It is a delicate question, and one you have to decide whether you have the right to ask. It is almost up there with "How old are you?" or "How much do you earn?" in terms of sensitivity. The question is, "What scent are you wearing?"
Although I am relaxed about answering it, proud even, I have friends who find it the height of impropriety. They are offended by the question and refuse to answer it. "It has taken me 10 years to find the scent that is right for me," says one. "Ten years of hard work, searching perfumeries all over the globe to come up with the one. It was more difficult than finding a husband. Why on earth should I divulge what it is?"
Some people are totally faithful when it comes to scent. A French actress once told me that she was given a bottle of Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps when she was 18 years old and has stuck with it ever since. "I'm faithful to my perfume," she said.
I am less constant. The first scent I ever bought was Chanel No. 5, because of Marilyn Monroe's now-legendary response to the question "What do you sleep in?" She replied, "Chanel No. 5." If a single quip could sell a million bottles of scent, that was it.
After Chanel I regressed. It was the Eighties. I bought Eternity by Calvin Klein. I am amazed to see it still exists; it really should have been long forgotten, along with shoulder pads and Duran Duran.
It didn't occur to me to buy anything but "designer" label fragrances until I came across Jo Malone. I suppose you could argue that she is designer now, too, but when I first walked into her small shop in London she was not so famous and certainly not sold in the Bon Marché in Paris.
I fell in love with her Orange Blossom. I have to admit that it was a friend who put me on to it, which was kind of her. But maybe she didn't mind the thought of me wearing the same sillage as we lived in different countries.
Orange Blossom revives you; it is clean, fresh, innocent and addictive. I bought that along with Red Roses, which is warm and sensuous and makes me feel very feminine. Somehow she has harnessed the smell of a freshly cut rose in a bottle.
Wearing these two fragrances I am asked the question all the time. Total strangers from the doorman at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York to a lady I met at Girona airport just have to know. The smells are distinctive, intoxicating and above all just lovely.
My friend would be horrified, but I don't mind telling them. After all, one more person smelling of roses can't be a bad thing.
Three of the best
Dare to bare with this season's neutral make-up:
BOURJOIS EFFECT 3D GLOSS, IN BEIGE ELASTIC, DH59 A non-sticky, fluid and hydrating formula that glides over, redefines and illuminates the lips with a sheer shade.
CLARINS NEO PASTELS BLUSH IN ROSE, DH169 Add a touch of dusky pink blush to your face for a fresh outdoor, rosy glow.
ESTÉE LAUDER PURE COLOR EYESHADOW PALETTE IN EXTRAVAGANT GOLD, DH252 Delicate golds and shimmery browns are the choices this spring. Three textures of matte, shimmer and metallic create endless opportunities for natural eye looks.
Chanel Sublimage Crème
There's something about Chanel packaging that we women are immediately drawn to; the chic black-and-white jars look luxurious, almost forcing us to believe the claims of anti-ageing, lifting and firming. Well, after just two weeks of using this new product, people started asking me what I was doing differently. My skin was fresh and radiant, as if I had just spent a day skiing. Deemed by Chanel experts as "the ultimate regeneration cream", it has a rich velvet feel that goes on quite sheer, almost melting into the skin on your face. Is it pricey? Definitely. Justified? I say yes (don't tell our bank managers!). You need to use only a tiny amount for even coverage, so one pot should last a long time. The results speak for themselves, as your skin is left smooth and glowing. Enjoy the compliments!
Chanel Sublimage Crème, Dh1,415 available at Chanel counters nationwide
Tea-rrific new scents
Now here's something different. Launching in the UAE next month are Jo Malone limited edition Tea Fragrance Blends. It's not the most obvious pairing, tea and perfume, but it makes sense; tea has a subtle and recognisable aroma, delighting the senses in the same way as scent. Now, we're not talking about dousing yourself in Lipton, but the innovators at Jo Malone have taken the British tradition of tea and given it a modern twist. Just as there's a tea for every taste and disposition, there's a tea scent for every style and mood. Choose from Assam & Grapefruit, Earl Grey & Cucumber, Fresh Mint Leaf, Sweet Lemon and Sweet Milk. We love the citrus blends, which are light, fresh, unisex and easy to wear.
Jo Malone Tea Fragrance Blends, Dh220, available from Jo Malone outlets nationwide