ON MARRIAGE, AND GUERLAIN’S new wedding fragrances LE PLUS BEAU JOUR DE MA VIE + LE BOUQUET DE LA MARIEE (20I5)

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At the high school graduation party I attended in March, where many smart, bright young seventeen and eighteen year old male and female students were celebrating getting into some of the top educational institutions in Japan, one moment quite unnerved me. While the majority of the event was just meant to entertain- bingo, comic sketches, musical performances – there were also some more serious speeches – advice to the young for the future – and some personal announcements by the teachers and administration, in particular, the fact that two couples had fallen in love in the teachers’ room – two male teachers, two female secretaries, and that they were going to be soon getting married.

The tumultuous reception that this news received – students whooping, shrieking, clapping in delight, should, in theory perhaps, have been a positive and heartlifting sight – after all, love is a wonderful thing, and the commitment of two people to each other is something to celebrate – but there was just something about it- the sheer level of ecstatic reaction to this news that totally dwarfed everything else on that night – as though marriage itself were the be all and end all of life, the goal of everything no matter what, and, that despite all their great academic achievements, ultimately, all most of the girls in the room wanted to do was to get married, have babies, and stay at home and cook. This view of the students’ attitudes was strengthened after the ceremony, when I saw hordes of animated girls excitedly milling around the staff room eager to talk to the women in question, murmuring ‘I want to get married too’ and ‘congratulations, congratulations‘ and I found myself wondering why it was bothering me so much, why it grated : was I just a cynical old git who should have just gone with the moment, or was I right to feel ill at ease?

Firstly, I must say that I have nothing against marriage. In fact, I think it can be a very beautiful thing when both partners are doing it for the right reasons and they really love each other; when they are allowed to be who they really are, and when the situation affords the husband and wife (for the time being I am only talking here about conventional marriage) that sense of haven; a nest to come back to, a place to raise a family, a nucleus that protects them from the world and gives a sense of security. Both my parents and Duncan’s parents have been happily married for fifty years so I come from good stock in that regard; they may have had their ups and downs at certain points like all couples do, but essentially they like each others’ company, still laugh, have fun, and enjoy being with their family. This is also true of many people in Japan too, obviously: sometimes you see middle aged couples here walking hand in hand, having a good time, and think yes, that is how it should be (from a western perspective, at least: I realize that what I am writing here cannot cover the pros and cons of arranged marriage in other countries); not trapped in some gender divided trap where you each have your role that has been imposed on you by society, and which gradually drains away your natural humanity and turns you into a nag, a drudge, or an exhausted, miserable, husked out bastard.

Any discussion of marriage in Japan must of course be tempered with the caveat that I know this doesn’t apply to everyone, yes I realize that there are plenty of couples who avoid these pitfalls and hang on to their personal freedoms and are happy, and also that I realize that things are very much changing, that younger people are rejecting the strictures of the older generation, and are, to some extent, redesigning what marriage means, yesyesyes I know. I am very much aware of all this, and to me, all this can only be a good thing.

However, having lived here for so long, I also know that the clichés of marriage, the roles that each partner is meant to take on according to the gender they just happened to be born with, are still very much entrenched in the broader swathe of society, and that to willingly enter into this arrangement is, to me at least, nothing less than a form of hell (you must realize that for me, there is nothing more important in this life than maintaining the feeling – possibly the illusion – that I am FREE: that I can, as far as is humanly feasible, resist the pressures of society and its bullshit – and so much of what we are told we should be really IS bullshit, total tripe, and to make it worse, often very wrong as well at the same time – and that really, my whole driving force in this existence is to try and understand what it is all about; to find a way of living that lets me reject what I feel is immoral, stupid, or unnecessary, and embrace a more unfettered, liberated existence where I can be who I am and live naturally. And in many ways, I have largely succeeded).

In Japan, for most people, unless you have the mental strength and arrogance to resist the enormous silent pressures of the society, it is hard to have such a life. Both women and men, in the traditional marriage at least, get a very raw deal. The man, upon entering the vale of matrimony and having provided offspring, essentially becomes a workhorse, working six days a week, all hours of the day, in order to provide for his family, the wife taking control of the finances (he gets pocket money) hardly ever seeing his family. This continues until retirement, when he and his wife have often spent so little time together, probably not having had sex in decades (this is no exaggeration: in an official survey, Japanese women were found to be the least sexually satisfied in the developed world) that they have virtually nothing to say to each other and often end up getting divorced or living entirely separate lives. The wife, having spent her entire existence on raising the children, doing housework, possibly having a part time job but essentially being a housewife no matter how good her education, gets sucked into the torturous ‘mama-san’ existence of having to spend time with other frustrated mothers, where the rivalry, gossip and bullying can rise to such levels that deep depression, and often domestic violence, can result. My best friend here has suffered greatly because of this over the years; the pressure to conform, to be this ‘perfect mother’; to be constantly present at every PTA meeting and social event organized at other mothers’s houses that she ended up in counselling, except that the chauvinist pig of a ‘psychiatrist’ just told her, outrageously, that she was being selfish and that she should, in essence, just ‘get on with it’ and so that was what she has been doing: getting married, basically for the sake of it, because she thought she had to as she approached thirty, ie. over the hill, desperate, and marrying a friend of a friend who seemed acceptable enough but who in truth was completely unsuited to her; they have nothing in common except drinking and hot springs and the fact that they have produced two children – very cute children, so for that reason she doesn’t regret it- but the fact is that they have nothing to say to each other except bicker, and her daytime is filled with these stressful interactions with alpha female mothers; a Lord Of The Flies playground culture that leaves her bone dry and stressed out, and thanking god she still has piano duets with me as an outlet on the occasional weekend or she would go crazy.

*

 

THE INEXORABLE DESEXUALIZATION OF THE JAPANESE FEMALE

 

For women here, this would seem to be the general pattern:

I :

Be as ‘cute’ and kawaii as you can, all the time, for as long as possible, from childhood until your mid twenties and beyond: cuteness, speaking in a toddler’s voice, being doe-eyed, ‘feminine’, girl-like, the required way to be through school and university and even when you start work (when you are secretly just looking for a husband).

2: Start dating prospective young men, possibly with an eye to ensnaring one.

At this time, you are young, beautiful (anyone coming to Japan can see how gorgeous Japanese women can be: so utterly conforming to the ideal of what heterosexual men want, which is why so many western men can never leave: some of my female friends who have visited said they just felt like ungainly elephants in comparison to these perfected, hyper-pretty creatures – these young women who are petite, svelte, immaculately coiffured and made up; coy, sweet, the absolute straight man’s dream and an unimaginable way of being in the west ). They also have enough disposable income, usually living with their parents post university and not paying rent, to spend the majority of their money on their appearance; on the latest fashions, make up, shoes. Cue: romantic dates at chic new restaurants in Tokyo or Yokohama, holding hands under the cherry blossom, falling in love.

  1. GET MARRIED.

The most extravagantly tightly organized wedding ceremonies, where not even one tiny detail is left to chance, complete with the requisite reading of the letter to your parents, where you, and they, weep as you tell of what a bad little girl you were and how you put them through so much trouble and beg for their forgiveness

  1. STOP WORKING (OBVIOUSLY), CONCEIVE:

It is here that the desexualization of Japanese women becomes most extremely apparent. Although very young, gunshot wedding types who are getting married just because they have already got pregnant often buck this rule, remaining ‘sexy’ and dolled up in high heels while pushing prams, generally speaking, it seems that when you have a baby, you have to, by law, give up all claims to being sexy, chic or dressing for yourself, and must adopt a kind of pure, maternal look, complete with floppy denim hats, flat shoes, lots of white, blue and pastel coloured baggy clothes with little dogs and rabbits sewn on them, much less makeup, an absolute volte face in appearance that I often find astonishing.

At this time, despite your soft and sweet appearance, you also become the absolute master of the house. You control your husband’s finances completely, economizing and saving obsessively for the future and the astronomical cost of your offspring’s education, including the obligatory extra cram school lessons, spend all your time ferrying the kids around, shouting at them to do their homework, producing the stressed out kids I then teach,; and attending mama-san social gatherings, sipping on tea and gossipping, and hardly ever see your exhausted husband, who in general will get home very late in the evening, even around midnight, when you will possibly have prepared his dinner for him, or might already be in bed (usually in separate rooms: this is the norm for most couples; kids also always sleep with their parents, even up to the age of seven or more, meaning that ‘intimacy’ is quite literally almost always out of the question, for months or years at a time).

5

Become an ‘Oba-san’.

This is the phase I detest the most, that moment in Japanese culture where each person becomes categorized as either an ‘aunt ‘ or an ‘uncle’ (o-jisan).

I am now one of those, apparently, that is my identity: I am nothing but a ‘middle aged man’. I AM an ojisan. For women, it happens any time between 35 – 40, at which point you inevitably become an obasan – an object of scorn and derision- and can’t really be seen as attractive any more, because, baby, you are an obasan.

*

I was at the airport the other day, waiting for my parents to emerge from the arrivals gate, and there was a couple, probably French I would say, in their late sixties, early seventies even, and I marvelled at how self-confident and sexy the wife looked. So elegant, well put together, self-assured, she looked her age but looked fantastic with it, and exuded some kind of sensuality that had not been eroded by society’s expectation that she become a dowdy, sexless old frump whose only desire in life is to natter with other old ladies and push people out of the way on the trains. Of course, I don’t doubt that the pressure to be beautiful and attractive at all ages of life in French culture is also a kind of sexist, societal pressure of a different kind, but in terms of how the couple looked as they waited for their friends to arrive, it didn’t seem as if she had had to let go of her essential identity (though what do I know: I know nothing about them, I am just making suppositions about strangers in airports).

At any rate, though I meander, there is no doubt in my mind that marriage in Japan comes with its hideously inbuilt fortresses of gender segregated behaviours that I personally would not for one moment be able to endure. I had one colleague who was wondering aloud one day whether or not to ask his girlfriend to marry him (‘because then I won’t have any money’); another who had been forced to stop listening to music (‘because my wife doesn’t like it’.) In fact, in the teachers’ conversation classes I do, half the time the men are just complaining about their wives, who, as society expects, have become complaining harridans who watch and criticize their every move and make their lives miserable. I have even heard, through the grapevine, that the husband in one of the the aforementioned couples, the teacher and admin staff lady whose wedding announcement caused such a froth of ecstacy among the gathered young students, is already complaining behind her back that his wife is ‘strict’, that she has ‘changed’.

*

‘Le Plus Beau Jour De Ma Vie’, then, ‘the most beautiful day of my life‘, the new perfume by Guerlain, meant to be romantic and personify the time when a woman has never been happier, the symbolic giving herself to be owned by her husband, gives me rather ambiguous feelings. (I would like to know, actually, from female readers if, in fact, your wedding day was the happiest day of your life?)

I can imagine that, in some ways, it might well be. If you are truly in love, and your fiancé has proposed, and you get to be the star, the princess, for a day, and wear a beautiful dress, that it could be a magical and utterly memorable occasion, all eyes on you and your happiness (although isn’t the planning and organizing of it all, not to mention all the family arguments and difficulties, the finances, the logistics, an absolute nightmare? Can the day possibly live up to your expectations?) Est-ce que c’etait vraiment le plus beau jour de ta vie?

I enjoy weddings sometimes: I like the heady, champagne-bubbled gleefulness of it all, the kids running around, the elated feeling in the air; the chance to wear a nice suit and tie; I do, despite what I have said, enjoy seeing how beautiful the bride looks as she walks down the aisle, and I am happy for the couple if I think they will be truly happy (even if, I suppose, the number of marriages that then end in divorce can make one also rather skeptical about it all). After that ceremony, though, does the signing of the papers give a sense of security and fulfillment, or does it really feel like a contract; that you are signing away your liberty?

I am not a woman, so I don’t know what all of this feels like. I know that if I were a woman, I would organize the ceremony differently so that it felt fresh and new and didn’t abide by too many conventions (I personally feel that although observing tradition is an important part of human culture for purposes of bonding and ritual, most traditions are also entirely random and arbitrary and that to jettison them and recreate things from scratch can be beautifully reinvigorating). Would I wear a white wedding dress ? Maybe. Maybe not. Would I wear perfume? Yes, a truckload of it. Which one? One that had been specifically designed for a bride, one that prescribed the experience for me? Doubtful.

Guerlain’s Le Plus Beau Jour De Ma Vie is not the virginal, nuptial fragrance you might imagine from such a name though, where I envisioned lilies of the valley; lilies, something white and sensuous and ‘pure’ (how unbearable it must be for women the world over to be yearned for as ‘pure‘, though – how can you bear it? I swear, I am actually really glad that I am not a woman, because if I were, I think I would be constantly so enraged by the sexism and double standards that exists in societies the world over that I would just spontaneously combust one day in a raging fireball of furious conflagration). No, I expected the perfume to conform to those hideous conventions where the father of the bride ‘hands over’ his daughter to the awaiting groom, where in some places she will be set on fire or splashed with acid if she puts a foot wrong, but where usually this doesn’t occur, and the wedding ceremony leads on to the reception, and then the disco, and then the honeymoon.

In truth, the smell of this perfume – a sexy, sugared almond gourmand orange blossom – is more suited to the idea of the evening party. It is not a very original scent, this one (poor Thierry Wasser is compelled to churn out so many perfumes for Guerlain these days that true originality must be hard to achieve). The smell is much thicker, viscous, sweet and powdery than I would have imagined from a nuptial scent, which I suppose in itself makes it somewhat new in conception. This bride is winking, she is not conforming to the untouched ideal, she is evincing sensuality she wants to dance. Yes, orange blossom is very much the main theme here, touched with angelica, pink pepper and bergamot, the usual deal, and a marshmallowish, vanilla/ white musk/patchouli base, not that different from Mademoiselle Guerlain, which I also reviewed recently, and is also really quite commercial smelling, both of them descendants of Jean Paul Guerlain’s Classique. I don’t mind it at all, actually, and would be quite happy to smell this lingering about the wedding cake in the hotel foyer, even if it might demonstrate a certain lack of originality on the part of the bride: ah, this is a wedding scent by Guerlain….

Le Bouquet De La Mariée, the other scent in today’s title, is not really a separate perfume at all in fact but just the more expensive (by a mile) parfum extrait version of the edp, and to be honest I couldn’t really ascertain many differences in its structure or odour – it just smelled stronger (you could, in other words, just call it a rip-off). Both of these perfumes are perfectly fine, but then again I recently received a very generous decant of Jean Paul Guerlain’s Metallica/ Metalys from 2000, and although I had done a cursory review of this beautiful scent in my carnation piece that I reblogged the other day, I had never really spent any serious time actually wearing the scent properly, something I did when in the mountains of Nikko last week as we walked along the river. This is in fact a beautiful and haunting orange blossom perfume, almost indescribable in its strange, iris-spiced, sun-lit pinks and oranges, its sensual tonka and vanilla base, its ambiguity and mystery (wouldn’t a bride want to be more enigmatic; isn’t that half the point?) and in comparison, I am afraid, Mr Wasser’s wedding bell confections just fade into banality. Pretty and vivacious though it may be, like many of marriage’s formalities and procedures, there is something unthinkingly obvious about it all.

And, to finish, just one more thing.

Why is it only the bride who gets in a flutter about her wedding day scent?

Why is it only she who thinks that this is the ‘best day of her life’?

Can you explain it to me?

I genuinely don’t understand.

35 Comments

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35 responses to “ON MARRIAGE, AND GUERLAIN’S new wedding fragrances LE PLUS BEAU JOUR DE MA VIE + LE BOUQUET DE LA MARIEE (20I5)

  1. jennyredhen

    Because you get to wear an amazing dress, have your makeup done, have everyone fluffing over you and be a princess for one day in your life.
    I loved that gypsy wedding show on TV where they each tried to out do the brides before by having more and more ornate dresses. The dresses were so extreme they had to be propped up and loaded in and out of the wedding vehicle and some suffered permanent damage from the weight of the elaborate constructions of dresses that they wore. It was hilarious and very entertaining!!!

  2. Has it anything to do with The changing of The male attire from kingfisher to craw in the 19 th century? This was only the case for the rich and famous, but taking in account the coast of the wedding dress and the whole skedaddle it is a load of cash that is blown away on this day …
    As you see I’m not so enthousiastic either … (To be continued)

    • The kingfisher? How did that look?

      I hope I don’t come across as some kind of marital grinch, but there IS something about the name of that perfume that grates on my nerves. I can imagine that there must be plenty of bloggers who just go the whole lovely day route but I just couldn’t help showing the other side. To me, gender constrictions are just insufferable.

  3. Bee

    I had expected never to get married but then I fell in love and it just felt right – but then we were both in our late 30s so we were ‘fully formed’ as people. We were both ready. We had a great time on our wedding day. It was really simple. As were paying for it ourselves and we had no parents or family to please we had very little stress. We had a registry office ‘ceremony,’ a lunch party for 14 people at a local Italian and a party for all our friends in a ballroom above a riverside pub in the evening. I wore a black lace cocktail dress, and a dressage hat with a veil ( I may have started a trend there – sorry) and carried a bouquet of white arum lilies. The flowers and the veil – they are what you feel you must do because it’s the only time you can have those things and not look crazy. I chose Cinnabar because it was what I wore when we first met and it’s a significant scent for me – very empowering .My husband wore Ivoire by Balmain which he borrowed from me – and still does. It was 21 years ago today and we are still happy and still living our life exactly as we both choose. My advice is if you must, marry late – say this is what I am and I’m not going to change for you or anybody. If you both want the same things and you make each other laugh you’ll be happy.

    • I love what you write here, and the perfume combination is just amazing to me: quite fantastic. I adore Ivoire but it smells utterly wrong on me – I can’t imagine how it must smell when it suits a man. I have a bottle of Cinnabar also – an incredibly confident and full bodied perfume: I would love to be sitting next to you both on a train.

  4. No you don’t. I hope I am not either, I have two sides. One is love of The exterior, but there has to be an interior. No mind over matter or vice versa, but the two cosily, costly says autocorrect sternly, together

  5. The big talk in my family back in the States at the moment is my sister’s impending engagement to her boyfriend of four years; however, the entire process is being delayed due to him trying to find an engagement ring for her. I listen to the whole thing over the telephone, grateful for the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean between us, rolling my eyes, pulling faces, and not holding back my feelings on how ridiculous and trivial I find this. If two people are in love and want to make a life together, then they should, and I have never necessarily felt that the ritual of a marriage ceremony is required for this. My wedding day was not the happiest day of my life. Sure, it was super fun – we popped down to Marylebone registry office on a beautiful summer day, I wore Pucci and Vivienne Westwood’s Boudoir, which my husband loves on me. We didn’t invite anyone and just found two people there to act as witnesses for us. The happiest moment had happened in the midst of the trans-Atlantic romance he and I had been carrying out when we came to realize that being apart felt too unnatural to carry on with. There was no other way to exist for us except together. Our time together was so easy and organic and nearly ten years later, it still is. We’ve never had a serious row, he is my best friend, and we look after each other. Most importantly though, we appreciate one another, and even still find new things to appreciate. To be honest, it was something that I never really thought I would find. I’d seen so many people settling into these banal, unhappy relationships, and I knew in my heart that I never could. But when I did, I tossed aside my life in America and came to London to be with him because I couldn’t have been happy if I let it slip away. The ceremony and other associated bullshit never interested me, and I am still searching for an antique black opal wedding ring.

    • jennyredhen

      What a gorgeous story so romantic in the truest sense of the word. Its better to have a happy life than one magic day and the rest boring!!

      • Thank you ❤ And, yes, I agree, in that I couldn't imagine one happy, magical day surpassing the happiness of years and years together and having someone to share your life with.

    • I find this really fantastic to read, actually and this is exactly what I was talking about. The ring thing would grate on me hideously as well: I understand that some people have to get every detail ‘right’ but ultimately it is just irrelevant froth. The idea of a ‘banal’ relationship is terrifying to me. I also couldn’t do it for one second. I can’t do anything other than total honesty and realness otherwise I would genuinely MUCH prefer to be alone. How could you look into each other’s eyes at night otherwise?

      • Oh yes I was also going to say: BOUDOIR: PERFECT. I love that perfume and wonder it doesn’t get more attention on perfume blogs. Very sexy, and yet quite classy somehow at the same time.

      • Boudoir has been a staple of mine for like 15 years. When my husband and I were still seeing one another trans-Atlantically, his flat was burgled, and whomever broke in smashed a bottle of Boudoir I had left here.

        Ironically, that turned out to be one of the things that made him feel like we just really had to make a go of it because he was so upset by the break in, but yet the flat was just rife with the smell of my perfume. He was telling me about it over the phone and literally just broke down crying because in this very bizarre way he felt like I was there and how wrong it felt that I wasn’t.

        I couldn’t do it any other way either, and, yes, I’d much rather prefer to just be on my own than in a stagnant relationship. Sometimes I feel like some people just don’t know how to be alone with themselves.

  6. What a great piece, thank you for this. I had a japanese friend at the music academy in Germany. She had lived in Germany since her pre-teens and by the time I met her she had lived in Germany for longer than she had in Japan, much of the time without her parents. She was in many respects more European than Japanese, only the German men she met I think didn’t understand why she wasn’t as (nearly) all the other Japanese girls they met; doe eyes and perfectly girly. When she found a Japanese husband and moved back to Japan, she did describe to me some of what you write here, but mostly between the lines. In the end she had to cut all connections with her former life because it was impossible to find her role when constantly reminded how it could be.
    I often mourn our lost friendship.
    How do you see past this (if you do) in everyday life? How can you live in a place like that? I am very curious to know 🙂
    And a ps did you mean Gaultier’s Classique? Or which perfume did you mean. Thanks again for this reminder, that in so many ways we are very privileged, even if there still are many things to fight for.

    • I never know what the Gaultier perfume is called any more. When it first came out it was just Jean Paul Gaultier, and then later it became Classique (or so I believe). These perfumes don’t smell anything like that really, but I always think that any perfume that has that powdery sexy orange blossom vanilla accent comes from the JPG.

      As for Japan, the whole (two decade long) experience is a constant tug between loving it for all the reasons I love it, and there are many, not least of which is the total lack of aggression or danger of any kind (aside monstrous earthquakes and tsunamis of course) and the dream-like nature of being here – Europe feels hideously real and bleak in comparison somehow, perhaps because people really do suppress themselves in order to create a greater harmony. This is, of course, also the cause of much stress as I can’t really bear repressed emotions: hence the tensions I often feel when in the work place and so on. The thing is, I have a lot of free time in my job, and on those days I LOVE living here, just going out with Duncan, exploring Tokyo and other places: at these times it is just so EASY to be here.

      When it comes to gender roles, though, I find myself constantly infuriated by them, and I can totally imagine your Japanese friend in Germany. I have also known musicians who have lived there and they are definitely very different from usual Japanese. In fact, there is a kind of prejudice here against people who have lived abroad; they say you can ‘smell’ the foreigner in them. One of my jobs in the school I teach at is teaching ‘returnee’ students, and it is often quite difficult for them to re-integrate back into Japanese life. Some of them resolutely cling to their new Americanized souls, others decide that in order to fit in they will have to pretend they can’t speak English and almost renounce the entire experience as though it never happened. I can imagine that in order to properly adapt to the Japanese married life, this is what your friend might have had to do, terrible though that is.

      • Thanks for this answer, I do understand that very well, how the feeling for the greater good is both a blessing and a curse. And I realised afterwards that my questions could sound offensive or even rude. Please know, it was absolutely not meant like that, but as genuine curiosity, which you managed to satisfy with great accomplishment. I can very much see the charm and benefits of everything you describe.

      • Offensive or rude? I can’t imagine what you mean.

  7. Rafael

    First, I like weddings too. They gives me a legitimate reason, if asked, as to why I’m lurking about the bar areas and lobbies of expensive hotels.

    Second, I have a small coterie of male friends, all of us foodies really, and we’ve been known in the past to get together with a selection of Bridal magazines, get roaring drunk looking through the pictures of gowns, listening to Girl Groups form the 50’s and scarfing down endless amuse-bouche, appetizers and wedding-related confections. It’s all quite embarrassing and really, really fun. Think of that scene in “Marie Antoinette” with Kirsten Dunst.

    PS Vivienne Westwood’s “Boudoir” is the PERFECT scent for a bride. That’s a seriously sexy perfume. All the new Guerlain fragrances, unbelievable enough, I just can’t seem to make an effort to try anymore. as much as I love my classics, they’ve become a caricature of themselves.

    • Couldn’t agree more.

      LOVE your stories of amuse bouches and hanging around the lobbies. Would be fun to join you sometime.

      And I agree about the Guerlains: ultimately, though I think Thierry Wasser is trying his best, they just don’t compare even to the lesser creations of Jean Paul Guerlain in my view. They lack that special gorgeous richness in the base. These two perfumes smell nice enough, and I can’t really judge them properly as I haven’t smelled them close up on a live human bride when they might really blossom and show other facets for all I know, but I do suspect (he snobbishly says) that they might ultimately be a touch vulgar.

  8. I do love to read these posts that share insight into the inner workings of Japanese society. I find them truly intriguing and enlightening, yet somehow sad and archaic at the same time.
    I guess I understand the wanting to marry, but not for the reasons it seems so many do marry, as you expressed in your piece.
    I never understood all the pomp and circumstance associated with marriage. Truly, it befuddles me. Unless you are of noble birth and protocol dictates the whole thing, well, I just find it highly pompous. Especially in the states here, where every bride is a princess for a day- blech. I just do not see the point of the whole spectacle. But I will ponder that it is the happiest day of most women’s lives and that in and of itself saddens me greatly. I feel every day with someone you truly love should be the happiest and the best.
    Now, to share my wedding day; simple and basic it was. We went and had a civil ceremony, the person marrying us and his wife were our witnesses and afterward hubby and I went out for a fabulous meal. My wedding day was memorable for all the right reasons and every other day has been beautiful because we share our love. I have no need to look back wistfully at that one day and think of it being better than any other, it was just the first step of a lifelong journey.
    Oh, as to my fragrance choice for my simple, yet special day. My fragrance that day was vintage Femme de Rochas extrait; all chypre goodness and richness. Such an un wedding day type of scent. No virginal white flowers for me, no, it was a classic heavy hitter. I still wear the extrait on my anniversary and feel content and so happy.
    So there you have it, my wedding day. Nothing fancy, no super special dress, no huge party, just us deciding it was time to be together legally. Mind you, I am an only child, my parents were older, so I had been doted on my whole life. There was no need to play princess because I already had been treated like one my whole life. That might have played a part in not wanting, nor needing, to have a huge event. I just enjoy simplicity at times, I feel it is sometimes overlooked in the quest to dazzle others.
    Now on to the latest creation, I use that term loosely, chez Guerlain.
    I have to say, the notes in the Guerlain scent sound lovely. Sadly though, knowing Guerlain and where they are descending to, I am sure it smells very common. So sad to say about such a prestigious house, but when art is sacrificed for profit, alors nous voyons l’avenir et l’avenir est banalité.

    • Love that last line. I think the concept of despising banality is a very French thing, but is something I identify with entirely because I just can’t stand it and there is just SO MUCH OF IT IN THIS WORLD that you have to go out of your way to avoid it. I think that if you were sitting next to someone on a train and she were wearing this you might quite like it and think mmmmm she smells quite nice, so in that sense it is a perfectly acceptable perfume, as there are far more nose graters around that either irritate or even genuinely make you feel nauseous.

      Rochas Femme. An intriguing choice of perfume, one that is grounding and centering, but also a kind of quietly explosive celebration of beauty: deep and rich and so textured and curvaceous. I really love it, actually, way more than Mitsouko, which I can’t help comparing it to.

      Your wedding day sounds lovely, similar in some ways to the one described by bgirlrhapsody at the top; just the two of you. Maybe in some ways that is more romantic, but at the same time I suppose a proper family do could be quite a lovely occasion too provided that everything went smoothly. If it were me, though, I would be like you. I like the idea of a quiet elopement.

  9. David

    I don’t like ceremonies. Last December,my partner and I got married at the city hall in Boston. I was tempted to wear one of my beloved skanky leather scents, but I did a complete about-face and wore Shiseido’s White Rose. I felt I needed to be pure for the occasion (but fully admit, I’d need to pour the whole bottle over myself and my partner to even come close to purity).
    I like when you write about Japan. I’m still haunted by my years there–in both good and bad ways. It’s hard this year because I COULD still go back. My work visa will expire in January 2016. I truly love living in Japan…. but working there…. well, that’s the bad haunting. Luckily it’s easy to chase away all those soul-crushing work memories with memories of so much beauty.

    • White Rose? What a fine lady. If, in the extremely unlikely event that D and I were to attempt something similar (he never would, and I also can’t bear the idea of being tied down, even though we have been together for almost 22 years) I have no idea what I would wear. No I9 extrait I suppose (yawn).

      I am glad that I have someone on here who knows Japan and is aware of its huge pull and also the horror it induces; that sadomasochistic attraction. The idea of people behaving in fixed ways just because society tells them to though is to me just so STUPID as to deserve nothing but contempt. Of course I realize that people in all societies do that, myself included to some extent – it’s one of the prices you pay for civilization. But to take on such heavily separated gender roles, when no one knows what goes on inside your own home ( so why fall for it?) makes me SICK.

  10. A friend of mine had a traditional wedding with 250 guests. After months of preparation, she spent her wedding day suffering from psychosis, a side-effect of the anti-malarial drugs she’d been taking in preparation for her honeymoon in Africa. She sweated and shook her way through the ceremony and was too spaced out to attend the reception. Her marriage broke down a couple of years later and, with hindsight, it was hard not to regard her mental state on the big day as an omen.

    Admittedly this is an extreme example, but I just don’t get traditional weddings: all that build-up to a day that, for whatever reason, may well turn out to be a bit of a disappointment. The conference hotel, the frothy frock and the wedding breakfast – all totally naff. More fundamentally, I hate the religious and patriarchal connotations of marriage; the word ‘wife’ actually makes me cringe. Civil partnership doesn’t come with any of that baggage and that’s why I strongly believe it should be available to straight couples.

    The best wedding we attended was one in Richmond register office, followed by a long, drunken lunch on a sunny outdoor terrace at Petersham Nurseries. The bride wore black linen and there wasn’t a waistcoat or a carnation in sight. The couple had been together for 16 years and they invited only a handful of their closest friends – a decision that, unfortunately, caused a lot of resentment from their families.

  11. God I can imagine it, completely. And I completely agree about straight couples being able to have civil partnerships – absolutely. The thought of you, for example, in a big wufty white wedding dress with veils and everything is completely hilarious. Just WRONG. I think that whole tradition can work for some people, but like your friend’s situation (blimey – that is HORRENDOUS) it can all end up as a kind of nightmare. Just a simple legal ceremony then getting sloshed with people you like could be much better.

    Being a cynical lefty like you, I usually basically agree with everything you say – even about the word wife. But then again, ‘husband’ sounds pretty dumb as well. I also don’t like ‘partner’: way too clinical – it might as well be a robot. Boyfriend sounds silly, and lover a bit too Heathcliff. I never know which word to use, to be honest.

  12. Tricky. I normally use ‘partner’ but it sounds self-conscious, as though I’m making some sort of point. I’ve occasionally used ‘husband’ when booking appointments and so on, but it isn’t true and it fills me with self-loathing. And ‘lover’ just calls to mind unwanted images of people shagging. No answer, I’m afraid.

  13. Danaki

    Totally agree with your article – hit a few personal points for me given I come from the Arab world. Muslims and Christians around me, whilst growing up, differed on many social aspects, but both seemed to agree on what role women should have in society. Get married, confine to social norms, become a mummy (in Lebanon, you have to become a yummy mummy – which is worse with all the pressure, methinks!). Anyway…read your entry with a lot of nods of familiarity and appreciation. Thank you.

    Personally, I got married to my partner of 10 years in a civil ceremony, followed by a cup of coffee with the witnesses – it was 10 am when it was all done. I didn’t celebrate the day, the day I remember as the happiest day of my life was when I met “him”: we got chatting at a party, couldn’t stop glancing at each other after our ‘polite conversation’, then before he left, he made sure he got my number, casually mentioned that I’m gorgeous and promised to call, and hey, he did. It is that day (or evening) that I remember!

    I wore a casual jersey dress in red, tan leather boots and my perfume was SL La Fille de Berlin – strange choice but it worked. See, my family do not acknowledge my relationship, reject him as my partner, there was some sadness and I felt that the perfume fit. Melancholic rose water was my impression of the fragrance when I first tested it. It rung true.

    What perfume did he wear? Nothing. He’s a perfume hater, the sort you talk about in your ODOU article. Oh yes. I still married him though – nobody’s perfect.

    • I really liked Fille De Berlin on the two or more occasions I have tried it and definitely want to go back to it, review it (even buy it). A very appealing scent, so much so that it didn’t put you off your partner.

      Call me twisted, but part of me is strangely attracted to the idea of a perfume hater. Do you find ways to subvert it, subtly? Does he mind you wearing scent?

      Sorry your family don’t approve. Part of me has respect for tradition, as I think that human beings something to anchor them, but a much bigger part of me just thinks that it can go fuck itself – it is all totally arbitrary in nature anyway and people being so attached to it is why we are still killing each other so heinously wherever we look. We do have a duty to the community, to make it work, but the private and the freedom to be individual overall completely trump it, in my not so humble view. We CANNOT be caged, if we can at all help it.

      • Danaki

        True…I identify with many aspects of my culture and I’m very protective of its heritage – particularly with what has been happening in the Middle East recently with regards to minorities. However, as you say, a delicate balance that affords personal freedoms would be good, instead of the ousting of an individual the moment they differ.

        “Him” generally likes the perfume choices I make and is very supportive of my interest (he built the last cupboard where my hoard is stored – he calls it ‘the shrine to perfume’). I do light and moderate spritzes depending on the perfume and avoid wearing my vintage Balmain in the evenings when I’m around him.

        subverting? never thought about it actually. He claims that perfume doesn’t affect him, but I’m pretty sure musky/skin/sweaty scents I wear sometimes are effective. I’ve repeated that experiment several times, rendering similar results 😉

      • I like the sound of it all.

        I think I am protective of Arab cultures too ( did you read my piece on Charlie Hebdo and Isis and decadence?)

        I am supremely attracted to many aspects of the ‘middle east’ ( quite an annoying phrase ) but obviously ISI and the like I am far less fond of.

        If I could travel in that region safely I’d be there in a jiffy.

  14. Danaki

    I remember your article on JeSuisCharlie. I was really surprised as I was expecting musings on the olfactory arts, but I was really touched that you contributed to this argument in such a positive way – online, most of the contributions were either far too negative, divisive, and unnecessarily hurtful. The balance is always delicate with issues like that: how to you criticize Charlie Hebdo’s practices in such a emotionally heightened environment. Tricky! How do you criticize any publication on terms of balance on responsibility, when you also believe inf freedom of speech. I always find it difficult and in the aftermath of the tragic events in Paris, I mostly kept my mouth shut…sometimes online debate is impossible. Another thing I find annoying about online debate is the soundbites, and twitter encourages those sodding hashtag things. I do like twitter, but sometimes debates need to be conducted differently. Discussing these same issues with friends and colleagues was far more fruitful.

    I really hope the tragic events in the Arab world end soon and that you’ll be able to visit

  15. Maria giulia marzolla

    Well…this was the perfume of my wedding day..
    I got married in Paris,with the best man a woman can dream of, in a wonderful hotel in Place Vendôme..
    My wedding cake and favours were from Ladurèe and everything smelled exactly like this perfume.
    I have bought some bottles to remind me everytime I want the magic of that day and my husband wore the perfect match to this perfume, L’homme Ideal.
    I can say that every day with my man is le plus beau…but THAT day was the day..
    I am a doctor, an anesthesiologist , a surfer, a modern woman…but nothing in my life can be compared to be my husband’s wife.
    This is the best thing I have ever done and the day of my wedding was le plus beau jour de ma vie and It couldn’t have smelled better!

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