October 2, 2014 at 12:49 am Enter your password to view comments.
Years and years ago I dated this Russian guy; we’ll call him Boris. He wondered why I never wore perfume. I didn’t really have an answer. He said that women were supposed to wear perfume, so that when a dude smelled it on something somewhere, it would make him think of her. I thought that was sweet, but kind of pooh-poohed the idea for myself because perfume made me think of old ladies and how it kind of annoyed me if I was in the grocery store or at a movie or something and had to constantly smell them.
I had a string of jobs where my supervisors were way into smelly candles and aromatherapy and things of that nature. I remember one job where the denizen of office to the left of me liked “energizing lemon” and the office on the right of me’s occupant constantly had a “calming lavender” thing going. I joked that my left half was wide awake while my right half was falling asleep. Altogether I felt like my personal airspace was being violated by other peoples’ scents. The scent I enjoyed most was nothing. I didn’t think it was fair that someone else’s particles of smelly shit should be able to attack my nostrils without my consent. It was like olfactory rape. Why couldn’t they make air fresheners that destroyed all smells and made the air smell completely blank? That’s what *I* wanted.
However, I kept the idea of the perfume in the back of my head. I experimented with essential oils, because I liked the smell of flowers. Not the flowery perfumey scents; the smell of actual flowers, and essential oils were the closest thing I could find. I liked jasmine a lot, but got accused of smelling like a hippie, so I switched to roses. That, of course, prompted people to think I smelled like their grandmother’s bathroom soap, so I eventually gave it up altogether.
Enter Klaus, my current beau. He is very scent-oriented, he says. While he doesn’t burn aromatherapy candles, thank goodness, he does like a good perfume. In fact, it was at his suggestion (bordering on insistence) that we go to The Mall and check out a department store perfume counter. The last time I had gone to a department store perfume counter, I was probably about 7 and was with my grandmother, who instructed the counter lady to spray me with something (probably “Charlie,” she always wore perfume called Charlie). I remember smelling like perfume all day and being slightly annoyed, but it also sort of made me feel vaguely like a grown-up.
Anyway, it must have been quite the sight at Macy’s in the Burlington Mall yesterday– Klaus was the one taking the lead on the perfume. Since this was Klaus’s project (and he was paying), I was totally fine with it all. He kept describing what he was smelling to the old ladies, who eventually drifted away to help other customers. “I smell grass… with some musk.” It turns out he likes super duper flowery things that are a little too sickeningly sweet for me. I like citrusy things, which make him think of being in the produce aisle. He doesn’t want “food smells,” as he put it. At one point the old lady who was showing us the perfumes said, somewhat sarcastically, “is SHE gonna be wearing this, or YOU?”
If, at age 22 when I was way into being an independent non-girly woman, you had told me that in nearly 20 years I would be at a Macy’s perfume counter with a dude who was going to buy expensive perfume for me, I would have scoffed. Why should I let some dude dictate what I smell like? Yet, here I was. After huffing like 20 different kinds of perfume, we finally settled on Chanel No. 5. Yes, we sniffed all these different things, only to come back to a perfume that has been around 95 years; that generations of women have worn. I smell like legions of dead flappers and grannies… and I kinda like it!
I am wearing it now, and it’s really weird– it doesn’t smell like me. I keep thinking there’s someone behind me that I’m smelling. I like how it smells a lot, but since I have spent a lot of my life thinking that the best smells are the absence of perfumes, I gotta get used to it!
With the recent Supreme Court decision about Hobby Lobby, lots of people have been pointing out that birth control has lots of other uses besides just preventing babies. My Facebook and Twitter feeds have been full of folks pointing out all sorts of alternate things The Pill is good for (lists here and here). These posts are in a vein of “THESE WOMEN AREN’T SLUTS, LOOK! YOUR GRANNY MIGHT BE TAKING THESE!” By posting all these lists, people are trying to draw attention to the fact that by limiting birth control, you may be keeping a perfectly innocent non-whore from being healthy. This tactic may appeal somewhat to the old white men that are in charge, but I think it does harm to constantly point out and sanitize the birth control debate. Also, the Hobby Lobby case wasn’t about female contraception in general, it was just about Plan B (aka the “morning after pill”) and IUDs, which they (albeit based on faulty science) consider to cause abortions. That’s beside the point, as many people don’t get that. It’s good that it has opened up a wider argument, though– I think conversation about sexuality in general is a good thing. All too often have we pretended that sex was some weird deviant thing that went on behind *other peoples’* closed doors.
While it is true that there are lots of other medical uses for birth control, I think we’re forgetting the main thing is that people just like having sex. Face it, contraception or not, you’re not going to stop people having sex for fun rather than for reproductive purposes anytime soon. Think about it. Sex for the sake of sex and not for the purpose of babies is really not as bad as you think. You’ve probably done it! We need to stop the whole stigmatization of women who want to just have sex and not worry about the consequences. In fact, the word “consequences” is not the best word I could have chosen. I mean, it’s perfectly fine for men to go out and have sex simply for fun. However, in society’s eyes, women who have sex just for the sake of having sex are considered questionable at best. Remember the whole Sandra Fluke debacle? I remember my mother telling me about how when the Pill was first widely available, in order to get a prescription, she had to prove not only that she was married, but also had to get her husband’s permission. God forbid women not be held accountable and/or have a babysitter to account for their whorish antics!
So yes, it’s true– birth control does have uses other than for preventing babies. I don’t know the statistics off hand, but I’ll bet that most women who are on birth control are using it for –gasp– preventing pregnancy. The sooner we acknowledge that sex is just sex, and that it’s not this heavy moral thing, the better.
Will we, as a society get over it? Probably not in my lifetime.
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My first car was a 1968 VW Beetle, which I bought in 1993. It had been sitting in someone’s barn for many years and only had 40k miles on it, which is unheard of. Anyway, I loved that car, but it broke down 3 times on the 4-hour drive home from college. This set the tone for the rest of the year I owned it– it needed some sort of repairs at least every month. Needless to say, I knew all the towtruck drivers by name in town. This was not my first shitty, car; I have never owned a new car, so I have had lots of experience with numerous car repairmen in two states in the past 20-odd years of car ownership. It is almost never good.
Being female, I have gotten all manner of condescending, patronizing, and downright mean behavior from repairmen. I remember once I had a car with some kind of weird congenital brake problem that nobody could figure out. The brake pads would wear out faster on the inside than on the outside. Nobody knew why. However, when I described this issue to repairmen, they would roll their eyes and sometimes tell me to my face that I was crazy; that was impossible and that my brake pads were fine. Then, 3 weeks later the inside pads would wear out, the calipers would freeze up and I’d have to pull over and take my car to the nearest repair place only to get a lecture along the lines of “honey, didn’t your daddy tell you have to get your brake pads replaced when they wear out? Sweetie, you should have your boyfriend drive your car sometime. He’d know what to do.” This scenario happened at least 3 times.
Because of my lifelong bad experiences with car repairmen, I have developed this crazy condition, where anything revolving around auto mechanics makes me really agitated and anxious. I tried to learn about cars, so I would sound knowledgeable, but obviously I would never know as much as a repairman, so if I tried to demonstrate my knowledge, the repairman would engage in a one-upping war until he won (which wasn’t hard, truthfully. I know about brakes, but that’s about it). So, even thinking about dealing with car mechanics is one of the few things that fills me with a special cocktail of anxiety, fear, apprehension and rage all bundled up into one little ball of me not wanting to deal. Thus I avoid car repairs if possible.
Wednesday, after waiting a year and a half, I finally got the windshield replaced on my car, because it needed it to pass inspection. I had taken it to shady places before that passed it with the crack (I had bought the car with the crack in the windshield), but the last place gave me the big red R rejection sticker. I had been driving around with a big red R for about a year and a half, yet only managed to get 2 tickets. When I took my car into the inspection place, I learned that In the time it took to save up the money to get the windshield repaired, more things broke that would render the car uninspectable (not surprising, since, made in 1999, my car is almost old enough to drive itself). So, I forked over a zillion dollars and had them fix all the things. Upon driving home I noticed that the car smelled like weird exhaust, and rattled and vibrated really loudly.
Here’s where my brain started freaking out. First of all, I was filled with rage for having been screwed over again. Then I searched for ways I could live with it so I wouldn’t have to talk to the repair people again. Then I thought “maybe it’s nothing. Maybe I am crazy and I’m just hearing things.” I agonized about this whole thing for far too long.
In the end, I took the car back, explained it to the people, and they fixed it for free (something needed tightening), rendering all that angst pointless. The place where I take my car is actually really cool, and that’s why I’ve been going there for years. Why all the angst? I don’t know. I need a support group or something. Geez. Now I am beating myself up for being such a wimp about the whole thing. This may be a sign I should just get rid of the car!