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Wearing Men’s Cologne Makes Me Feel Like a Grown-Ass Woman

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Shelves of fancy perfume and cologne at Barneys' Chelsea location Photo: Barneys

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I hit perfume puberty pretty late. You know what I’m talking about: That pivotal moment in which you discover a new fragrance, something that’s entirely different from what you’re used to wearing, and your taste in perfume changes forever.

I spent most of life wearing sickeningly-sweet fragrances. In sixth grade, it was Bath & Body Works Brown Sugar & Fig; seventh grade was Victoria’s Secret Strawberries and Champagne; eighth grade was Aquolina’s Pink Sugar.

I upgraded my scent, somewhat, as I got older — Clinique’s Happy, Viktor and Rolf’s Flowerbomb, Daisy by Marc Jacobs, Chanel Mademoiselle. But even with perfumes from higher end brands, I still stuck with the uber-sweet theme; partially because some of these perfumes were gifts, and partially because I just didn’t know any better.

It’s hard to break out of habit, especially when you’re used to perpetually smelling like a walking candy store.

It’s hard to break out of habit, especially when you’re used to perpetually smelling like a walking candy store.

All that changed a little less than two years ago when I profiled fragrance expert and former New York Times perfume critic Chandler Burr. Walking around the perfume section of Bergdorf Goodman in midtown Manhattan, Burr recommended I step out of my comfort zone, and try fragrances of all kinds.

I had been used to wearing sweet, floral scents, so why not experiment with something entirely different? He led me to the Tom Ford beauty counter, where we investigated a whole bunch of men's’ fragrances.

Tom Ford's Oud-based colognes Photo: Tom Ford

I was balking at the idea of wearing a men’s cologne when I came upon a scent that nearly knocked me off my feet: Tom Ford’s Oud Wood. I’d never browsed the scents at Tom Ford before, mainly because the price point was too steep (a 50 ML bottle sells for a whopping $225). But after taking a deep inhale, I knew there was no turning back.

Oud Wood has notes of wood, rosewood, cardamom, sandalwood, vetiver, tonka bean, and amber. According to the bottle’s copy promo, the scent is inspired by "the incense-filled temples of Bhutan," and is described by the brand as a "smoky blend" with "warmth and sensuality." I’m just gonna go ahead and take it one step further here: This cologne smells like hot, exotic sex.

As if it’s capable of producing some sort of chemical reaction, the cologne also manages to boost my self esteem.

Sure, it’s masculine, but it also smells incredibly complex; it’s spicy, alluring, and as if it’s capable of producing some sort of chemical reaction, the cologne also manages to boost my self esteem. It might just be a normal day at the office, but I give a little spray, and suddenly I’m a tanned, toned girl from one of those cheesy billboard ads who is easily sporting That Wet Look. To me, this is the mother of all scents.

After discovering Oud Wood, I had a hard time going back to my sweet perfumes. I eventually did buy myself a bottle — but before I did, I was frequenting stores like Barneys, Bloomingdales, and Saks to request small samples of the scent, something I recommend you do while figuring out if you’re ready to commit to a new fragrance (especially one with Tom Ford prices).

And even if you ultimately don’t want to upgrade to something so expensive, you should at least step out of your comfort zone. You might just find a scent that makes you feel like a grown-ass woman. Because smelling like cotton candy is cool, but smelling like sex is so much better.