I was at a perfume counter with a friend when she recounted a story about how her husband loved Shalimar because his adored Aunt wore it when he was a kid, and it has since stuck in his consciousness as a symbol of femininity. The woman behind the counter listened intently and butted in with a thick New York accent – and opinion.
‘All men like Shalimar,’ she said. ‘It’s the scent of a real woman.’ She proceeded to envelop us both in a gas cloud of the stuff, continuing to proselytize about her perfume choices. She warned us that men don’t like ‘these new fragrances that make you smell like you just came from the shower.’ No, she said, they like it strong and musky. ‘They like to know you’ve made an effort.’
I can’t say whether she’s right about Shalimar or not, but the sales woman hit on something when it comes to making an effort.
So I recently attended a political meeting. The content was thought-provoking. The people were brilliant. They expressed themselves so passionately and articulately that I envied them like an agnostic who hungers to know what real faith feels like. But that’s substance, what about the style?
The fact is, that room smelled like sandals and dandruff. Gazing at the nodding heads, I spied grey roots, grease, a potential spiral perm and two (TWO!!) scrunchies. And the woolens?! How many llamas froze to death for that meeting?
Now let’s rewind to a less serious evening: date night. The pre-date prep was immense. I showered, I shaved, I scented; I used product in my hair (Kerastase for God’s sake, the good stuff!). By the time I showed up for that date, I wondered what it must be like to be a man and I envied them, too. I mean, I love a man – and the scruffier the better – but while we show up scrubbed and sweetly smelling, they, like my political friends, often reek of head.
Yes, it’s another double standard. They can be sloppy and still score and we may not have that luxury. This is precisely where my political allegory clicks. It comes down to this: whether you’re a woman on the pull or a party out for polling results, it often doesn’t matter what you’re saying if your audience doesn’t think you look good saying it. Or if it all smells just a bit funny.
Should higher-minded issues to be cloaked by superficiality? No. But you wouldn’t hide your intellectual light under a bushel, so don’t hide it under a fusty smelling llama jumper either.