Unofficially, there are about 12,000 perfume launches a year, advertising for most of which seems to take up the first quarter of Vogue magazine each month. I don't mind, because I love to gaze at the glossy photographs of strange, alien, long-limbed creatures promoting scented water. It brings me closer to that perennial question: what is the meaning of life?
My favourite advert by far at the moment is on the television, however, and is for Lacoste perfume. In it, a young girl jumps about in a short dress, trying to catch a ribbon that hangs from some imaginary celestial hand. She giggles like a toy doll, and at one point you catch a glimpse up her skirt and get a flash of ill-fitting knickers that expose her bottom. It's obvious to me that if I use this perfume I, too, will be able to wear a tennis minidress and jump about with sunlight dancing through my hair. It's something to save for a special occasion and not fritter on a weekday.
What's never talked about is perfume as a weapon. I don't mean squirting it in the face of an aggressor because, of course, that would be unlawful (effective, though). I mean wearing something so overpowering that you take up far more room than your actual physical presence does. There's nothing lovelier than leaning forward to give someone a hug or a kiss and inhaling a wonderful scent. But some women (and men, though rarely) cover themselves so completely with boisterous perfume that you get a right olfactory slap when you venture within ten feet of them. It's aggressive, but you never see the Daily Mail campaigning for Asbos for such behaviour, do you?
My first perfume was awful. It was Magie Noire by Lancôme, and I bought it because I used the Lancôme skincare range and was, then, an advertiser's dream - brand-loyal. I would buy everything in the range, regardless of whether it suited me or not. The "face" of Lancôme back then was Isabella Rossellini, whom I greatly aspired to be like. All of this convinced me to buy the entire body line: bubble bath, soap, body lotion and even, I think, talc. It didn't suit me at all and eventually I binned it. Then came Dolce e Gabbana, still one of the world's greatest perfumes. It was a huge success for me: each time I wore it I would end the evening kissing a devilishly attractive man, which we all know is the sole point of going out.
Unfortunately, one evening I drank rather too much, and as my sense of smell faded under the avalanche of booze, I kept applying and reapplying the D&G, until I was violently sick. My sense of smell then became as acute as a badger's. I still can't smell D&G without being immediately transported back to that night.
I was after the sort of perfume that people would ask after. Jo Malone's Lime, Basil & Mandarin was delicious, until everyone started wearing it. Then came Creed, fabulous until the Beckhams also got their hands on it. Finally I found it: my scent, classy, expensive, prompter of compliments every time I wear it, and not the subject of any advertising campaign. If only I had space left to tell you what it is.