Meat me at the fragrance counter
If, like me, you never miss an episode of NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me” then you probably already know Burger King in Japan is releasing a Whopper-scented cologne with the tagline “No Whopper, No Life.” Which, like so many perfume taglines, is mysterious to the point of ridiculousness, and nowhere near on-the-nose, even though it’s a smell. Also, it sounds a little too close to “No woman, no cry.”
Let me be the first to say, barf. OK, I’m probably not the first to express that sentiment about L’eau d’Whopper. But I mean it the most and with grand gusto. A Whopper perfume is just disgusting enough to get a columnist like me to rant about it. Brilliant. The good news, however, is that if this is what fast food places are resorting to for attention maybe we have a shot at not being steamrolled by the flame-broiled. And hell, I would much rather someone spritz on squirt of burger scent than take their children to Burger King every night for dinner. Remember those stupid spray diets? It’s like that.
One of the things about eating a Whopper is that I want the smell off me immediately. I don’t want people to know I’ve eaten a Whopper. Better yet — I’ve never eaten a Whopper. I swear! What’s that onion smell wafting off me? Nuttin’. I’m makin’ a big tomato sauce.
While I was pretty sure this Whopper perfume is going to be an April Fools’ joke — it was slated to be released on April 1, but there is no sign of it being fake — one thing I am for is food-inspired fragrances. They are known as gourmands, and I find myself creating a lot of them for my perfumery of one. Most recently I put together saffron and bergamot essential oils, musk, and dark chocolate and leather notes. The beautiful thing about making a gourmand is you can take it sensual with musk and take it away from foodstuffs territory. I know some people like to pull sheet trays of pastrami into their lovemaking (I’m looking at you, Costanza) because it’s the “most sensual of the cured meats,” but I’m not even a whipped-cream girl. So my gourmand fragrances aren’t like wearing pure strawberry, let’s say. I love a gourmand but I want it out of the kitchen.
One thing that smells better than burgers on your skin is lemongrass essential oil. According to my scientific sources lemongrass promotes psychic awareness and purification. That sounds better than helping with bladder infections and parasites, doesn’t it? More importantly, lemongrass smells sweet and inviting, suffused with a spicy cloud a second in. On its own it almost has everything a perfumer or perfume-wearer could want. I highly recommend putting some in a spray bottle with witch hazel and water to spritz yourself during the summer months. For DIY burger perfume, put burger in blender with perfumer’s alcohol, strain results through cheesecloth, put in bottle, dab on, be banished to cave.
Jenn Sutkowski must be getting full psychic waves from her lemongrass essential oil because she predicts burger cologne will make people groan. And she loves burgers more than most people. Find her flipping burgers of the mind at jennsutkowski.com.
This Full Frontal column was originally published in the Newport Mercury.
Boston: Two years later
My husband and I sit at our small, wood kitchen table eating giant bowls of ramen as the 30 guilty verdicts come in for marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 8, 2015. I remember having a moment of levity at the table almost two years ago, eating Niman Ranch Fearless Franks and Ore-Ida tater tots, when our city of Cambridge and the Boston area were on lockdown so the police could chase down Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan.
WBUR’s Bob Oakes’ voice is strong but trembles with emotion as he delivers the news of the guilty verdicts. It brings those harrowing events back for us, too. And it’s hard to believe it’s been two years since the Boston Marathon when three people were killed and 264 injured and MIT Police Officer Sean Collier was shot. After Oakes reports, former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn suggests the families should have a say in whether Tsarnaev gets the death penalty for his crimes. Flynn says Tsarnaev’s “arrogance” on the stand will likely have an impact on his fate.
The jury has delivered its verdicts in approximately 11 hours — very fast for a trial of this magnitude — but the sentencing will begin April 21, the day after Marathon Monday. Seventeen of the 30 counts carry either a death sentence or life imprisonment.
Listening to the verdicts on the radio takes us back to the events of those days. I just dreamt about being on lockdown the other night. I remember several close friends who lived in Belmont and Watertown at the time were terrified. Earlier in the evening on the night the chase occurred I saw the bomb squad across the street from the bar at which I gulped a white wine. My sister made fun of me when I texted to say the bomb squad’s presence scared me, in light of the marathon bombing. And then the next morning my other sister called to tell me not to leave my house. We just do the best we can. Wine, humor, connection.
We all want closure, though we know that is impossible for the families of the victims. While many heroes came together during and in the wake of this horrendous act, one cannot erase the fact that the nightmare continues for so many.
After we leave our kitchen table I see my husband wiping tears from his eyes. We’ve been discussing the case over the last months, naturally. We most recently agreed even if Tamerlan was the mastermind (loose definition of the word) that doesn’t mean what the younger brother did was not a crime — whether or not he was influenced. I do agree with Peter Sagal’s tweet: “But don’t put him to death. I can’t see the merit in adding one more body to the pile he made. Let him live. Let him regret.”
Jenn Sutkowski hopes the verdicts bring some comfort to the victims and their families and that the jury and everyone in the courtroom can heal after seeing the photographs and videos leading up to sentencing.
This Full Frontal column was first published in the Newport Mercury.
Full frontal unwanted advice
Sometimes I feel like I put more energy and care into figuring out how to gently but firmly respond to unsolicited advice than I do writing what ends up becoming my real work.
That said, I’ve been the well-meaning helper who hurts. I still cringe when I think about something I wrote in a sympathy card about elephants grieving to someone who lost a family member on 9/11 when I was in my mid-twenties. I tried too hard because I cared but I also wanted really badly to help and there was something selfish in the amount and quality of what I tried to give. The unselfish thing would have been to be part of the crowd of caring people — not to try to stand out. The unselfish thing would have been to acknowledge my inability to really help and to just fully stand witness to the tragedy and send my condolences in a way that just added to an already-existing wave of support.
We’re all doing the best we can. But sometimes when we try to do the best-best we can overdo it. I think a good rule when considering piping in to give someone advice is to first ask yourself — did this person whose problems you’re about to try to fix ask for advice? If so, tread lightly and offer up the best you’ve got to give, my friend. If they did not ask for advice but you still think you’ve got some golden gems burning a hole in your throat ask them if they are interested in your advice. If they say yes, give them your gems. If they say no, keep your gems to yourself. Write them down at home if you care and move on.
If keeping your gems to yourself feels impossible maybe it’s time to ask yourself why it is so important to hand them this bit of advice? What feelings could we possibly be trying to avoid by needing to tell this person what to do? What will we gain by having this person hear what we think they should do to fix their problems? How would we feel if someone told us what to do without our asking? And consider the person to whom we’re speaking. If we don’t know them well enough to really know in advance how they feel about unsolicited advice we don’t know them well enough to give them unsolicited advice. Even my therapist does not give me unsolicited advice because she is trained to know that it is usually not helpful.
I know my opinion is unpopular because unsolicited advice is practically expected these days. But you’ll notice people asking or not asking for help. And in my experience there is a huge difference between someone well-meaningly helping and someone who “helps” because they need something to control in the midst of emotional chaos. In which case it’s probably not advice anyone would want to take. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is keep it to yourself, homeslice.
Jenn Sutkowski is very protective of the inner-rudder that steers the ship. When it gets derailed by the well-meaning but oblivious it’s dingy off the port bow! Find her firing into the ether at jennsutkowski.com.
This Full Frontal column was published first in the Newport Mercury.
Oh hey! This column I wrote, "Don't Hate Me Cos I'm Beautiful," on celebrating other women's beauty, just went up on the lovely and generous Jamie Khoo's site, a beauty full mind. So happy to be a part of it.
I am thrilled to have this piece, "Dementia Makes People Laugh, Cancer Makes People Cry," go live on "Elephant Journal" today. It was a real treat to see my Dad yesterday for Easter and so to have this go up today is fitting. I'm always a little trepidatious to share because, well, sharing is opening yourself up to tearing, regardless of what the Care Bears say. Anyway, there ya go. Check it out if it pleases you. XO
The rosy side of nihilism
“On the Media” had a thought-provoking show about nihilism recently. It traced the origin of nihilism, existentialism, Dadaism, through the Beats, the ’60s and their devastating end, through punk rock, to where we are today, turning on the news, watching journalists being beheaded, and all of the insanity.
I love Dadaism. Makes complete sense that after the disillusionment of World War I people would just throw up their devastated hands, and return to a really dark but absolutely childlike way of creating. I would totally cut up a bunch of words out of the newspaper, put them in a bag, and pull them out to create poetry, if I felt like nothing meant anything anymore. And while nihilism and Dadaism make us tend to think of everything sucking, I think there is a beauty to the fact that humans choose to create in the wake of horrible circumstances and not being able to trust anyone. I mean, there is a reason why many believe the best art is that which is created after heartbreak. How effin’ cool are we in that way?
OK, we’re also terrible beasts, which is why we get ourselves into these situations in the first place. And I will be first to admit the turgid darkness that makes a warlord disgusting is potentially in me, too, because I am human. That said, I’m pleased to report that this life has not proven to take me down that road. I’m sure I’ve hurt a few people inadvertently, and I feel bad about that, but my general state of being is to appreciate and live and love and other things you could paint on a piece of weathered wood and sell in a beach town shoppe next to piles of taffy because we need more crap to buy and sugar.
My point is, while I watch all the religions fight and politicians spin their wheels under the guise of making the world run and giving us the illusion of safety and millions of people buying into a whole bunch of BS, I also see the glimmer of the unexamined. While lots of people are believing things that just are not true, the rest of us have the opportunity to explore what might be true. Even if it is just looking outside at nature and how all that works. Looking at our pets, maybe, and marveling at how these creatures exist in such whole beauty.
Let the “rulers” rule. Yeah, it is a complete bummer that so many jerks control so much of the money. And that so much of their lives are about controlling other people and yet more money. But if you don’t buy into money and control being the most important thing in the world those lives seem even perhaps wasted. We’ll all wonder now and then: “What could I do with that much,” but then let’s not take for granted the gifts that are already in front of us. They’re all ours.
Jenn Sutkowski, optimist, nihilist, vegetable, mineral.
This Full Frontal column was first published in the Newport Mercury.
It's me, Jennifer Bernice (rhymes with "Furnace": it was my Granny's name) Sutkowski
• More details about my writing here.