Grotesque is a word I associate with nineteenth-century aesthetics, though of course it has born long before that. The romantic grotesque achieves harmony in opposition. It provokes simultaneous attraction and revulsion, empathy and disgust. Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo (a.k.a., hunchback of Notre Dame) is often offered as an example of a grotesque character. I see the strange, uneven, digressive tone-shifting style of Les Miserables and Moby Dick as gorgeous narrative grotesques.
Incongruity makes the grotesque appealing, even seductive. In my own private taxonomy of perfumes, I classify certain hybrid blends as grotesque. Think of beautiful beasts like Iris Ganache (more about that here) and Womanity. Like the pink and metal-chained bottle, the Womanity fragrance plays with contrasts. The top layer? Figgy, buttery. It’s the butter of certain white florals. It’s a fig with a sweetness akin to overripe melon. Credit has been given to a caviar note for providing Womanity‘s disturbing edge. I would never have guessed that on my own. I detect at the base that bitter, dirty, dried-blood metallic accord (minus the fecal) from Sécrétions magnifiques. In comparison to that playful niche outlaw, Womanity is quite tame. But line her up with the rest of the bottles at the department store, and she’s a force to be reckoned with. The sweet, fruity fig notes fade out after fifty minute or so, but the base notes have preternatural tenacity. I clocked over 20 hours. Close to the skin, Womanity wears chilly, slightly dirty, quite metallic. Not an easy scent, but in a “Would You Rather…?”, I would select Womanity over something more generically sweet and pretty.