Neighborhood: Financial District, Manhattan

Photo by Etienne

I’m not the girl who woke up from another one-night-stand. But I could be, in the view from the Sephora window. It’s raining: The dull Saturday too-early morning pitter-patters against the makeup counters; my nerves, pounding on the exposed brick. I feel like a quasi-well-dressed spy. Partly because “quasi” is the word that won me scrabble last night and partly because my boots are soaked and I smell of the residual cigarette smoke from my boyfriend’s roommate. Nothing like emanating your least favorite odor to heighten your senses — this morning I have the sensitivity of a pregnant woman. This morning, I know why New York used to be called the Big Onion.

The weather has also been in an incredible flux between the harshest winter and the muggiest spring, so I’m keeping a tally of the distinct smells we carry. The lanky man in a stained, striped, shirt next to me on the subway smelled like weed. The big-haired Jersey Shore extra next to him had a mixed Victoria’s Secret scent that only comes from spraying one too many times. It’s humbling to be part of the odorous majority.

I’ve traded in my warm vanilla-daisy smell for unmistakable emphysema. Maybe that’s why all the Sephora employees keep asking me if they can be of assistance. Or maybe I’m just paranoid. I need a Grande mocha-frappe-soy-latte-with-and-extra-shot-of-macha-powder to complete my disguise, but I have more important things than overpriced coffee on my mind.

I’m in a rush. I may have lost my keys on our latest spring break rendezvous — so I have no way into my own apartment without my roommate. This rushed-quasi-spy attitude I’m equipped with has an inspired Mission: My Scent.

Today, my brain computes, I am a New Yorker. I guess something about the grime fulfills my New York expectation, which is ironic because I came to New York to clean up my act. Like Mayor Bloomberg.

On my way to a fancy meeting with suited men who will all smell infinitely better than I, the Sephora mirror reflects an uncomfortable reality: Auburn bedhead, still crinkling with this surge of unexpected humidity. The pasty cheeks my mother’s most aggressive friends would always squeeze, a form fitting black dress with a little purple cardigan. Unbuttoned. As if to say “I’m effortlessly casual.” But right now it merely shouts “effortless.” This is not part of my feminist agenda.

I exhaust my options, desperation, a stench much worse than roommates or train passengers. There are sprays and dry-Shampoos. There are blushes and tiny applicators. Anyone who has ever walked into a Sephora, under the pretense that it is their bathroom, knows the selection is too vast for a quick once around, so I complete my daily exercise, with laps around the makeup counter.

I settle for something that looks a little more like my better-self and, after sniffing my hair like a rogue puppy, accept that the oversaturated particles have hit a pleasant neutrality.

With three minutes to spare, I mutter a few good Hail Mary Kay’s and promise the Sephora gods that I will do better next time.

Melissa Bouganim is a proud feeler of feelings and baker of baked goods. She has her whole world on a string of post-its and a nasty habit of using hashtags ironically and refusing to accept that she might be a hipster. She hopes you stop by her blog, (and that you like it).

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