Monday, October 28, 2013

Young and Sophisticated

Aight. So. Two things I did recently that I’d like to discuss include the following:

1. Went to a Salt N Pepa show at a sketchy venue
2. Went to try to buy fancy lady perfume at an upscale cosmetics store

Things I learned:

1. I am too old to be up until 4am
2. Smelling good is waaaayyyyy to complicated

Recommendations I have for the host establishments of said activities:

1. Consider the demographics of your crowd when scheduling a show
2. Two words: fewer choices

These activities are clearly unrelated. Nearly opposite, in fact. I know that. Do I care enough to give them separate entries? Nope. They have a similar theme in the end. Sort of.

Let’s begin with the show, shall we? For anyone who doesn’t know, Salt N Pepa is an old *skool* hip hop girl group from the 80’s, made popular by such supahfly hits as “Push It”, “Shoop”, and “Whatta Man”. While both women are in their mid-to-late forties now, they sound just like they did on the original recordings and still have some moves…or at least a lot of energy. They look pretty good too (Salt is stacked). The awkward aspect of the performance for me was that they had some handsome dancing boys that were probably half their age, acting out cheesy narratives to their sex-themed songs (including, of course, the hit “Let’s Talk About Sex”). With them. Acting out cheesy sexy narratives with them. I’m not hating on the cougar thing (good for you if you can pull that off), but Salt N Pepa’s kids are probably older than their dancers and the mommyprude in me got a tad squeamish. But more than that it was funny. And more than that, it was fun. I love me a good sing along. 

But moving on to the recommendation mentioned above. One would think that the average age of an S&P fan to be at least 35. Maybe more like 45. While we observed a wide range of ages at the show, we were definitely among the youngest (which was refreshing). But think about it. People our age and up don’t typically party all night. We often have jobs and kids and babysitters to get home to and things to get up and do in the morning. We want to go home and go to bed and would prefer to be at least somewhat functional tomorrow. Maybe I am being a total square here, but I was perturbed to discover that the headliner (S&P) didn’t even come onstage until after 1am. 1:00am! And since they obviously aren’t 21 either and wanted to go to bed just like the rest of us, they only played for thirty minutes, max. 

The doors opened at 8. E-i-g-h-t. That’s FIVE hours of openers. Being the fashionably late hipsters that we are, we arrived closer to 11pm (yawning all the while on the train ride over and bemoaning the fact that we were usually in bed by now), and only had to endure two or three hours of filler. Not to say all the openers sucked, but we got real tired of being told “When I say hell, you say yeah!” over and over again. I’ll say whatever I feel like saying, thank you very much. And of course there’s the incessant “Put your hands up!” and “Somebody screeaaaaam!” They’re so damn bossy. 

I especially enjoyed how some of them seemed like insecure teenagers who want to prove their coolness by bragging about their drug and alcohol use. Hey guy, you’re 38. You don’t need to keep telling us on repeat that you “like to get high like you like to get drunk”. It’s unbecoming of a gentleman your age. Plus they kept asserting the fact “This is real hip-hop!” And there we were, thinking it was faux. Good thing they gave us that constant reminder. As if the smoke and booze saturated environment throbbing with thunderous bass beats didn’t keep us aware of all these fun facts. 

Entertaining side notes:

1. The bathroom graffiti of the ghetto dive was filled with positive affirmations about love and beauty.
2. While I was sad not to be able to enjoy a beer, I took advantage of being pregnant in order to steal one of the few highly coveted chairs in the area to get off my feet.
3. The huge ad banners for a particular brand of rum failed to recognize the irony of showcasing the name “YOLO” right next to “gluten-free”.
4. There was an awesome older gentleman (sixties?) who danced onstage to “Whatta Man” like a champ and then later gave us hugs and asked us if he had properly “represented Denver”.

But I digress. I recommend this venue considers the demographic of the audience, and tries to get the headliner on at a more reasonable hour for us old timers. By the time the show ended and we finally managed to hail a cab (after jogging upstream to beat the others) to get back to the apartment where my car was and then I drove myself an hour home (don’t fret I obviously wasn’t drinking) because I had to get back for the freaking babysitter…yeah, 4am. I had a no-sleep hangover because guess who didn’t want to sleep in all day? My children. They were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (i.e. loud and hyper and demanding as frick) right on schedule, at 7am. I allowed myself slightly more coffee that day.

Story #2 takes place in an entirely different part of town with an entirely different crowd. And I was no longer sporting a man tank that read “P-P-P-PUSH IT REAL GOOD”. I was in my “nice” clothes for work though—meaning I’d actually changed out of the yoga pants—and still felt a little schlubby at the swanky mall that housed the cosmetics store where I had a gift card meant for perfume. After circling the parking lot for a good long while like a vulture with the hordes of other parking spot-less cars, I managed to find my way into the makeup store and was immediately approached by a super chic, polished clerk offering her assistance. 

“I have this gift card and I’m not sure how much it’s for and I need to get perfume but I don’t know how because that massive wall of perfumes is scary and overwhelming.” I blurted instantly. She pawned me off on someone else and ran away before I knew what was happening. A fragrance expert, apparently. As I imagined and dreaded, her first question (a totally reasonable one) was “what do you like?” I don’t know. I’ve been using the same perfume since I was 15, and only occasionally, cuz I’m not a real perfumey sort. I only recently decided that perhaps since my age has doubled and I don't shower often enough I ought to try something else.

She got out a can of coffee beans in a special metal jar with a parmesan cheese style lid, meant to cleanse the nasal palette between sniffs. Then she started suggesting fragrances based solely on my unsure remark that I don’t love overly floral ones. She would offer her carefully selected product, describing the subtle notes with impressive detail and then step back to thoughtfully observe my sniffing. I’d take several long, deep whiffs and stare meditatively at the ceiling…then shrug. Even my pregnancy-heightened sense of smell could not detect all the subtleties or differences in these perfumes. All I could say was “This one’s alright, that one’s too flowery, this one smells like a grandma, that one is weird, this one’s kinna fruity.” I could not distinguish the “fresh top notes of mandarin, lychee, and bergamot playing softly against the sweet innocence of lily of the valley” or the “elegance of madonna lily and the heady opulence of Indian tuberose, blended with velvety jasmine and addictively sweet plum nectar”. (WTF is lychee and bergamot and tuberose anyway? I linked wikipedia for ya.)

I got super light-headed just from the nonstop inhalation. Too many long breaths in. And they all started smelling the same, despite the coffee huffing. I guess I lack a discriminating sniffer. Still, I was there for almost an hour. There were hundreds…seriously an unending wall, floor to ceiling…HOW does anyone choose? How?!

One of my favorite things about the fancy perfume industry is the *literature*. As if the ads and commercials aren't abstract and wacked out enough. I freaking love reading the over-the-top descriptions. Seriously, look them up and read some just for kicks. For example, one Dolce and Gabbana scent is written up as a “deeply feminine blend of luxurious ingredients as potent and captivating as the emotion of desire itself, which leads us on a journey of opulent seduction”. What the what? A Calvin Klein fragrance tells me that if I wear their perfume I will become “every man's fantasy”, while Dior tells me that I’ll be a “daringly sexy woman”. One of Armani’s scents just sounds delicious: “zesty blood orange, ginger, and pear sorbet softened with hints of sambac jasmine, orange blossom, and lavender honey, warmed with precious woods and vanilla”. 

Even the names of the fragrances are enough to get me giggling, although the professionals aren’t nearly as tickled. Evidently I am drawn to the ones with the silliest labels, like “Hypnotic Poison” and “Forbidden Euphoria”, fragrances that “ignite the senses” or “evoke long-forgotten memories and incite deep passion”. I kept reading everything aloud and guffawing, while the clerk just smiled politely. 

To her credit, she was very patient with the cosmetics Philistine that I am and ended up giving me a bunch of samples to take home. It’s just as impossible to pick even when there’s just six options. I feel like it’s a big commitment.

Sexy or tasty, all my new perfume options vary greatly from my daily essence au natural, which might be described as “a stunning perfume, overwhelming and irresistible like the joy of living in the inescapable prison that is motherhood. The scent is surprisingly colored with the liveliness of reworn clothing, the happiness of dog, and the spontaneity of poop. Familiar and resolute notes are expressed with the intensity of watermelon children’s toothpaste, the freshness of Secret Outlast deoderant, the charm of Febreeze, and the spirit of microwaved day-old coffee. The deep and true base embodies the character of skipped showers, the fullness of graham crackers, and the embrace of alfalfa hay.”

If that doesn't make me every man's fantasy, I don't know what does. Any good suggestions for the name of my signature fragrance?

If the story of the Salt N Pepa show has any connection to the perfume story, despite the polar opposite nature of their location, it’s their shared moral:

1. Being young and energetic and hip is hard work
2. Being sophisticated and decisive is hard work
3. Being young and energetic and hip and sophisticated and decisive is especially hard when you have two small children and are seven months pregnant, which cumulatively create an exhausted brainless slob.

I’d like to close by thanking a recently married pal who granted me both opportunities to grow as a person with such enriching experiences that got me outside my comfort zone and gave me this blog fodder. I'd also like to thank the pal who demanded I try to write an ell oh ell blog. Hope this suffices. <3

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