Do men and women smell perfumes differently? Of course they don’t. But the other day it struck me that many – and maybe most – men have a different relationship to perfume than women do, which affects the way they approach the whole subject.
One of the many clichés about perfume is the story, which gets recycled again and again, of how the (inevitably female) writer’s earliest scent memories were of the perfume that her mother wore. It’s a plausible enough story, I suppose, but after I’d read it a few times alarm bells started to ring.
I don’t think I’m a particularly unusual kind of chap, yet though I love perfume I don’t have any of those kinds of memories. My mum probably did wear perfume when I was growing up, just as she does now (and she smells very nice), but I don’t remember it making any kind of impression on me. And as for my dad, like the vast majority of dads when I was growing up (and I suspect still today), if he smelled of anything it was Imperial Leather, not Jicky or Cuir de Russie.
In fact the first perfumes I remember trying were when I was in my later years at school, and my introduction to them was through friends of my own age. In other words I don’t have that long, intimate familial relationship with fragrance that many women seem to have, and I suspect that’s fairly typical among men. Yet when I mentioned this to a female acquaintance it came as a complete surprise to her, and you’d certainly never realise it from what you read in the press.
My guess is that this may be one of the reasons why so many men find choosing and buying perfume so mystifying: they haven’t had the practise women have, or anyone to guide them or compare notes with from an early age. But maybe it’s my own upbringing that was unusual. It’d be interesting to hear what your own experience was.