Shocking de Schiaparelli (Elsa Schiaparelli)

Are you familiar with the poem "Warning" by Jenny Joseph? You know, the one that begins "When I am an old woman..." and proceeds to list all the gleeful hijinks the narrator plans to take up in her dotage?

Written in 1961, "Warning" became a rallying cry for a cohort of women wedged uneasily between old-wave etiquette and new-wave feminism. It also inspired the Red Hat Society-- a global movement dedicated to exploring the revitalizing effect of age on women's self-esteem. Dressed in flamboyant scarlet and purple (or paler pink and lavender if under the age of 50), members gather to partake in high-spirited mass meet-ups known as "hoots", where Joseph's poem receives communal loving tribute.

Here's the thing: Joseph was twenty-nine when she wrote "Warning"-- and like the outré feather boas worn by RHS revelers, her fond view of old age was largely masquerade. Reading between the lines reveals a good deal of ambivalence towards older female role models, who stifled the narrator with their Victorian conventions, leaving her resentful and unable to engage in honest self-expression. She's not saying she admires them, respects them, or can't wait to become one of them-- only that when she is, she will never be anything like them. As for being herself, the freedom to do so will only come when she is elderly, "dotty", and past all accountability for sticky feelings like bitterness or rage.

As much as I would like to accept the myth that "Warning" sounded the starting gun of an amazing societal transformation, a voice deep within me cries foul. Did NONE of their mothers wear Schiaparelli Shocking? it demands to know.

Breathing in the heady, horny honey-and-civet of this extraordinary fragrance, I cannot imagine its proponents being so fusty and rule-bound as Joseph paints them. To be frank, any woman willing to smell like pussy would be hard-pressed to play Miss Manners-- or to bring up daughters who resent her. Such daughters, I imagine, would do more than worry about their slips showing. They never wore slips in the first place, studied economics and biophysics on an equal footing with home economics, fucked who and where and when they wanted, wrote rock songs about it, stormed barricades, and raised their own children to be questing independents. If invited to Red Hat Society meetings, I imagine them wearing Shocking - both the pink and the perfume -- and no hats at all to hide the grey.

Scent Elements: Aldehydes, bergamot, tarragon, jasmine, ylang-ylang, narcissus, rose, honey, patchouli, clove, labdanum, oakmoss, sandalwood, musk, civet