|via eversoscrumpious.com, photo by Unseencenser|
"Just stumbled on this topic a bit late. I always cringe at the term “old-lady perfume,” not because I see any problem with an individual’s association of a certain perfume to a given age group (younger or older). What bothers me is that in everyday speech “old lady” is *only* used condescendingly (oh! What a sweet little old lady!), or disparagingly: one would never refer to a colleague as an “old lady” (unless to ridicule her, etc.). As you pointed out, “older woman” is quite a different story--and probably far from people mean when they refer to old-lady perfume. If it is about a perfume that is not the latest trend, as others have pointed out, there’s a spectrum of more precise words to use, depending on the intention : old fashioned (not so interesting); retro (cool); classic ( highly respected); etc. As for an alternative to “old-lady perfume.” Hmmm. “Displeasingly old-fashioned/ Displeasingly out of style”? But I suspect people mean something else like "stuffy" or "too rich and complicated" or something with deep memory ties that is harder to encapsulate: "reminds-me-of-my-great-aunt-and-so-cannot-be-seductive-to-me."
To which I replied:
Well, as you say, it's a term that is either condescending or disparaging, hence the trouble and sensitivity with it. If we used "old fashioned" (which does denote what most benign people mean) then we'd be far more comfortable. I'm sure "stuffy" does go into the equation too, as "fresh" (even when brandished for things which do not smell fresh per se!) is considered a positive term, uniformly in my experience when perfume consulting.
Basically "fresh" is whatever is not "stuffy" (LOL) and by those terms we're not describing the actual literal meaning of the words but different "styles" and "trends" of perfumes over the decades (what was fresh 30 years ago is stuffy now and what is fresh now will become stuffy 30 years from now and so on...). It makes for one hell of confusion, especially among general folks who don't have the necessary vocabulary to analyse what they smell and what they feel (NB: I consider everyone's smell perception and feeling as 100% valid, I just think that some are more verbal-inclined or trained than others).
But again as you point out perhaps there is something deeper than just "out of fashion" involved, which is why the term hasn't caught on. Most people buying perfume are still hooked by the whole seduction kit & caboodle and believe that perfume should be something to attract sexual partners (or at least be pleasant to potential sexual partners, even if there is no intention of actually making them partners in the act) so the association with something an auntie or grandmother wore all her life is too strong to break out from. I think you're definitely on to something with that remark you made! It makes total sense and explains the denial with which "positive" perfume (i.e. sex thang) is NOT associated with old people (i.e. for whom the generally held immature point of view is that their having sex at all is eww).
It all boils down to sex again, doesn't it, which might also explain why the enmity towards women in particular! (classical target)