This week my naive idea of a Perfumeland where the sun is always shining and the birds are always singing, was rudely shaken and set straight. My post about Lubin’s Black Jade, already published on October 4th, somehow found its way onto Lubin’s owner Gilles Thevenin’s computer on Monday and prompted him to post a comment.
He provided information regarding the perfumer that I had obviously gotten wrong. Although I am certain that I had this information from several trusty sources, those can not be verified now, this is the internet after all, and things change rapidly here. This is just to say that I did not fish the name Giacobetti out of a hat. In any case, I welcome factual correction of course, since I strive to get facts right, but mistakes can happen, even if this was not one I was aware of making, I apologize. (And yes, I know how to operate Google, contrary to insinuations in that direction.)
Gilles Thevenin chose not to contact me through email, but publicly, which would have still been fine, if his approach would have been a bit more accessible. Due to his not identifiying himself outright, but introducing himself as somebody from the “marketing folk” at Lubin, I was not even sure whether I was dealing with a jokester or the real person at first.
To me, his comment had an entirely unprofessional ring to it, it may not have been hostile, but I interpreted it as such. Here I may be to blame, I know myself to be touchy and I respond very quickly to real or imagined aggression. My defenses go up and I start feeling under attack and called to defend myself or my work, although I like to think that my responses were controlled and not designed to provoke.
I believe my initial perception of aggression, or at least severe irritation on M. Thevenin’s part was not imagined after all, since he proceeded to comment further, now clearly incensed. I guess it is not open for discussion anymore, whether his second comment was hostile or not.
As I have said in my responses on the blog post as well as on several other occasions already, on a personal level, I understand how he is feeling. But on a professional level, I certainly don’t. Don’t we all have jobs, where we are challenged now and again? But where it is still necessary and required to behave in a certain way, without totally losing composure? I know I have. I don’t flip out in front of patients, I don’t react personally, I don’t confuse business and private when I am working. And he, in his function as head of a perfume house commenting on a perfume review, is working.
Several commenters have said that the man feared for his livelyhood. Come on, I am not the New York Times, am I? My blog won’t threaten anyone’s livelihood, that is absurd. He made the story huge. He was the one getting this review out there. He could have contacted me privately. He even could have flamed me privately. He did not. He chose the public venue. And public it became. The post was shared left and right on social platforms, discussions got heated, things even got ugly.
It got to the point when I thought: Okay, that is it. I always loved blogging, I obviously love perfume, but I can go back to doing that on my own. If I have to sit there and cry, it is just not worth it.
Unlike a commenter said, I do invest more than the “odd half hour on an off day” into this blog and I have always done it because it was fun, because I enjoyed myself. I did not enjoy being the focus of a scandal because of a review, where I say the perfume is good, but I choose not to believe the marketing strategy.
What will I do now? I don’t want to sit and think with every sentence that I write: Is this too much? How many will I offend with that? Who is out there that I have to please?
You know what? I don’t have to please anyone. A perfume blog, or any other blog at that, is not a professional venture by definition. At no point have I said to be an expert and I think my readers are quite aware of that. I am free to publish my opinion, and as long I stay within legal bounds, this is what I will do.
Unlike magazines, where opinions might be bought along with ad space and the goal is only to be mentioned at all, because every mention is a positive one, in blogging, parameters are different. This is a completely unaffiliated blog, I do not have ads, I don’t accept payment from anyone, I get samples now and then without me requesting them, but there is no guarantee I will ever write about those.
I write about what I like, and sometimes about what I don’t like and the only people I feel a responsibility for, are my readers. The responsibility to post regularly, to provide the facts correctly as far as possible, to state my opinion and to engage in a conversation.
I was buffeted between anger and sadness, faint amusement about the absurdity of it all and massive anxiety in the face of aggression towards me from quarters I didn’t ever expect it from, these past few days. Instead of a source of pride and joy, my blog became something I feared looking at.
On the other hand, and that was the majority of the reactions, there was an expression of great loyalty, trust and faith in me and what I do. I really want to focus on that positive side and not let the negative aspects pull me down, even if that is hard for me to do.
What I learned this past week, was that there is no such thing as a save haven, Perfumeland is not only the good Utopia I wanted it to be, but has it’s places of shadow. It is no great surprise I guess, but there is always a major difference between theory and reality. The latter is the one that can, and will hurt you, now and again.
But it is my responsibility towards myself, to pull myself out of my self-pitying funk and just go on. Today’s newspaper wraps tomorrow’s fish and the internet is no different.
If I put myself and my words out there, I can’t expect agreement from everyone, although I would very much like that. But that kind of wishful thinking would make me just as immature as the emotional outbreak that prompted this whole incident.
Olfactoria will travel on.