Wednesday, November 2, 2011

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? 

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. 

Thanks for reading The Urban Erma. You can listen to the podcast on Podbean or subscribe for free on iTunes. In case you were wondering, in addition to blogging I am also a pretty good stand-up comedian. I do "Thinking Cap Comedy." If comedy were music, I'd be Jazz. Want to see a show? Check out my schedule at @


William McCauley said...

Every Black Woman I have ever hugged smelled wonderful, except for a few who overindulged wuth the perfume. Great Read

A Fan of Yours
William McCauley

Leighann Lord said...

:-) Thanks so much for reading and enjoying!

Sean said...

Being married to a Black African woman I am obliged to say that her farts smell of roses.

Maybe I should start bottling them and selling them,

Leighann Lord said...

LOL! Sean, you are soooo not right! LOL! But if there's a market, I say go for it.

Sean said...

I didn't say that they did; just that I am obliged to say so.

Leighann Lord said...

Smart man.

NANCY said...

Great let me know if you see Puerto Rican and Sicilian scent othere wise known as "NATIVE NEW YORKER"

Anonymous said...

My personal take on this topic (as a white male) is that black women really don’t NEED perfume. Living in Atlanta, there’s definitely been no shortage of them everywhere I’ve worked, gone to school, or elsewhere.

One of the first and most obvious things I notice about black women is their scent. I’d tend to use words like wonderful or stimulating to describe the way a black woman smells, but these adjectives really seem to fall short.

Now it may indeed be true; black females smell differently depending on where they come from, (the ATL consisting of ample numbers of African-Americans, native African women, and black Caribbean women) and I have noticed it varies with the individual, but there is a generally underlying scent that I can only say at this point smells like a black girl. I’ve heard it described once as partly sweaty and partly musky, but it’s definitely not an offensive smell. Sweet and musky is the way I would describe it, and in my personal opinion, the stronger the scent it is the better, especially if the black woman’s scent has an overwhelming musk to it.

More than a few times I’ve noticed a black women a fair distance up from me in an indoor location, such as an aisle in a store, and even a good thirty feet away or better, sometimes I still catch her scent. I rarely notice this with white women, typically when they overdose with perfume, which is obvious. When this happens, I’ll admit to discreetly heading up the aisle to pass her, just so I can take in as much of that as possible. It’s not just extremely pleasant; it’s arousing, and I can say if any perfume company really could accurately duplicate that and bottle it, they’d be sitting on a gold mine.

So, I’ve pared it down to one of two outcomes- Either the majority of black women are wearing the same brand or type of perfume (unlikely), or racially or ethnically, black women just naturally smell like this. And my respects to all the sisters if it’s just a natural scent. My advice would don’t waste time in the perfume department; you’re not going to find anything to top that.

Leighann Lord said...

Either we are all wearing the same perfume (possible, but it's never come up at the meetings) or we've reached the point where it's time to obtain a grant and launch an official study of the matter. :-)