Friday, April 25, 2008

Waiting for Tommy: a tragicomedy

“Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful.”

Two perfume lovers, let’s call them Vladimir & Estragon (together they sound like a Russian contraceptive!), are waiting for the revelation of the sublime through a bottle of Tommy Girl. Tommy Masterpiece is rather late to their appointment and they pass the time waiting, testing the fragrance.

Estragon struggles to extricate some substance out of the white box. He peers inside it, feels about, turns it upside down, shakes it, looks on the ground to see if anything has fallen out, finds nothing, feels inside it again, staring sightlessly before him.

ESTRAGON: Oh, there it is! Finally. Shall I spray it on?
VLADIMIR: (musingly). The last moment . . . (He meditates.) Hope deferred maketh the something sick, who said that?
ESTRAGON: Will you help me?

They spritz and sniff. Blank stare to the great unknown. They sniff some more.

VLADIMIR: Do you remember the Gospels?
ESTRAGON: I remember the maps of the Holy Land. Coloured they were. Very pretty. The Dead Sea was pale blue. The very look of it made me thirsty. That's where we'll go, I used to say, that's where we'll go for our honeymoon. We'll swim. We'll be happy.
VLADIMIR: You should have been a poet.
ESTRAGON: I was. (Gesture towards his rags.) I was writing honest perfume reviews. Isn't that obvious?
VLADIMIR: Well? What do we do?
ESTRAGON: Don't let's do anything. It's safer. Let’s place all our faith on experts.
VLADIMIR: Let's wait and see what she says.
VLADIMIR: Tommy Girl.
ESTRAGON: Good idea. Does she say anything to your nose?
VLADIMIR: No. But let's wait till we know exactly how we stand.
ESTRAGON: On the other hand it might be better to strike the iron before it freezes.
VLADIMIR: I'm curious to hear what Tommy Girl has to offer. Then we'll take it or leave it.
ESTRAGON: What exactly did we ask her for?
VLADIMIR: Were you not there?
ESTRAGON: I can't have been listening.
VLADIMIR: Oh . . . Nothing very definite. Just to be a masterpiece, five-star caliber creation.
ESTRAGON: A kind of prayer to be the perfect department store fragrance at an affordable price. The composition coincidentally happened to fall neatly into several blocks, each typical of a native American botanical.
VLADIMIR: Precisely.
ESTRAGON: A vague supplication.
VLADIMIR: Exactly.

Silence as they contemplate.

ESTRAGON: And what did she reply?
VLADIMIR: That she'd see. It’s not that she could be definite. She has been formulated 1100 times to arrive at this result with the tea accord inspired by sniffing the inside of Mariage Freres shop in Paris, no less.
ESTRAGON: She said that she couldn't promise anything.
VLADIMIR: That she'd have to think it over and get back to us.
ESTRAGON: In the quiet of her home.
VLADIMIR: Consult her family.
ESTRAGON: Her friends.
VLADIMIR: Her agents.
ESTRAGON: Her correspondents.
VLADIMIR: Her books.
ESTRAGON: Her bank account.
VLADIMIR: Before taking a decision to be an at least decent fragrance.
VLADIMIR: Say, do you smell anything of interest?
ESTRAGON: Other than belcher, fartov and testew?
It's the normal thing. To try to be an at least decent smell.
VLADIMIR: Is it not?
ESTRAGON: I think it is not.
VLADIMIR: I don’t think so either.
ESTRAGON: (anxious). And we?
VLADIMIR: I beg your pardon?
ESTRAGON: I said, And we?
VLADIMIR: I don't understand.
ESTRAGON: Where do we come in?
VLADIMIR: Come in?
ESTRAGON: Take your time.

VLADIMIR: Come in? On our hands and knees. Begging for the revelation to come on us lowly ones who cannot see the miracle behind the masterpiece.
ESTRAGON: As bad as that?
VLADIMIR: Your Worship wishes to assert his prerogatives?
ESTRAGON: We've no rights any more?
Laugh of Vladimir, stifled as before, less the smile.
VLADIMIR: You'd make me laugh if it wasn't prohibited.
ESTRAGON: We've lost our rights?
VLADIMIR: (distinctly). We got rid of them. The day we relinquished our faith for the one placed on experts.

*Tommy Girl is the ultimate McGuffin, as Hitchcock used to say: a plot device about which the characters care desperately, but the audience isn’t meant to give a damn.

With loving admiration of Samuel.

For other interesting takes on Tommy Girl, please check out Scent Signals and Perfume Posse.

Pics courtesy of and


  1. Anonymous08:26

    how did you do that?! amazing. you blow me away. and make me laugh. pointy and witty. i loved it! -minette

  2. Anonymous08:42

    Helg, I love it! :-) Samuel would be ROFL!
    You're one gorgeous greek gal!!!

  3. Anonymous08:54

    ROFL! Excellent! (clapping hands)

  4. Anonymous10:01

    Love it also! :) And Beckett's a favourite of mine! (His Malloy and the sublime in/throught the experience of Nothing: perhaps some perfumes could be sublime in that sense? But definitely not Tommy girl in that category :)
    I belong to the group not liking it at all, but I am generally not fond of fresh, "watery" perfumes..

  5. Anonymous10:09

    Another thing: You mentioning Mariage Freres mad me long after their teas. The aromas just wonderful, some of them fit for letting oneself "drown" in their aromas.. (but again: is there really any interesting "tea-perfume"?

  6. Thank you Minette and I am giggling that you found it witty :D
    I was torn between this approach and having Tommy Girl speaking in the first person philosophizing. But in the end opted for this little farce...LOL!

  7. You think so dear N? Awww...I'd be blushing if he didn't hate it, at least.
    Thank you :-))

  8. *takes a bow*

    Thank you kindly dear K!

  9. Dear SP,

    glad you enjoyed it and thanks!
    There is something to be said in the pursuit of the sublime in fragrance, but surely that would not entail Tommy Girl. Unless one is veering towards the nihilistic, perhaps (OK< I'll stop before they sue me!)
    You're right about tea and its endless varieties having an intrisic interest to perfumeholics. I think you would enjoy this link:

    As to fragrances intergrating tea notes, I might compose a Series if I get the time ;-)
    In the meantime might I suggest Nomad Tea from CDG and The Vert by Bulgari? I like those two.

  10. Anonymous12:10

    A tea series would be very interesting! :) In the meantime, thanks for your suggestions& nice weekend for you!

  11. Anonymous12:32

    Oh the sense of emptiness and confusion which has overtaken our poor protagonists! You can smell it! Bravo Elena! This was so much fun to read. Thank you. Nicola

  12. You're welcome SP and the best weekend to you too!

  13. Dear Nicola,

    thank you *curtsies*
    Glad you had fun with it :D

  14. Anonymous13:11

    Superb! You have my heartfelt applause!

  15. Thank you very much Z! Glad you had a laugh :-) (I sure did while composing the post)

  16. Anonymous14:33

    This was a welcome start to my day. Wonderful! you read Pinter? Will you use me as a character, as I lament," Me pap! Me pap!" refering to Alpona, of course.



    SOTD Coup de Fouet-feeling very Deneuve

  17. Anonymous14:52

    Oh Helg! ;0 What a fun post!

    However, TG is NOT my cup of tea!

    Good day to you babe!

    Dawn :)

  18. Tommy Girl smells like a white tee shirt, I think.

  19. By which I mean, if it smells like a masterpiece, it defeats the purpose. You'd be looking for couture when it's just a mass-produced basic of basics.

  20. The scent of Tommy Girl is the scent of High School for me and will never probably been anything else to me, along with the scents of Happy, Calgon White Ginger, Victoria's Secret Strawberries and Champagne, and Bath and Body Works Juniper Breeze. I admit I always enjoyed the sillage of the girl who was wearing Tommy Girl, but masterpiece that one is hard to believe.

  21. Thank you Catherine, er...Carole, I meant ;-)

    LOL! I am sure you smell smashing!

    You're welcome to be whichever chracter you prefer: Harold Pinter is among the favourites.

  22. Dear Dawn,

    thank you for your comment and thanks! Glad you had fun :-)

    Well, Tommy Girl is not my cuppa either, but it sure is Luca's, therefore it could do with a little spoof.

  23. Dain, honey, I think you made the most intelligent comment on Tommy Girl of them all:

    "if it smells like a masterpiece, it defeats the purpose. You'd be looking for couture when it's just a mass-produced basic of basics".

    I hadn't thought of it that way and you're absolutely right!!

  24. Jen,

    I can relate: some things are tied to specific memories.
    It seems like most of us have a hard time to view this as a masterpiece. I can accept that it has been copied a lot, though :-)

  25. Anonymous18:21

    I forgot to ask you my dear E...

    What is your favorite tea perfume?

    Wait, do you even like tea perfumes?

    Inquiring minds want to know. ;)


  26. Anonymous18:48

    An enormous guffaw, Helg! Indeed, what would the world come to if we were all guided by experts? Five stars to Secretions Magnifiques?

  27. Dawn sweets,

    I do like tea perfumes! I might even dedicate a series on them ;-)

    Probably Nomad Tea by CDG is the one I'd go for every day (sweet mint tea with some smokiness), which might be overpriced for what it is; but I also like the subtle Au the Vert by Bulgari (especially the Extreme) for a refreshing take as well as the wonderfully jasmine-tea like The pour un ete by L'artisan. In fact I am thinking of getting some of the latter for this summer.

    I also like the Au the Blanc from the Bulgari series, but that is mostly a clean musk to me and not much tea anyway.

  28. Maria, thanks!
    Well, I believe something like SM has to get five stars if only for the sheer shock value factor ;-)
    Not that I'd wear it....ever.

  29. Anonymous19:12

    Thanks E!

    I would sooooo love it, if you would dedicate a series to tea based perumes. I would be in heaven!!!

    My favorite is The Pour un Ete. That's the only fragrance in my whole collection that I have the matching body products - creme and shower gel. I love this tea scent.

    I'm currently wearing Moschino Funny! today. I never would have known it was a tea scent or even tried it, if it wasn't for the Guide. ;0 It's really good. I hope you get a chance to sample it. If not, let me know and I'll mail you a spritz. **It kind of reminds me of Bvlgari Au The Blanc**

    Thanks again for your reply.

    Dawn :)

  30. Oh, sweets, then I will most definitely try to do one!

    Isn't The pour un Ete wonderful? I love it too (although I don't have the matching products! LOL)

    I haven't gotten around to try Moschino Funny yet, inundated with niche samples as I have been, but now that you recommend it I will most definitely go to the store and get a spritz (thanks for the most kind offer!) and see what I think ;-)

    Have a great weekend :-))

  31. Damn, you're good, E. I mean good. Even a certain lover of Tommy Girl would have to admire this post. I loved it!

  32. Awww, M honey, you're flattering me! I'd guess you'd like the post though ;-)

  33. Anonymous23:33

    Helg: THIS was the five star masterpiece! Brilliantly witty, and I especially loved the last line: "The day we relinquished our faith for the one placed on experts." That certainly applies to much more than perfume!

    Is Tommy Girl *really* Turin's cup of tea or is he goofing on us, meaning it to be "the ultimate McGuffin"?

  34. Anonymous06:04

    One last thing....

    While I'm reading this post again, the song Master of Puppets by Metallica went through my mind. ;0 I haven't heard or that about that song since 1989/1990???

    Dawn :)

  35. Rappleya,
    welcome to the Shrine and thank you for your wonderful compliment which makes me blush :D

    Yes, the last line was meant to have a more general resonance ;-)

    If Luca is indeed using TG as a McGuffin then I have to give it out to him: he has performed the supreme trick!!

  36. Dawn, since I love Metallica it can't be more than...oh...about a month(?) since I last heard it, but yeah, "Master of Puppets I'm pulling your strings,
    Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams
    Blinded by me, you cant see a thing"; that applies to so many things...

    BTW, "One" is my absolute favourite by them (inspired by Dalton Trumpo's "Johnny Got his Gun".

  37. Anonymous21:19

    I found the piece a little labored, very much about drawing attention to itself, and excruciatingly, pathetically small-minded in motivation.

  38. Anon,

    you're of course entitled to your opinion and thank you for expressing it in erudite terms :-)
    It must have made quite an impression for you to comment, and anonymously at that, so I will deduce it has been successful.

    As to labored, well, it only took me about an hour to compose, so hardly!

    As to drawing attention to itself, I didn't advertise ;-) But yes, it does feel a bit egocentric, I'll give you that.

    As to motivation, it is simply a spoof. You know, satire? A humourous take on something that the whole perfume community is baffled to understand.
    There is no ulterior motive behind it, unless you feel threatened enough to see one where there isn't one.

    Although there is a broader message that goes beyond perfume (namely, to think for oneself). That's sound advice anyway!

    Feel free to comment more :D

  39. Anonymous04:52

    Five stars for your wit Helg, a chortle worthy piece if ever was one.

    and this coming from somone who does like TG , even if only for sentimental memories of a young girl and her first perfume (the young girl has since grown up and has no idea what she saw in the dreck , but I still have my fond memories of her and this scent).

  40. Anonymous05:30

    Chiming in to applaud your hilarious satire, as well as to encourage you to do a tea series! Yes! We need it! My fella is a big Beckett fan, and seeing him here on your site is especially fun for me, since I've otherwise only ever seen his beautiful craggy face on my husband's bookshelves.

  41. Awww, Nubs, thankie! *takes a bow*

    Having fond memories of something is endearing and not to be ridiculed: therefore I would never go to the lengths of dismissing the wearer instead of the juice ~ a vast chasm of difference there!
    One could almost say: "You've come a long way babe" and mean it affectionally and I do.

    Cheers sweetie! :-))

  42. Dear Heather,

    it doesn't surprise me to see you chiming in in such a post. One would almost expect it by default. Glad that you saw a familiar sight on another venue in relation to perfume :-)

    And thanks for the encouragment on a tea series: I am giving it some serious consideration.


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