Body, Bottles Down
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Scented Secrets: How I Used Perfume to Cover Up My Drinking

(Photo Credit: Andy Kropa)

As a freelance beauty writer, I’ve written a ton of perfume reviews over the years. Except, if you look at my portfolio, you’ll see that….well… really I haven’t. Sure, I’ve written my fair share, and I’m especially proud of this post, but on the whole, I only have a handful of perfume pieces to my name. And I certainly wasn’t cranking these stories out during the summer of 2011, when I claimed I was constantly “researching” new scents in my bedroom.

What I was really doing? Spritzing here and spritzing there to cover up the smell of booze.

As most of you probably know, perfume contains alcohol. Thankfully, I never got to the point where I actually ingested it to get high, however I did use the cosmetic to aid in my alcoholism, which in a way is sort of the same thing.

Perfume allowed me to hide my “pre-game” activities. Hours before my husband and I would leave for a party or dinner, I’d retreat to the bedroom and tell him I was testing fragrances for a story. “So beware, honey,” I’d say, lying in that deceptive — yet so effective — alcoholic way that made me feel like my words were truth. “Because the bedroom is going to smell like all kinds of girly shit.”

[pullquote]Beauty writing is fun, somewhat frivolous, and downright playful, yet I managed to turn it into something dark and deceptive.[/pullquote]

I knew he wouldn’t want to come near there (no guy would). And even if he did venture inside, the multitude of top notes, base notes and overall mismatched scents  covered up any olfactory evidence of a bottle of whiskey sitting behind my desk, or a ghetto martini (a mug with vodka and olives) resting inside my makeup drawer.

A quick side note: They say you can’t smell vodka. While it’s definitely one of the least offensive booze odors, it’s not aroma-free in and of itself. One of my favorite illustrations of this comes from an episode of Six Feet Under, when Claire shows up to work drunk, distraught over the recent death of her brother, and starts to argue with a co-worker in the bathroom:

Claire: I’m *not* drunk.

Kirsten: It seems like you are.

Claire: I’m not.

Kirsten: Claire, you fell asleep at your desk this morning, twice, and I can smell it.

Claire Fisher: You can’t smell vodka.

Hee. And the answer, in my experience at least, is yes and no. If you don’t do anything at all to hide it, then yeah, you can smell it. But add a touch of a tuberose-scented perfume or dab on a fruity-fragranced lotion and you’re good to go. Also, don’t forget the gum. (And also, just don’t do this, period.)

So I lied. A lot. And easily, as if I were entitled to. In fact, I pretty much believed that I was. Because I had to drink to get by at this point. I had to drink to live. So in my mind, there were no other options. And who was I hurting (other than myself)?

The guilt I feel over this behavior now, as a sober woman, still guts me today. Only the worst of the worst kind of people — soap opera characters — lie to their husbands, disrespect their marriages, “cheat,” if you will, while their spouses are right in the other room.

But slowly and surely, step by step, I’m learning to getting rid of the shame (which is a very different thing than guilt) by accepting that I was sick, and that I did those things as a result of a sick brain that was soaked in delusional thought. I still have to own and apologize for what I did, and by making these amends, they say the guilt will start to go away. But I still struggle with it.

Plus, I had such a cool gig — I played with and wrote about beauty products for a living. Who wouldn’t want to do that? So I especially regret the fact that I used my rather enviable job to two-time people. Beauty writing is fun, somewhat frivolous, and downright playful, yet I managed to turn it into something dark and deceptive. Sounds about right.

(Photo Credit: Andy Kropa)

But now I’m sober, my life is (becoming) lighter, and I’m still a beauty editor at heart. And I’ve realized: I hate all of my perfumes. (With two exceptions: the super sexy L’Agent by Agent Provocateur, $85, and Lily Ambert’s Pavo, $45, which I’ve loved since discovering it during my days Lucky magazine.)

Spring is here and summer is on its way, so I’m looking for light scents that are appropriate for warm weather (as I now have nothing to hide!) I’ve recently been wearing Pacifica’s Persian Rose, $22, which is very sweet and fruity, but smells just right if you do the spritz-in-the-air-and-walk-through-the-mist routine.

I’ve also discovered Tocca’s Stella scent, which I like to use in solid form, $30, as it was given to me while I was in rehab where, naturally, no liquid perfume was allowed.

But I could really use your help, dear readers. What perfumes are your faves? What do you like best for spring and summer? Do you prefer eau de toilettes to perfumes? Solids to roll-ons? Let me know in the comments. Because this recovering alcoholic needs some serious help in the scent department.

4 Comments

  1. BeanyCakes says

    Love & Toast has a roll-on scent, Dew Blossom, that is lovely. Light and sweet.

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