Suzanne's Perfume Journal

child of her age.  From as early as age two, she did not enjoy food so much as she enjoyed condiments: mustard, ketchup, pickles and relishes.  She also loved fiery radishes eaten straight from the garden, with dirt still clinging to them; whole lemons, the big juicy kind that my sister in Florida sends every year; black and green olives, not to mention the olive brine; hot peppers; pepperoni; garlic; and toothpaste (yes, we had to monitor her brushings because she wouldn’t stop until she’d ingested more than a healthy dose of Crest).  As it happens, Megan’s mom (my other sister) works at a non-profit that employs a number of youth counselors, and she consulted a couple of them to find out if these cravings were something she should be concerned about.  Their advice was to be aware that Megan had an appetite for intense sensory stimulation that could possibly lead her, as she got older, to seek that kind of stimulation elsewhere, in drugs or alcohol perhaps, and to monitor and guide Megan towards healthy outlets where her sensory cravings could be expressed in ways that would serve her, and not the other way around.

My sister took up their advice, and though it has meant a lot of sacrifices in terms of her own life, she has raised both her daughters to be young women of great strength with incredible focus.  Fast-pitch softball, as well as 4-H, is where they have channeled most of their energies, and last night I had the pleasure of watching them at one of their varsity softball games, where Megan was the winning pitcher and her sister Haley, a freshman and one of the team’s designated hitters, hit a grand slam.  Their teammates, beautiful warrior women all, each contributed to the team’s win; the coach made sure that almost everyone on the team got to play last night, and they all really stepped up to the plate.  It was an inspiring thing to witness.  It was like watching a new breed of women being born—so different from the women of my generation.  These girls are more physically and mentally fierce: they keep grueling practice schedules, they play their sport all summer long (“summer ball” they call it) in order to earn spots on the school team; they keep late nights when they finally get home from practice, doing homework and studying for tests at an hour when most working folks are getting ready for bed.

In some ways, I think they are missing out on one of the greatest commodities of childhood and adolescence that my generation knew: leisure.  They don’t have hours of unstructured time to get lost in a book, to build fortresses in the woods, to go for a bike or horseback ride on a long winding trail.  But on the other hand, their achievements are greater, their victories sweeter, their losses deeper—and these girls are shaped in awesome ways by all of those things.  It seems to me they have greater confidence and are able to push through their fears with greater agility than the young women of my day.  (Although I should say a more accurate comparison is not with the women of my day, but with me.  Yep, a personal comparison is what I’m actually making here.)

When I think about my nieces, their teammates and friends—these gladiators in long ponytails, soft and tough, girly and brave—I wonder what their lives will be like in the future.  Will they continue to step up to the plate in leading roles?  Ascend to high positions in industry?  Start their own businesses?  How many will balk at the regimented schedules of their earlier lives and decide to take a totally opposite approach in search of the good life?  How many will follow in their mother’s footsteps and become softball or soccer moms?

It is too early to know and anyone’s guess, but for now I simply wish them the good life that I hope is ahead and admire them for the girls they are now.  The morning after watching their victory, I am in a Donna Karan Black Cashmere mood.  It might seem an odd choice and an even odder thing to say that it reminds me of them; there is nothing young, fresh or girlish about it.  Rather it is a scent to match their intensity—a take-no-prisoners kind of scent, spicy, dark and arresting, but eventually arriving at a place that is considerably softer, quieter, more tender than you might expect.  Notes include saffron, clove, rose, white pepper, Ethiopian incense, vanilla, amber, patchouli and African wenge wood.

I recently bought a back-up bottle of Black Cashmere with the thought of gifting it to Megan.  She still has a taste for extremes in food and fragrance both, adoring the same stinky cheeses that I do and sighing with delight every time she smells Carnal Flower.  Eventually she and Haley will wind up with the bulk of my perfumes, but I think this one especially will have Megan’s name on it.  And since learning that it has been discontinued, I bought a back-up bottle just to be certain.*

* * *

Donna Karan Black Cashmere is still available at various online e-tailers but you might want to snatch up a bottle fast!                                              

*UPDATE: In the fall of 2008, Black Cashmere was re-released and is no longer on the discontinued list.  The latest version comes in a different (very plain) bottle now, so I'm still glad I nabbed the original in the black stone-looking bottle. The re-released version can be purchased from, where a 3.4 oz bottle is priced at $120.

Image of Black Cashmere bottles is from

Darling, I don't know why I go to extremes
Too high or too low, there ain’t no in-betweens
And if I stand or I fall
It’s all or nothing at all
Darling, I don’t know why I go to extremes

                --lyrics from the Billy Joel song I Go To Extremes

When my oldest niece, Megan, now sixteen, was a little girl, we noticed that she had rather unusual cravings for a

All or Nothing: Donna Karan Black Cashmere

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