts of depression when we get our January Visa statement. And, how much does one really need when we have each other? That’s more than enough by anyone’s standards.
So, to wrap up, dear Santa, here’s my wish list for this year:
Love, caring and an end to the violence for all victims of abuse.
A warm, safe bed and home for the homeless.
Free medical care for the sick and ailing.
Plenty of healthy food for the hungry.
Hope for the hopeless.
Love and a safe environment for all the world’s children.
When I walk into a department store at this time of year I feel like a mouse standing in front of a trap loaded with lovely fresh Gruyère, wagging my cute little tail with a sense of anticipation and a teensy bit of caution. My nose and my credit card are twitching, my ears are perked up taking in the cuddly Christmas music and my belly is calling out for gratification. I want all the cheese and I want it now. The cosmetics department is strategically positioned at the entrance to every store because that’s how their marketing gurus bait us as soon as we walk in the door. It’s particularly hazardous during the holiday season because everything is festooned with sparkles, sequins, tulle and ribbon unlike any other time of year. And what girl can resist bling? Visions of sugar plums dance before our innocent, unadorned eyes.
Speaking of eyes, have you tried the latest bedazzled glittery palette of eye shadows? Electric turquoise, sparkly bronze, shimmery green, deep sea iridescent blue; they’re all on display and irresistibly packaged with a bonus highlighting apricot blusher in a clever little compact resembling an evening clutch. With a little leopard motif. And if I spend just $65.00, I can score a travel case loaded with more than $400.00 worth of products for a mere $85.00 extra. By my calculations, that’s a savings of $315.00? How can I resist? The fact that the travel case and most of its contents are of no use to me is irrelevant. I’m smitten. Hooked. Sucked in. But not quite.
Then, there’s perfume. The bottles enchant me; the fragrances rarely do, which is why the fragrance companies hire top designers to create new, glamorous decanters that gullible people like me can’t resist. And at this time of year, they’ll toss in a cute purse-sized atomizer and a lovely bottle of matching body lotion exquisitely packaged in a gilded gift box with pink and gold grosgrain ribbon. My heart is screaming “Load up” while my brain says, “Whoahh girl! You already have #$%^ bottles of perfume and you’re running out of spaces to put them.”
Due to my advanced age, I’ve been down this road before. Over the years I’ve learned to resist the cosmetics sirens calling my name. I even have photographic evidence to remind me of my previous falls from sanity. The only solution I’ve found to avoid these seasonal promotions is to avoid department stores altogether until mid-January. I should be able to accomplish this because in our world of over-abundance and rampant consumerism, my family and friends have reached a “No gifts” agreement which suits us just fine. I may not be sporting the latest fluorescent yellow eye shadow or be wearing a debt-inducing glamorous new sparkly outfit this season, but that’s OK. I just wish January would hurry up and get here before I make a grab for the cheese, which will just leave me feeling constipated and hating myself. That would not be in the spirit of the season at all.
Things change as we get older. I won’t go into detail as you know what I’m talking about, but one issue that I haven’t been able to resolve is finding the perfect eyeliner. Back in the olden days (the 60s and 70s), I could execute a perfect swipe of eyeliner faster than . . . well, the blink of an eye. My eyelids were taut, receptive and beautifully enhanced by whatever I applied, in whatever colour. And I applied plenty.
As we age, less is better. We no longer apply foundation with a spatula, mascara with a broom or blusher with a mop. A delicate touch is now the order of the day. But boomer gals still like makeup and we have a sizeable inventory to back this up. Every so often I purge my supplies while trying not to calculate the money invested/wasted on products that didn’t work for one reason or another. Sometimes when I go through my ‘retired’ makeup and skin care products, I discover I own multiples of the same thing.
Eyeliner is my current challenge. While my eyelids are not exactly ‘crepey’ yet (I’m sure that’s not far off), I can’t get the exact result with eyeliner that I used to. Liquid eyeliners are just too difficult to control and the result is a bit too harsh, even after smudging. Pencils scratch, pull and refuse to stay put. I’ve had the most success with wetting a brush and using cake eyeliner or eyeshadow to apply a line that can be softened with the finger or a sponge wand. But even careful application doesn’t give me nearly the result I used to get when my eyelids were . . . well, you know, young.
While I keep searching for the definitive, perfect eyeliner solution, I decided to go through my existing inventory and was shocked at what I already own. Any thoughts of purchasing something new were immediately wiped out by the humiliating sight of an entire tray of assorted eyeliner products. You name it—I’ve tried it. What I’ve invested in eyeliners alone would probably pay off the national debt of a third world country. And that doesn’t include skincare products, hair products and makeup. I’m not proud of it. Just stating the facts.
I recently had my eyebrows microbladed which will hopefully take care of the brow pencil issues. And don’t even suggest getting my eyeliner tattoo’d on. There are just too many downsides to that procedure for me to even consider it as an option. In the meantime, I need to figure out what I’m going to do with a queen’s ransom in eyeliner pencils that I don’t use. I’d be interested to know what brand of eyeliner works for you, my fellow boomers? Let’s share.
I did it! Several months ago I mentioned that I was considering getting my eyebrows microbladed and if I did I’d let you know how it went. Well—the deed has been done and I’m absolutely thrilled with the results.
Like most baby boomer women, I plucked my eyebrows into extinction during the 70s when thin, arched brows were the fashion. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. They never grew back. If only the hair removal on my other body parts (chin, legs, bikini area etc.) had been as effective I’d have been spared years of maintenance.
The procedure requires three appointments:
Consultation: Before undergoing microblading, I had a mandatory free consultation with the technician to ensure I was a safe candidate, i.e. not pregnant, no auto-immune issues, not a diabetic, etc. During the consultation, the technician measured the optimal shape of my new brows and with a conventional eyebrow pencil drew in what they would look like. This took about 15 minutes.
Procedure: A few days later I went in for the main procedure. Over a period of slightly more than two hours, the technician:
Measures and maps the final brow design using plastic templates and guides. She carefully angled and marked the outline, the borders, extremities and overall shape. Then, she applied a numbing cream which she left on for about 25 minutes to activate before starting the procedure. And, I signed pages of legal waivers.
Together we selected the pigment colour. I was reminded that the colour would initially look much darker than the final outcome. I selected milk chocolate, not too ashy and with a bit of warmth. I’m naturally fair with blue eyes so I didn’t want anything too harsh. I also insisted she not make the arch too sharp and I didn’t want the inner corners squared like I’ve seen some brows done. I wanted them to look completely natural but better than what Mother Nature endowed me with.
For the actual microblading procedure, the technician uses a blade to etch and deposit pigment into the brow area. It was painless, which really surprised me. She first plucked a few stray natural hairs and that was the only part that was slightly uncomfortable. I do have a high pain threshold so others might might experience a bit of discomfort, but I found it painless. Microblading is not exactly the same as tattooing. Pigment cream is deposited into tiny hair-shaped cuts in the brow area which results in a far more natural look than tattoo ink. There are many variations in colour and shape you can choose from depending on whether you want a natural or more dramatic look.
The technician was incredibly precise and patient as she carried out the procedure. About 90 minutes later she showed me the first glimpse of my completed brows and I was thrilled. My followup instructions involved applying a special white ointment to the brows with a Q-Tip several times a day to preserve and protect the new brows. I was advised not to get them wet for a couple of weeks. They will appear flaky and crusty at first, but I am not to pick or brush the brows. Just let them heal. I experienced no swelling, just a tiny itch after a day or two which is natural, and I didn’t scratch.
Followup and touch-up: I’m scheduled to go back six weeks after the procedure for a final touch-up and assessment. I don’t anticipate any problems, but I’ll let you know what happens after the appointment. It’s still a fairly new technique so I expect I may need touch-ups once a year or so which is an easy path to perfect eyebrows. And it’s so lovely to wake up in the morning with eyebrows.
If you decide to go ahead with the procedure be very careful to only use an experienced licensed technician. You don’t want to risk infection or poor artistry. She’ll be happy to show you pictures of her previous work to help make your decision.
I had the work done by Katey Kristabelle at Caryl Baker Visage salon in Sherway Gardens Mall (Tel: 416-622-6667) located at 25 The West Mall, Highway 427 and Queen Elizabeth Way in Toronto’s west end. They did an amazing job and if you decide to have Caryl Baker Visage bring your brows back to life, they’re generously offering a special promotion for readers and followers of BOOMERBROADCAST.
Mention my name (Lynda Davis) at Caryl Baker Visage in Sherway Gardens and say you were referred by BOOMERBROADCAST (you can show this blog posting on your phone) and they’ll give you a discount on microblading services. Valid at the Sherway Gardens salon only. And don’t forget to send me pictures of the new you.