Copying Your Friend's Signature Scent: Not OK

If she's anything like me, her universe will be thrown into an emotional torrent of introspection, cephalalgia, and despondent mall-wandering.
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Chelsea
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If she's anything like me, her universe will be thrown into an emotional torrent of introspection, cephalalgia, and despondent mall-wandering.

Lately, I’ve been having scented flashbacks. A woman passed me on the way out of a coffee shop, and just a quick, unexpected whiff of her Chanel No. 5 instantly reminded me of my mom.

Fragrance memories, especially those associated with people, are extremely powerful for me. Secret's powder-scented antiperspirants always takes me back to the middle school locker room, as does Bath & Body Works cucumber melon body mist; Acqua di Gio will forever remind me of a specific ex.

This is why I’m such a big believer in the signature scent. I’ll wear a single perfume for months or years at a time before I transition to another one, and each fragrance is carefully and thoughtfully selected. What does this smell say about me? Do others find it sexy, refreshing, cloying, great-great-grandma-ish? And what scent memory will it create in their minds?

Once I settle on a scent, I’m pretty territorial about it. If I smell it on someone else, I might consider switching.

Copy my fragrance and I will spray you in the eye.

Copy my fragrance and I will spray you in the eye.

It’s that proprietary feeling that fueled some recent drama. A good friend of mine noticed my perfume, which I had been wearing for about a year and a half, and she inquired about the brand. Without hesitation, I told her exactly what it was and didn’t think anything more of it.

A few weeks later, we met up for drinks to belatedly celebrate her birthday. I gave her a hug, and I noticed a very familiar scent.

I couldn’t help but ask: “Is that my perfume?”

Completely oblivious to her trespass, she cheerfully said yes, saying she asked her mom to buy it for her birthday. She turned and led us through the crowd to find some seats at the bar.

I shrugged it off--we were celebrating her birthday, after all. What weight does a little thing like perfume carry in the scope of years of friendship?

But it wasn't little to me. The more I thought about it, the more it rankled. I mean, if your friend were wearing a dress you really liked, would you ask her where she got it and then proceed to buy it--and wear it when you're hanging out with her?

If she had asked if it were OK, I probably would have said it was fine and only been mildly annoyed. Instead, I was moderately annoyed--more so because I now felt forced to find a new scent, and I anticipated a long and arduous search.

I’ve long been a fan of British perfumer Jo Malone, so I decided to revisit her collection. Her big thing is “the art of fragrance combining,” which is a clever way of making you buy more products--but it does result in some pretty distinctive blends.

So, on a recent visit, I immediately gravitated toward a citrus scent in the form of their decadent body crème, and then I layered it with the cologne in one of the brand’s newer fragrances. Wow. The result was complex: sweet but light, fresh but lush. This scent had me written all over it, and I nailed it on my first try. Charge it, please, and don’t skimp on the free samples!

Although the purchase was a bit (read: a lot) more than I wanted to spend, I couldn’t deny the magic. I felt like a scientist in a lab, happening upon the perfect formula after just one experiment.

And you better believe that secret formula is going right into the vault... so don’t even ask.

Do you have a signature scent? Is it a single perfume? A combination? If you're willing to tell, tell!