Gender bender.

Women in close workplace quarters can be either supportive or contemptuous of one another depending on the weather, the temperature, the time of day, or (sad but true!) the time of the month. Unless one turns to extraordinary means to avoid them, personality clashes are inevitable... yet everyone fawns and fusses over our male colleague no matter what the conditions. Hm! How to tap into that without subverting the whole planet?

Today I wore Or Black by Pascal Morabito. Cloaking myself in a scent that triggers an instinctive recognition of "maleness" was both an experiment and a risk. How would all these women react to my olfactory disguise? Favorably, as it happens. Opinions on my fragrance included words like clean, comforting, reassuring.  I didn't attract a single snide comment all day. In fact, my coworkers seemed more impelled than usual to engage me in small talk or seek my opinion. At the end of the day -- holy moley! -- they all pitched in to help me with closing procedures.  All because I smelled like a man!?

Normally I don't give much credence to the concept of gendered perfume, but this -- along with the disrespect I get when I wear an girly "pushover" perfume -- leads me to think there's more to psychology, sexism, and scent than I believed.

Parfum du Jour: Ô de Lancôme (Lancôme)

Why wear it? For good old spritzy fun on a day which is no fun at all, meteorologically speaking. Right now it's pushing ninety, dishearteningly humid, and so bright it feels as though the sun itself is giving us the stink-eye.  Later (if the weather forecaster isn't fibbing) we'll have violent thunderstorms, high winds, and the possibility of a tornado. A tornado. Spritz now or forever end up in Oz.

What does it do? It cools skin on contact, for a start. Then an aura of lemony-freshness settles down all around me, and instantly I feel less sticky and sluggish. A zing of green basil increases the overall happy, while the drydown is a nice, dry vetiver. Let me have just one more spritz, and I'll be well on my way to surviving 'til five.

How do I feel? Rather apprehensive about that whole tornado thing. I can't help thinking about the massive old oak tree in our neighbor's yard-- fifty feet high, I'll wager. With every brisk breeze, I find myself straying to the kitchen window to stare out at it and nibble nervously on my fingernails. If a microburst brought the giant down, where would it land?

Panthère de Cartier Original Parfum (Cartier)

Launched in 1986 and (if you will excuse my phraseology, which I admit may be as tasteless as this perfume) put to sleep in the mid-1990s, Panthère follows in the footsteps of Poison and Giorgio, both supremely rude perfumes with no respect for pedestrian noses. Backed up with syrupy peach and a chokingly thick sandalwood, this massive tuberose tyrant refuses to be ignored. It's too big for its britches, its bottle, the room, and maybe even the planet. It creates an atmosphere so impenetrable that Reagan could have used it for the Strategic Defense Initiative. Giant asteroids bounce off of it and ricochet right back into space.

This is a perfume that fires its entire staff on Christmas Eve. This is a perfume that heaves a crystal paperweight at your head and screams, You LOOK at me when I'm talking to you. This is a perfume that owns 15 mink coats, 508 gowns, 1,000 handbags, and 1,060 pairs of shoes. This is a perfume that backs dictators and arms rogue nations at a profit. This is a perfume on trial in absentia for crimes against humanity. This perfume hasn't just violated the Clean Air Act-- it's condemned under the Geneva Protocol for its use of chemical warfare.

Don't misunderstand me-- I kinda-sorta enjoyed being in its clutches for twenty-four hours or so, until I found a bar of soap powerful enough to tame it.  It has charisma in spite of itself.  But clearly Panthère is not meant for everyone. You really have to ask yourself if you're wicked enough to merit it-- and if you are, god help us all.

Scent Elements: Peach, coriander, mace, tuberose, karo karounde, jasmine, gardenia, marigold, rose, heliotrope, carnation, ylang-ylang, oakmoss, patchouli, cedar, sandalwood, amber, vanilla, tonka bean, civet, musk

Parfum du Jour: The Afternoon of a Faun (État Libre d'Orange)

Why wear it? For its complex, mercurial, tumultuous nature, ideal for a day of thunderstorms and torrential rain.

What does it do? It commences with a peal of rosy geranium -- a note I most often equate with courage, but which I am now forced to reframe in my own perception as the aroma of carnal passion. This tricksy sprite of a scent surrounds itself with moody suede and moss, which causes its piquant nature to seem even more intense and fiery in contrast. The immediate effect is to evoke cries of "You smell delicious! DELICIOUS!!" from one's coworkers.  How often does that happen?

How do I feel? Very self-congratulatory for having purchased such a sizable decant.  If I can, I may even invest in a full bottle the next time I happen through Bergdorf Goodman.  Throw in a bottle of Like This for makeweight, and you've got yourself a deal.

Parfum du Jour: Réglisse Noire (1000 Flowers)

Why wear it? Because for something predicated on one of the world's stickiest and most dense confections, Réglisse Noire is as sheer as voile and as cooling as the fine mist thrown off by an epic waterfall.

What does it do? Initially, it really, really, really makes me mourn for Callard & Bowser licorice toffees (a sweet enjoyed by the British side of my family and oft-lamented now that it's no longer available stateside). But at some point, Réglisse Noire takes a subversive little turn into patchouli territory, landing on something akin to Lucien Lelong Tailspin, only sweeter and more transparent. And you know how I feel about Tailspin in weather as hot as we're having today, so... Call this a double triumph, for licorice and all its lovers.

How do I feel? Oh, so relaxed and composed in my veil of soft, anisic tranquility.

Parfum du Jour: L'Heure Fougueuse (Cartier)

Why wear it? Because Annick Goutal's Duel is still fresh in my mind, and I crave some more of that strange, horse-pasture-meets-teatime scent that is yerba maté.

What does it do? It evokes a luminous melancholy that is difficult to describe. I offered my wrist for Nan to sniff, and she said, "At first it was love, and then all of a sudden it turned to sadness." I agreed and added that it invariably reminds me of a moody black-and-white art film that disturbs the mind, dazzles the eye, and tugs at the heart.

How do I feel? Very satisfied myself, but I do wonder what others around me make of my scent. It does smell a mite horsey-- which of course I love, but which might cause another to do a double-take.

Parfum du Jour: Réplique Spray Mist (Raphael)

Why wear it? It's luscious, luscious, luscious! I snapped up this vintage marvel at the Columbus Antiques Mall-- a full bottle, and a good thing too, because I cannot seem to stop spraying. Precious is the perfume that compels you to reapply every hour or so for the fun of it, yet is so sheer and unobtrusive that no one around you catches on.

What does it do? It takes the original Réplique theme (green bergamot over green herbs over green leather) and boosts the bergamot up to heavenly heights. That clary sage note is no slouch, either-- resulting in the driest version of Réplique I have yet to encounter, ideal for stormy, humid early-summer days.

How do I feel? Very confident. Each re-spritz gives my mood a noticeable boost without undermining the effect with an overstrong sillage. When I ask for more, my flacon answers, "Say when." Une réplique si bien parlée.

Jules (Dior)

I think I understand now why certain perfume blog readers (and writers!) get so bent out of shape when you review a discontinued classic. It's unfair, they say, to get a person all fired up about a fragrance and then leave them out in the cold. Why torment us with lush descriptions of what we can't have? they complain. If we can't go right out and buy it, why review it at all?

Maybe they're right. I always thought it was my prerogative to review whatever the hell I wanted, and damn your rules. But wearing Jules, I can see now how frustrating it might be. Because Jules has vanished from these parts-- relegated to some bucket list of shy and elusive species, like the dwarf cassowary or the ghost orchid. And its comeliness makes its flight from the shelves of non-Parisian stockists that much more intolerable.

In the wunderkammer of perfume specimens, Jules joins Eau Sauvage, Caron Yatagan, and Pascal Morabito Black in a little drawer helpfully labeled "Fougères - Animalic (Sharp/Filthy)". This would differentiate it from those comforting barbershop fougères which are more tonka-heavy, or the zesty sort of fougère which relies mainly on aromatic herbs and pale blue or green coloring to suggest "freshness". The fragrances in this drawer are all sex and leather-- and Jules, with its sage-and-cumin suggestiveness, is the rarest of them all. And also the most beautiful.

The teaser has become the teased. Serves me right.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, basil, artemisia, lavender, sage, cumin, cyclamen, jasmine, rose, cedar, sandalwood, amber, tonka bean, oakmoss, leather, castoreum, musk

Duel (Annick Goutal)

Remember Tirador, that bespoke scent I envisioned for Viggo Mortensen? This is it, or as close to it as I'm ever going to get.

As I envisioned it, Tirador would incorporate notes of tobacco, maté, sweetgrass, sage, and animalic leather to be worn by a travel-worn outdoorsman (hell, let's call him Aragorn son of Arathorn). Duel takes maté to the red carpet by introducing it to elegant iris and absinthe-- and yet, it's still strangely redolent of time spent in the saddle. That it reminds me strongly of Cartier's L'Heure Fougueuse is no accident; it clearly provided inspiration.

So Duel is the perfume of my bespoke dream-- at least the press junket version. It's tailored to more formal standards but still has a uniquely lived-in quality, like a made-to-measure suit that does not sacrifice cut, fabric or fit for plain old indispensable comfort. That's why you've worn that suit for years. It looks as new on you as it did when it really was.

Scent Elements: Yerba maté absolute, petitgrain, iris, absinthe, guaiac, leather, musk

Cumming: The Fragrance (CB I Hate Perfume)

It does not smell peaty.
It does not smell boozy.
It does not smell heathery.
It does not smell woodsy.
It does not smell rubbery.
It does not smell leathery.
It does not smell tobaccoey.
It does not smell earthy.
It does not smell fiery.
It does not smell truffly.
It does not smell risky.
It does not smell sexy.
It does not smell transgressive.
It smells like YSL La Nuit de l'Homme, which I really like, but which I can buy at the Macy's near my house.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, black pepper, Scotch pine, malt whiskey, cigar, heather, Douglas fir, worn leather, Highland mud, peat fire, white truffle. All of which I think is a load of crap. Aye, ah do!

Parfum du Jour: Eau d'Hadrien (Annick Goutal)

Why wear it? It's a dry citrus. A very dry citrus. A triple-sec citrus. So if you (like me) have a temporary aversion to moisture on account of insane recent rainfall totals, this one will hand you no dew-drops.

What does it do? With tart, peppery notes of cypress and grapefruit mingled with sour lemon, Eau d'Hadrien puts the pith in perfume. I love bitter tastes, so it should follow that a bitter smell would be attractive to me. Side note: I could swear there's a rose hiding somewhere in that lemon grove, but it may be a mirage conjured from all those sharp essences.

How do I feel? Rather sunny today, as my spouse and I hit the road for an afternoon of thrifting. Sometimes it's a bust and sometimes it's must; for us it was the latter. My clothing find of the day: an official Beastie Boys shirt from their last tour before MCA passed away. It had never been worn (in fact, the price tag was still attached!) and it came in green, my favorite color. My book finds of the day: a brand new, pristine copy of Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey (I snapped it up before it had even been priced!) and a biography of E.M. Forster that I never knew existed. I also scored a glass bowl in which I hope to display my 1ml. perfume samples once I convince the Grist Mill to let me consign them. Wish me luck.