Lessons Learned / Mike Turpin
Scent of an imposter
Men do change, and change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass. -- John Steinbeck
When I was 16, I would douse myself with my father's English Leather cologne in hopes of attracting the opposite sex. The English Leather television commercial suggested that once I donned the fragrance of the British elite that I would be surrounded by magnificent Scandinavian women and would speak with the cultured accent of an Oxford graduate. Hai Karate competed for my attention promising that a few modest drops would have me using martial arts skills to drive off the women who would be insane with lust as a result of a mere whiff of the olfactory aphrodisiac.
Brut promised to transform you into a race car driver, fighter pilot or an investment banker capable of doing the most sophisticated deal in the world. If you used Brut, Fabergé suggested a life of daring exploits, athletic feats and of course, someone always on your elbow. Musk For Men seemed the closest thing to a human pheromone that one could use. Just the name sounded like you were burying your face into a 25-year-old Buffalo robe. I am not exactly sure what kind of woman you would attract with musk, but odds are you would not have to spend a lot on dinner. Old Spice would transform you into a rugged merchant marine that could hoist a tankard of ale with one arm, spear a whale at 100 yards with the other and then hug Miss Ireland, who was working part-time as the local dock barmaid, with the -- wait, that's three arms. Well, when you use Old Spice, you can do the work of one and a half men.
Each fragrance promised to change me from an awkward, testosterone time bomb to a suave James Bond capable of seducing every woman under the age of 40 in western Europe and then save the world -- all before dinner. The reality was a bit different. Other than being followed by a German Shepherd for several blocks, the scent failed to attract anyone or radically alter my romantic future.
The film, "Anchorman -- The Legend of Ron Burgundy," plunged us back into the world of men's colognes from the 1970s. In this highly intelligent exchange between anchorman Ron Burgundy and his beat reporter, Brian Fantana, they discuss the selection of colognes that Brian will choose (from his wall of colognes) to attempt to seduce the new female anchor, Veronica.
Brian Fantana: [about Veronica] I'll give this little cookie an hour ... Time to musk up.
[opens cologne cabinet]
Ron Burgundy: Wow. Never ceases to amaze me. What cologne you gonna go with? London Gentleman, or wait. No, no, no. Hold on. Blackbeard's Delight.
Brian Fantana: No, she gets a special cologne. It's called Sex Panther by Odeon. It's illegal in nine countries. Yep, it's made with bits of real panther, so you know it's good.
Ron Burgundy: It's quite pungent.( makes a face)
Brian Fantana: Oh yeah.
Ron Burgundy: It's a formidable scent. It stings the nostrils -- in a good way.
Brian Fantana: Yep.
Ron Burgundy: Brian, I'm gonna be honest with you, that smells like pure gasoline.
Brian Fantana: They've done studies, you know. 60 percent of the time it works, 100 percent of the time [cheesy grin]
Ron Burgundy: That doesn't make sense.
Brian Fantana: Well, let's go see if we can make this little kitty purr.
This year, I decided to ask my wife for some cologne for Christmas. "There's so much to choose from, you'd better do some research and pick one," she informed me. I knew the marketing firms were still promising teenaged boys reckless pleasure from the likes of Axe and Fierce. Yet, I assumed they knew better than to barrage a 40-something with promises of anything other than not being followed by a dog. I decided to research the latest colognes while shopping. You would have thought by now that America had learned of the hollow promises of those purveyors of eau d'toilette. Can't fool me, Yves St. Laurent. I know that means "toilet water" in French. Yet, the desire to develop a unique scent and perhaps become another man is as powerful today as it has ever been. The brands of cologne are mind numbing with each promising to transform me into a more swarthy version of myself.
Unforgiveable is presumably a scent so powerful that it compels even the most circumspect person to commit acts that would never be condoned in the light of day. Put on Unforgiveable and you may just tell off your boss or buy that Alfa Romeo. L'Anarchiste suggests your scent alone can win the girl and bring down your government at the same time -- if you are man enough. Lucky You cologne does not try to even disguise the fact that you should be thanking them for selling you the cologne. If you did not get a date with Musk, perhaps you should try Diesel, especially if you are in the market for a partner who can change the oil in your car. Mille grazie Roma! I can feel the olive melanin creeping into my skin and my abdomen muscles popping out just getting a whiff of the Italian cologne. Put a dab on each cheek and look incredibly dazzling in your uniform and do not notice as thieves knock off the local bank. After all, the sun is hitting your profile just right and you are Roma!
There are some even more interesting and provocative brands. For example, there is Paradox for the man nobody understands. I can just see the commercial, a man walks into the party and everyone he talks to gives him an odd look. "He is obtuse. He is obscure. He is -- Paradox." How about Quorum? This is for the man who you hear and smell before you actually see him. "You are so pungent it is as if you always have a majority in the room -- you have Quorum." Then, there is Swiss Army -- I am not certain exactly who would want to smell like the Swiss Army -- perhaps someone in the Albanian army? My favorite is Joop. "It's whimsical. It's zany. And it completely violates every law of nature -- Yes, it is Joop."
Suffice to say, whether you desire to be a sultan of the night with Drakkar Noir or a rogue 15th century Asian despot called Shogun, there is a scent for every other man you want to be. I came up with a brand for Wall Street mortgage securitization specialists: "Dignity -- when you have lost it all, at least you still have your Dignity." For politicians, there's Gossamer. "For the man everyone can see through, there's Gossamer." In the end, the best name is simply Demara, named for Ferdinand Demara, "the Great Impostor," who masqueraded as a Trappist monk, surgeon, cancer researcher and prison warden. He was finally caught, but not before he proved that if a man wants to be someone else, all he needs is guts and perhaps, a little cologne.