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How To Find The Perfect Perfume Based On Your Middle School Scent

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The internet loves nostalgia, right? It’s so nice to revisit the past, when there’s so much ugliness in the now. Ecto-Cooler, jelly sandals, Dunkaroos, the Spice Girls. Life was simpler when we woke up early on the weekends because we didn’t want to miss cartoons, instead of waking up early to finish a story before deadline. And now we know all about high-fructose corn syrup.

Duh duh duuuuuuuuuuuh [suspense music]

But there’s also some beauty in the now. So to combine the two, I asked the perfume geniuses at Brooklyn’s Twisted Lily (the hands-down best perfume store ever) to help me find the modern, fresh equivalent of our very first signature scents—as cringy as they are in hindsight, like that neon pink fake Prada purse I carried confidently.

Eric, Krista, and Carla at Twisted Lily (where there are over 100 different niche perfume brands—heaven) were up for the challenge, and we sniffed our way into the past, which is as weird as it sounds.

If you wore Clinique Happy
You like citrus and sunshine, huh? Instead of getting your grapefruit fix from vending machine Fruitopia, now you’ve learned to mix it with tequila. It’s called a Paloma, and it’s wonderful.

Now try: Rouge Bunny Rouge’s Allegria. Do you like bottomless brunch mimosas? This is your guy. And it won’t get you as loud and annoying when you wear it. Though I didn’t drink it, it’s got some yummy red grapefruit going on, with herby hints of basil and mint. It’s citrusy and refreshing, with just the tiniest bit of cedarwood and musk. Does not come with free gift at the mall.

If you wore Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue
Guilty as charged—this one is all me. Remember the sultry magazine ads with super tan Brazilian models on super white yachts in super tiny Speedos? Oh I do. [Thoughts drift off] Anyway, the scent is mega citrus, green apple, jasmine, and some musky amber. Somehow light and sexy at the same time, unlike the white eyeliner I applied as I waited for the bus at 7:09 a.m.

Now try: Olfactive Studio’s Flash Back. Lots of apple and musk, with a little lemon. On your skin this scent only gets warmer and sexier. Sorry to overuse that word, but it really is. There’s tart rhubarb in this perfume that’s like: whoa. Just as obsessed as I was with Light Blue in high school, I couldn’t stop thinking about this perfume after I whiffed it.

If you wore Chanel Chance
Oh how you dreamed of growing up to wear tweed skirt suits and fawned over Audrey Hepburn movies whose posters adorned your dorm walls. We get it. The scent of your journey from sports bra to AA cup was floral, very floral, with a little patchouli to balance things off sensibly.

Now try: Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Lumiere Noire Florals, but moodier. Rose and patchouli are ready to go eat a seven-course dinner with wine pairings and all of the desserts. “Yes, waiter, I said ‘All of them.’” You finally got that tweed suit, and it sits in the back of your closet unworn. Now it’s time to put it on and fire up Tinder.

If you wore The Body Shop’s White Musk
Bold move, young you! I also wore this one, and apparently it was not the love potion I’d hoped it’d be. This scent is just straight-up musk. There’s no other way around it, unlike that entire AP Physics science project about sledding velocity you faked. (Still got an A!)

Now try: Ramon Monegral’s Cotton Musk. Straight-up musk meet straight-up clean laundry, waving in the wind on the Italian countryside. Warm and musky but fresh and light like a clean cotton t-shirt ideally being worn by Marlon Brando in Streetcar. Hubba hubba.

Or: Andrea Maack’s Smart. Less cotton, more nuanced violet leaf, jasmine, vanilla, sandalwood, and yes, musk. I was Very Into this one, like capri pants and $5 Old Navy flip flops.

If you wore Lancôme Miracle
Slash you also wore BBW’s Sheer Freesia, didncha? You know how they made that perfume pink? They dyed it. But now you’re an adult, and don’t have to pretend to like flavored vodka anymore.

Now try: Amouage’s Reflection Woman. Epic name, right? You are the star of your own Fellini flick now, bebe. There’s lots of freesia here, but it’s all grown up like Angelica and the gang, with some water violet, jasmine, sandalwood and amber. It’s spicy-floral, completely mesmerizing, and likely to stick on your skin longer than those Latin conjugations you knew by heart once.

If you wore Aquolina’s Pink Sugar
How are those cavities holding up? Because you, my friend, have a hella sweet tooth. Your favorite color in middle school was “glitter,” and you never met a Kate Hudson movie you didn’t watch over and over at sleepovers. Your scent? Cotton-fucking-candy.

Now try: A Lab on Fire’s Mon Musc a Moi. In this round-up, this pairing was so spookily perfect I started laughing. It’s eerie, dudes. This perfume is super fancy cotton candy, but instead of a scent originating from circus snacks, it’s coming from tonka bean (vanilla’s complicated/brooding playwright cousin), peach blossom, and toffee. Yep, there are notes of toffee. A sweet perfume for those of you who get excited about new Starbucks frap flavors. My roommate Jena needs this one. Love u, Jen.

If you wore Bath and Body Works’s Juniper Breeze
Veering from the Lisa Frank path, you were into woodsier scents, and hopefully grew up to appreciate the hell out of a good gin and tonic. The good news is your favorite baggy pair of jeans is now back in style, and sold at J. Crew as the broken-in boyfriend jean. Time is a flat, denim circle, frayed at the edges where your knees wore through to a hole.

Now try: Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling. Uninhibited juniper, more straightforward than any note a crush passed you in class, and that’s a relief. It smells like gin. Grassy, woodsy, with a little orange citrus, without fading after second period like some certain body sprays we’re so familiar with. Random sidenote: if I were doing this with dude cologne’s, this would also be a perfect match for Acqua di Gio.

If you wore Tommy Girl
And those socks with the little Hilfiger logo on them, naturally. You’ve got a nice balance of floral-citrus going on, with plenty of fruity blackcurrant to sweeten the deal, like an especially successful book-cover collage for your Geography textbook.

Now try: Andree Putman’s Magnolys. Another SPOT-ON match, seriously. Black currant at the front, magnolia, peach blossom—it’s a sugary perfume slushie, really, but matured with ylang-ylang, nutmeg, and sage. I sampled this on my finger and kept holding it up to my nose like a person doing a mustache motion and looked like an idiot. But the familiarity of the scent is so comforting, like re-watching A Knight’s Tale only to realize that some things really do hold up in the test of time.

—Alex Beggs

Photographed by the author.

Lean in to those perfume memories, and tell us your fragrance history here.