THE URBAN ERMA: SCENT OF A BLACK WOMAN
So, I’m standing in line at the dollar store waiting to pay. I’m dutifully looking at all the impulse items that were put there to get my attention and that’s when I saw my favorite: the display of cheap perfume body sprays. I was expecting the usual plastic bottle assortment of vanilla, coconut, strawberry. But the bottle that caught and held my eye was a scent I’d never seen before called Black Woman. Really? Was this from the people who brought you White Woman? Want to hear the podcast? Click Here
Honestly, I didn’t know we had a scent, at least not one that could be legally bottled and sold. Those who have been allowed to come within sniffing distance of a Black Woman will probably tell you that we usually smell like aggravation.
I was intrigued to see that this little gem was being sold in a dollar store located in a moderately affluent Caucasian community. How odd. If they really want to know what a black woman smells like, wouldn’t they just surreptitiously sniff their child’s nanny?
I know that’s not politically correct to say or even a truly accurate measure. Everyone knows, of course, that Carribean black Women smell differently from American black women. The former smell like sugar cane and curry. The latter smell like collard greens and sweet potato pie. African women, by the way, being closer to the source smell like Europe.
The picture on the bottle of Black Woman was a bit incongruous. The model the manufacturer chose was fair skinned, with curly blond hair. First of all, I’m not saying that no Black woman has ever had natural blond hair — the manifestations of miscegenation never cease to amaze — but its certainly not representative of the group at large. Second, blond-haired Black women are so 90s. Yeah, I’m talking about you Tyra, Eve, Mary J.
What was truly curious was that the black woman pictured on the bottle was smiling. Really? I’m not saying black women never smile but we’re not exactly known to be a happy go lucky group. You usually only get to see our teeth when we’re gritting them, or when we are open-mouthed chewing on the souls of men who have done us wrong, and had the temerity to think they could walk away unscathed. I’ve often thought a dominatrix is the perfect job for a black woman. You get paid to wear stylish clothes and cuss people out? Sweet honey in the rock, where do I sign?
Curiously, the bottle of Black Woman that I picked up wasn’t marked tester and yet it was only half full. Evaporation? I think not. I pictured primarily Caucasian customers liberally spritzing themselves with this liquid gold hoping to vicariously gain all the things we black women are rumored to have in abundance: strength, wisdom, greasy hair products, limber neck muscles.
Upon closer inspection I saw that the label on the bottle didn’t just read Black Woman. It read “Our ‘Version’ of Black Woman.” So it’s based on an actual perfume? How in the world did this slip by me? Who approved this? Clearly I’d missed a very important meeting.
A quick internet search revealed Black Women's fragrance by Kenneth Cole. The 3.4 oz Eau De Parfum Spray retails at $42. That makes the two ounce, dollar store knock-off look like a bargain. But really Kenneth, is this homage or mockery? What were you sniffing that made you think this was a good idea? And this is where the internet has it’s limitations. There are no scratch and sniff web pages and I refuse to make a special trip to the mall just to see what Mr. Cole thinks I smell like.
Not even the famous black women who hawk their own brands of perfume go so far as to say that their product has captured the scent of a sistah. My favorite is one by Queen Latifah called, of course, Queen. It smells like Freddie Mercury.
Since the dollar store version of Black Woman was so affordable I bought it and no, it was not as advertised. It smelled like a Spanish dude. But that’s okay, I love chorizo.
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