Tova Signature and Tova Nights (Tova Borgnine)

Perfumistas, tell me if this sounds familiar. A friend gives you a full bottle of perfume from their personal collection. With a completely straight face and an air of apparent sincerity, they tell you that they really want you to have it because you appreciate perfume so much. Yet it's obvious that while it was in their possession, they never, ever, EVER used it.

What does that portend?

Today I'd like to tell you about a very dear friend of mine named T. (Note: her name is not Tova, and she is not the lady pictured above.) For over 20 years, I have known T. to be a mistress of deadpan mockery and the sly art of the shuck. If sarcasm were champagne, she would be its Veuve Clicquot. Her acid wit is fearsome, yet sure-footed; she knows how to tiptoe into a conversation and plant zinger after devastating zinger, then just as delicately retreat-- leaving you to pick your dazed self up off the floor. (When required, she can also cuss like a longshoreman with nary a blink nor a blush-- quite a nifty talent for a woman of dignified age and mien.)  I love her, literally, to bits.

Aside from our mutual addiction to satire, T. and I share a nostalgic fondness for vintage Avon perfumes in their kitschy novelty bottles. (If you're rolling your eyes right now, please know that you could do far, far worse than vintage Avon, while simultaneously paying far, far more. Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs, I'm looking directly at you.) She has gifted me with some stunners (including some delicious Honeysuckle Cologne whose bottle resembles a miniature beekeeper's skep, complete with a tiny, adorable golden bee), and I gave her my treasured "Little Lamb" filled with Topaze when she confessed that it had always been her favorite Avon fragrance.

A few months ago, however, she handed me some perfume so godawful that I wondered if I had done something wrong.

Tova Signature (1982) and Tova Nights (1995) both start off with a Windex-like top note fading to a-- well, actually, not fading at all. For half an hour, the segments of my arm that had been sprayed bore noticeable wet patches that refused to evaporate. In both cases, the consistency (oily) and smell (harshly chemical) reminded me strongly of Deep Woods OFF. In fact, if they're any bit as effective at repelling mosquitoes as that fabled camper's pesticide Avon Skin-So-Soft, I'd wholeheartedly recommend the Tovas to CampMor shoppers, who might find it good to know that they're fully swim-safe. (Not even ten minutes' worth of desperate scrubbing with the roughest washcloth I own could remove those petrochemicals from my skin, so you're probably safe no matter how turbulent a body of water you choose to enter.)

But enough about waterproofing. What about fragrance?

Well, Tova Signature is a flat laundry musk with a sepulchral air made even more bloodless by a sprinkling of moth-repellent lavender. I am reasonably certain that no woman with a pulse wants to smell like table linens laid away for the long term-- particularly not my friend T., who is a firecracker. (Seriously, she doesn't waste time asking "Do I dare to eat a peach?" She polished that sucker off ten minutes ago and has been gal-palling with the mermaids ever since, with NO apologies to T.S. Eliot, thank you very much.) Tova Nights is the same but a little stronger, as if designed to ward off a slightly larger class of moth. (I refuse to imagine that it could have been designed to attract anything.) It might possibly be construed as "sweeter" or "sultrier" than Signature, but by such a tiny increment that the distinction is almost as insulting to Tova Borgnine as it is to us. Honestly: this sad little degree of heat is the difference between sensible and sexy? What a depressing vision of womanhood!

Frankly, I'm glad that T. didn't wear these. I can't bear to think of my friend being fettered by the contents of either of these two bottles.

As our relationship remains as affectionately snarky as ever, I hold firm to my belief that the comic Muse was at work the day T. gave me the Tovas. As I've said, she is a bit of an old-school merry prankster. Knowing that I love to review a bad perfume almost as dearly as I love to review a good one, perhaps she gave me the Tovas in the same spirit that people sprinkle itching powder in each others' bathing suits-- you know, for laughs!

At least I hope so. Otherwise, girlfriend's got some explaining to do.

NOTE TO T: I adore you, truly I do.  But promise me you will never ask for these back, because I will not permit these travesties to re-enter your airspace.  You were right to be rid of them. Only the best for you, seriously.

Scent Elements: Lavender, jasmine, sandalwood, musk (Tova Signature); peony, lily, violet, lilac, rose, sandalwood, patchouli, musk (Tova Nights)