This Is What Flirting Smells Like
A case for orange blossom in a vomit-scented summer.
The Stink is a monthly column that analyzes the desires and cravings evoked by scents, particularly those of New York City.
An overwhelming amount of orange blossom has been trailing around New York this summer. I feel like I’m smelling it at every other street corner— and thank God! This flavor and smell profile is one of the most profound florals we have the pleasure to experience as humans. It is a sweet yet organic, playful yet elegant nectar. Its presence in the city has been elevating neighborhoods from slick and spicy bourgeoisie oud traps to exciting and deeply romantic lightheartedness— exactly what the bourgeoisie should smell like. It signals a yearning for country life, of course, but also an unabashed love-sickness.
What is so quintessentially fabulous about orange blossom is how hard it is to place. This heady note doesn’t have a natural home in the modern Western world. For this reason, it is a theatrical scent. When American New Yorkers fantasize about the European orange blossom as a symbol of love, an old European fantasy of Arabia, we underline the smallness and youth of our culture, but in the most endearing and metropolitan ways.
Practically the only attractive euro-fantasizing an American New Yorker can indulge in takes place in our noses, and there certainly is a shameless euro-fantasizing that takes place in the pleasure of orange blossom. If not in our noses, euro-fantasizing rears as the unfortunate rave-clad Berlin-pilled twinks donning shreds of Soviet-Die-Antwoord-Tumblr debris and coercing Westwood’s logo into slick, chemsex boredom.
No, a euro fantasy in New York should not exist (outside of American odes to Europe) beyond our noses and our books. And for all intents and purposes, orange blossom appearing in New York is a francophilic phenomenon, conjuring visions of the scented fountains of Versailles, a bordello pillow, or the sloshed streets of Paris. As Mati always reminds us, all roads lead to Paris. This perfect fragrance accompanies New York’s return to God, poetry, romance, and rock music.
I’m thrilled about this trend, so here are my recommendations for cultivating an orange blossom aura: Lounge Lizard by Mondo Mondo (for evening into night), Sundrunk by Imaginary Authors (for both the office or a beach/boat trips), or Histoire D’Orangers by L’Artisan Parfumeur (for a brunch, shop, and nap Sundays). For a simple orange blossom skin-base to potentially mix with other fragrances (if you’re a heathen who mixes) is Jo Malone’s Orange Blossom.
Another quintessential New York smell with the same vibe of orange blossom, though a different composition, is the barber shop classic after-shave Pinaud Clubman — this is a cheap, cliche, and bold masculine that drips with romance and style, swapping out the aldehydic department store cologne DNA for a better choice of suave, classic, masculine, douchebaggery. It’s real-life straight-man swagger… if you can pull it off. Whatever you do, use Le Petit Marseilles Fleur d’Oranger body wash, the most beautiful perfumed orange blossom soap—its orange blossom is sharp, creamy, and intoxicating. Perfect for women or gay men — straight men should probably not use this, sorry.
Speaking of scented soaps, I’ll share a memory I had outside of Comet’s show. Lake, aka Pink Lung (this is Brooklyn, people), told me about his sweet and scarring smell-related childhood experience. He, a heterosexual, now noise musician, grew up surrounded by women, and the women in his family used V05 Strawberries & Cream shampoo and conditioner, so this was all he had to wash his hair. He’d go to school, and kids would bully him for smelling like strawberries & cream— girly, sweet, and gay. He now has a shaved head.
I grew up around women, including five sisters. My sister, Kendra, would use the herbal essence Orchid & Coconut Milk Hello Hydration shampoo and conditioner. I remember she had the best-smelling hair, and she’d chew fragrant tropical fruit-flavored gum, and I wanted to be her so I’d steal her shampoo and her gum. I, myself, don't have any traumatic smell-related bullying that I recall. I do recall a boy I was seeing a while ago giving me the ick from the smell of his shampoo- it was tinged with an oily melon and almost-bubblegum smell (or something like that), and every time I kissed his neck, I felt myself grow colder and colder, sorry sir.
Before I move away from talking about shampoo (like, what the fuck), I guess it’s best to say what I use — the humble Honey Fresh shampoo by Taraji P Henson. Adam recommended this to me a while back. It’s the cheapest product I use, and I love it — it smells slightly bitter with a dull, almost herbal lemon note that all fades quickly. And then I cover my hair in whatever fragrance I sprayed on that day, so it’s barely a factor unless we’re holed up together.
Some other summer smells I’ll note are honey-roasted peanut vendors, vomit, and of course, the timeless smell of sunscreen. At the beginning of summer, I kissed a Canadian jewelry designer who told me, unselfconsciously, that he was wearing Aesop fragrance and then ghosted me. Ah, summer. Ah, men. Fragrances heavily featuring an aromatic pine, like the Aesop that this jewelry designer was wearing, are tricky. Pine can often quickly go Christmassy or candle-ish, handsoap-ish, or just plain old boring.
My go-to pine fragrance on my dresser is Universal Supreme by Blackbird, an effervescent combination of tart cherry, cedar, and country house pine trees; it’s delicious. Universal Supreme changes the pine note into something entirely different. It uses pine to express a summertime picnic, a dip in a lake, or tartly sweat out a linen shirt. I bring this bottle to the beach- it mixes fabulously with heat, salt, and sunscreen. While pine usually has brooding and serious reverence for nature and the forest- this one stands at the foot of the pine giant with a bit more frivolity and flirtatiousness. Here’s to a summer of flirting at the feet of ancient American trees.