Ever since, I've associated the Sears Tower with the smell of little girl's play perfume. I couldn't have been more than four or five. What did Tinkerbell cologne smell like? It smelled a bit like the other popular fragrance for little girls, Blue Waltz.
I don't remember liking Blue Waltz as a child. I didn't even like the bottle. I had an older sister with a generous employee discount at a local department store which likely accounted for how quickly I graduated from Tinkerbell's finest to Worth's Je Reviens, but even when I let my curiosity get the better of my snobbery and started trying what my local Rexall had to offer, I still managed to avoid Blue Waltz. I don't know why, all I can reckon is the bottle looked too childish to take seriously (but Tigress with the faux fur cap looked sophisticated). Eventually, children grow-up and Blue Waltz, like Tinkerbell no longer fits. No one I knew wore Blue Waltz, and I can't even remember seeing it around much. Still, it was there, like white noise I didn't pay attention to, but knew immediately once I sought it out. If a cheap fragrance can get into a collective cultural memory, perhaps Blue Waltz is it.
As soon as Blue Waltz hit my skin, I was in that collective memory. Blue Waltz might have been born in the 20's, but it evokes the idealised mid-twentieth century United States better than any fragrance I can think of. If Blue Waltz were a pair of shoes, it would be saddle shoes. If Blue Waltz were a hairdo, it would be a bouffant. Blue Waltz wears pedal pushers, likes watching the Andy Williams Christmas special, and can get excited by a nice Jell-O salad. Blue Waltz never needed to do the "kneel test" because it wouldn't dream of rolling the waistline of its uniform to make the skirt shorter. Blue Waltz is very well behaved, and never stays out after curfew.
I'm well aware that the era I just described could easily be described as "Preparing the air raid shelter in case we end up going to war over with the Soviets, Beatnik Writers doing" Beatnik tea-head things" in coffee houses, and Jazz. But Blue Waltz doesn't hang with that crowd. Blue Waltz is the air-brushed collective memory. The sanitised memory. The smell of mid-century, middle-American, conformity. Blue Waltz didn't need to" stop worrying and learn to love the bomb"-it already did. Blue Waltz pulled the lever on the Rosenbergs. Blue Waltz went before HUAC and named names without even being asked to testify.
The funny thing is, just as I never knew anyone that wore Blue Waltz, I never knew anyone that wanted the lifestyle Blue Waltz was selling. Perhaps I subconsciously dismissed it as propaganda that wasn't even trying all that hard-the Norman Rockwell of fragrances.
Blue Waltz doesn't have a typical note pyramid because it all comes at you at once, and never really shifts. There's the soft, lightly spiced effect of baby powder, the artificial vanilla, the cheap rosewater-and it is all topped off with a citronella candle to keep at bay the insects that are naturally attracted to that much sweetness. Blue Waltz is pretty. Not glamourous, not beautiful, and certainly not alluring. It is pretty, safe, uninteresting, and all-American, suitable for babies. Blue Waltz is pablum. Corn syrup. Coca-Cola. Blue Waltz, like Tinkerbell is for little girls, but in our current social climate where the prevailing infantilisation ensures one need grow up, we're all taking our cues from Peter Pan-Blue Waltz is just one more tool in the refusal to face maturity with...well, maturity. We can stay safely in Nursery USA eating finger-food, and drinking our vegetables pureed into a frappe. I am convinced this accounts for the current resurgence of popularity Blue Waltz is having. It went from being a hard-to-find novelty to full-blown nostalgic memento available from "Old-People" retailers like Vermont Country Store and Amerimark, to the Capitalist altars like Target and Wal Mart. You can find it tucked between the furry animal hats for grown-ups, and the 100 calorie packets of mini-chocolate chip cookies. Don't worry , Blue Waltz will keep you safe from the indentured servitude of crushing student debt, employment-at-will, and homelessness. When the Revolution comes, it will be bottles of Blue Waltz smashed on the cobblestones, comrade."
Ahem. Where was I? Yes, right-what Blue Waltz smells like. Well, it smells OK, and is only offensive in what it represents, not the juice itself. Blue Waltz will never grow up, it will never mature, it doesn't need to. A bit of nostalgia for your youth is fun. Manufactured nostalgia makes you stupid, and at its worst, is dangerous. People will fight to the death to protect something they never had if they think someone wants to take it from them.
Nearly every fragrance is selling something independent of what's in the bottle. I can roll my eyes at the aspirational marketing, the faux hipness, the stupid names meant to be edgy-but try to sell me something like Blue Waltz and I will recoil like someone took a swing at me. Blue Waltz is selling the delusion of an America where everything was better because everyone kept quiet and in their place. Blue Waltz is scared to death because someone told it to be scared to death. Blue Waltz saw the counterculture and barricaded itself at home with a fallout shelter, colour TV, and enough Reader's Digests to see it through Armageddon. The world changed, Blue Waltz didn't. Blue Waltz survived two World Wars, but it couldn't survive the 60's.
Up next(ish)- The anti-Blue Waltz, Yendi.