MiN, a boutique in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood, bills itself as a "haute parfumerie and artelier," which is French for "store that sells expensive things." It caters to people willing to pay $350 for 12 milliliters of liquid—mainly this means celebrities like Scarlett Johansson, who reportedly comes here for a jasmine, leather, and tobacco amalgam. That sounds like it'd smell like the torn cigarettes at the bottom of my backpack, but then again, I know nothing about perfume.
Though I don't understand it, the people who work there are really, really good at what they do. Olya, a sales associate I met on a recent trip to MiN, realized she had an uncanny ability to identify scents at an early age—she remembers getting an "almost drunken" feeling from a jasmine bush at her parents' house when she was growing up in Moscow.
I wanted to find out how it would feel to smell like a famous person—to have a signature scent selected especially for me—so I had Olya help me pick out an array of fragrances to try at home, in order to see which one agreed most with my body chemistry. Apparently, good perfume is supposed to react constantly with the wearer's body and shift subtly depending on temperature and diet. She gave me a quick questionnaire before matching me up with some options that might fit my lifestyle. Handing over the vials, she told me she used the characteristics "boozy" and "masculine." Thanks, Olya.
She has a much, much better sense of smell than I do, which became very obvious when I couldn't tell the difference between any of the perfumes she let me sample. So I went back to MiN in search of some more... distinctive scents. Olya gave me a leathery-smelling perfume that's made from a beaver's anal secretion (casotreum, which beavers use to mark their territory, is used in strawberry flavoring and in perfumes by Chanel, Lancome, and Givenchy), but I had my eye on another bottle: Secretions Magnifique, a synthetic concoction that's supposed to—supposed to—smell like a combination of semen, blood, and breast milk. It's $88, and even Olya has a little trouble justifying why anyone would want it. "I don't think it's for everyone," she said. "It's very primal." When customers want to test it out, she has to take it outside the store to spray it. "I feel like humans always get attracted to things that are unclear, unknown, or even repulsive," she said.
Long story short, I wore it for five days.
First off, Secretions Magnifique smells a lot different in the vial than it does in the open air. When you sniff the vial it could almost be Axe body spray, but when it's diffused, it smells sour and metallic. "It has these blood notes. It has these synthetic notes—the iron," Olya told me. When those blood notes get anywhere near the upper half of your body, it feels like you have a mouthful of pennies. As I'm walking to the train, I keep getting whiffs of myself and have to stop and gag several times. This perfume is fucking gross. When I get to school, a classmate tells me I smell like her ex-boyfriend.
I'm a little bit more used to the smell, so I don't gag when I'm on the train. I do get some weird looks from strangers, but that might be because I was staring intently at their faces and trying to detect a glimmer of recognition in their eyes. You're wondering if that smell is you, right? I silently ask them.
Around noon, I'm in the Condé Nast elevator (don't ask) with some supermodels. One of them did wrinkle her nose, but she could have had a cold or something. Also, they were probably too tall to register that I was even in the elevator with them. I realize about an hour later that I should have just asked the supermodels to smell me, and then I get really sweaty and upset by the missed opportunity. I notice that the smell gets stronger the more I sweat.
I completely forget that I'm wearing the perfume at this point. It doesn't bother me at all. In fact, I think I'm starting to like it. It's like having a cool secret, and it gives me a certain amount of edge—I'm forcing unwitting people to smell cum all day.
Like Olya told me, "If you can pull it off, why not go there?" All anyone really wants out of life is to be remembered, right? I don't care if I'm remembered as the small woman who inexplicably always reeks of cum, so long as people don't forget me when I die.
I get through the entire day without thinking about Secretions Magnifique, but then some girl tells me I smell like her dad. I spend several hours feeling bad for her. When I go to a bar, I don't get carded even though I look 12—I assume it's because I smell like someone with "mature hobbies," or at the very least, a reason to drink.
I'm too comfortable with the smell at this point, so I have to drag in some fresh perspective. A friend and I spray each other down (romantic) and head to a show. This is a major test of Secretions Magnifique: its main selling point is that it makes people think about sex. "In the right amount it works to help attract species, such as humans," Olya had told me. Such as humans, indeed. An hour into the show, a 35-year-old Canadian approaches my friend and tells her she "smells really, really good." He doesn't stop grinding on her the whole time we're there, even when she tells him about the perfume. "I'll lick the blood and cum off your neck" are his exact words. Romance, right before my eyes! I go back with them to my friend's apartment and sit in the living room while they have sex. About five seconds after the guy comes, he confesses that he's married and that he's made a huge mistake. Minutes later, I'm hugging my naked, crying friend who's covered in both synthetic and actual semen as well as tears. Neither of us care how we smelled.
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