A Signature Scent

Chanel No. 5

In some ways, it feels like I’ve been searching for a signature scent my whole life.

(This is an exaggeration.)

But truthfully, I’ve always gravitated towards the idea of having a signature scent. I love stories about classy, sophisticated ladies with Chanel No. 5 (because it’s always Chanel No. 5) perfuming their every movement. How one whiff of the distinct scent could conjure powerful images of said lady, leaving a cloud of nostalgia and memory in her wake.

When it comes to perfume, I’m basically a marketer’s dream.

Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that I’m not a fan of Chanel No. 5 (although I haven’t smelled it in I-don’t-remember-how-long so perhaps my opinion on it has changed). That dislike didn’t stop me from dabbling in perfumes, though. My first perfume of choice was Esprit’s Life, which I spent my birthday money on when I was fourteen. My God, did I love that perfume. I used it up till the very last drop — in fact, I even featured it in an empties vlog.

Other perfumes I rotate through include Calvin Klein’s Eternity Moment, picked solely because I adored the ad campaign that featured Scarlett Johansson and Trent Ford. (I TOLD you I’m a marketer’s dream.) Luckily, I really like the scent too. I also have rollerball-sized spritzers of Clinique’s Happy, Happy Heart, and Happy to Be, which are really convenient for travel. Recently, I purchased Jo Malone’s Tudor Rose and Amber, a limited edition scent that was inspired by Tudor history. Last but not least, I have my beloved bottle of Galimard’s Pêle-Mêle, which I purchased when I was sixteen and visiting Gras, France. More than any other scent I’ve worn, Pêle-Mêle gets me the most compliments.

Still, as much as I love the perfumes I have, I felt like none quite filled the spot of my signature scent. Eternity Moment and the various Happy perfumes are wonderful scents, but none are particularly distinctive enough (to my nose, at least) for me to declare any of them as my signature. Pêle-Mêle will always be too special for me to wear every day. Tudor Rose and Amber is a heavier scent and more suited to evenings.

Thus began my search for a signature scent. I went to Sephora and Nordstrom several times, spritzing various perfumes and chatting with the salesgirls to help me narrow down my search. I read reviews on Fragrantica and researched the notes of the perfumes that I liked so I could begin to refine my choices. I considered brands, packaging, names, prices, and everything in between. All of my research, combined with a conveniently timed sale (thanks, Sephora!), led me to one perfume: See by Chloé.

With top notes of bergamot and apple blossom, See by Chloé balances fruity and floral, which are the two types of scents I gravitate towards most. (Turns out I’m not one for earthy or woody scents for the most part.) Middle notes of jasmine and ylang-ylang make up the heart of the perfume, and the base of vanilla, musk, and sandalwood round out the overall scent.

If that description of See by Chloé makes no sense at all, not to worry: just know that I adore this perfume. Every time I wear it, I get the tiniest sense of pleasure every time I catch a whiff of it in passing with my movements. Each time that happens, I feel like I’m that sophisticated woman I dreamed of being as a little girl, with my signature scent marking the people I’ve been with, the places I’ve been.

Norwegian Dreaming

Norway

For as long as I can remember, Norway has been near the very top of my “countries I want to visit” list. But unlike most other places on that list (and let’s face it, there are more countries on the list than off it), visiting Norway always had strings attached, or caveats.

My grandmother was born in Norway. As far as I know, she never distanced herself from her Nordic heritage once her family began life in America. (My grandpa would joke that back when they were dating, her family would invite him over for dinner and there would be fish on the table all. the. time.) I have a very vivid memory of playing with her in the basement of our house in Delaware. I said something in Chinese, and she said, “You’re a bright girl and already know two languages. Let’s teach you some Norwegian, too.” She taught me how to say jeg elsker deg, or “I love you.” I remember my tongue tripping over the words and her patiently and gently coaching me through each syllable, each intonation.

That afternoon, I stood on the steps of the basement. I peered between the railing and said jeg elsker deg, Grandma in Norwegian to her, and she beamed at me and blew me a kiss. I’ll never forget that. It’s one of the last memories I have of her as the grandma I adored and wanted to be like when I grew up, the grandma I knew so well. Not long after, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I never learned another word of Norwegian from her again.

My Norwegian heritage is not something I am particularly close with or connected to, unfortunately. I remember a book of Norwegian fairy tales I had when I was little, and I still regularly make pannekaken on the weekends just like my grandma did. But most everything else I know about Norway or Nordic culture I learned from books or school or TV. That just makes me want to go to Norway even more, honestly. I want to see the country of my grandma’s people, and become more in touch with that side of my heritage.

My brother and I have always wanted to go to my grandma’s ancestral home in Norway. (He and I are similar in that we’re very big on exploring and staying in touch with all sides of our heritage.) Apparently we have extended family there, although I’m not sure they’re even aware my brother and I exist. The last visit my grandparents made to Norway was before my parents even met, and there certainly weren’t any grandchildren in the picture yet. My brother and I have always talked about going, framing it as “one day” or “some day.” I know it will happen; we are the type to actually go places rather than just sit around and talk about going places. But it’s challenging figuring out when that will be when he and I are scattered in the world and he’s just only getting his foothold in the world of adulthood.

In the meantime, though, I’ll keep getting pants of wanderlust in my chest whenever I come across a picture of beautiful Norway, or an article about things to see/eat/do in the country. I’ll think back to learning how to say jeg elsker deg and wonder what other little Norwegian phrases I could pick up by spending time in the country. I’ll remember my grandma, and think of how she’d feel knowing that her two grandkids have always promised each other that one day, they’d go to Norway, and that they’d go together, because of their heritage through her.

Somewhere Along the Way

spark

The other day, I found myself stepping up to take the lead in a project at work when we were short on resources. At first, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. “They’re going to see right through me and ask why I was the one that had to step up,” I thought to myself. “They’re going to think I can’t hack it.” Truth be told, if that had been the case, I don’t know if I would have been able to rightfully say they were incorrect.

But then something happened. I’d been working on this project alongside the lead ever since we were assigned it, and I knew more than a thing or two about our role in it. Before I knew it, I found that I knew exactly what to do. It was almost frightening how seamlessly I transitioned from “OH MY GOD WHAT AM I DOING” to “Okay, we need to do X and Y and Z, and if at all possible those need to be completed by end of day today in preparation for tomorrow’s events.”

You know what? Not a single person questioned my role or position that day. The only one that did was myself. Isn’t that scary, how we can instill such self doubt in ourselves?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this since that day. When I was little, I always imagined that “when I grew up” I’d be smart and successful and beautiful and so on and so forth. But when are we grown up? When do we reach a point in our lives when we’ve become the things we’ve dreamed ourselves to be? When are we finished becoming the people we’ve grown into for all of our lives?

“Someday, I’ll be an adult,” I often joke to my mom whenever I talk to her about adult-y stuff like my retirement savings account and picking out new sheets or willingly buying kale when grocery shopping. To which her answer always is, “But you’ve been an adult for quite some time, now.”

Which is true. I have been an adult for quite some time. But it’s still weird to think of myself as an adult, as someone who earns the money to pay rent every month and buys her own groceries and advocates for herself in the office and has no one else to blame if she’s totally out of clean socks. I go out to happy hours and dates and brunches and can do pretty much what I want, when I want. Adulthood, despite its many responsibilities, can be strangely freeing.

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but I seem to have grown into the person I dreamed I would at this stage in my life. Who supports herself well enough to live on her own and take the odd vacation here and there while sending money home every month. Who decides to invest in a good, sturdy pair of black flats rather than crappy $10 ones from Payless. Who chooses her words and topics online with care, as becoming more reticent with public sharing is a rite of passage for this stage in life. Who has friends she’d run to the ends of the world for, and who who would do the same for her. Who self advocates for what she wants at work, because office politics dictate that one must always stand up for herself. Who maybe has finally wisened up from the boys she’s dated in the past, and is learning that something much better might be in store.

Somewhere along the way, I’ve grown into me and have become exactly who I thought I would be. I can’t exactly pinpoint how it happened, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.