Candles: The Comeback

Dude figuring out which scent is his.

Dude figuring out which scent is "his."

The past couple of weekends, I have channel surfed and landed on a women-oriented movie. If it’s not on a movie channel, one must resign herself to putting up with the commercial breaks. I wouldn’t mind them so much if they were as entertaining as they thought they portrayed them to be. I’m no “Mad Man,” so I cannot say with certainty that these formulas in the campaigns don’t work. They must, or we wouldn’t be subjected to them day in and day out. I’ve found that the more annoying the commercial is, the more you see it until you have every nuance memorized. Remember the Six Flags ad with the guy in old man makeup who danced around to that godawful synthesizer music? Yeah. I didn’t think it was necessary to have it on as much as they did but it must have worked. I muted the television each and every time but it infiltrated my consciousness nonetheless.

The other weekend I watched the entire Lifetime movie about Coco Chanel. Lifetime has upped the quality of their movies, because I was actually impressed with the story. The first of two glaring inconsistencies was the fact that they did a horrid voiceover for Coco’s best friend and made her sound like a man, albeit with a French accent. The woman’s natural voice couldn’t have been that bad, could it? The other was that Shirley MacLaine, who plays the older Coco (and I love Shirley!), saved herself any embarrassment and didn’t bother trying to speak with any kind of French accented English. So it was just Shirley’s regular American voice juxtaposing the absolutely lovely, lilting French accented English from the actress who played the younger Coco. (Very nice job.) Okay I’m totally getting off track here.

The point is, is that at each and every commercial break between both films (the other was Legally Blonde 2), I was forced to witness women figuring out how to get their air smelling better. There may not be anything causing a pungent smell, per se. But if my home doesn’t smell like misty rain, apple cinnamon cobbler, fresh autumn fields or honeycomb molasses, it seems I’m not doing a good job being a modern-age woman. The commercials now depict women covering up the fact that they bought Glade scented candles and were passing them off as expensive, fashionable candles. The other ad was Febreze revealing its new scented candle line, because now that they’ve dominated the market on making fabrics smell perfumey fresh, it’s time to take over scenting the air.

This is the new craze? Candles? Really? Pretty sure we’ve covered all the grounds in candle making. What gives? Candles, scented or not, have been around for thousands of years. They’re not a new concept. You light the wick, they burn, they give off a nice glow and can also be aesthetically pleasing to the eye, depending on the size and shape. (And let’s face it, candlelight is sexy.) Candlemakers have been quite creative in the past couple of decades. The picture here is of yummy chocolates. But wait! Look closer and you can find the wicks in the “chocolates.” Ho ho, they’re so clever, aren’t they?

Candles have even finally made it to a place where people can pimp ’em out. Bling for your candles? You betcha!

But even more than physical appearance, candles are now given a wide array of scents to please your olfactory senses in your home. I highly recommend reading this article I found on the $9 billion dollar home fragrance industry (NINE BILLION DOLLARS! IN 2006!), which discusses everything from the hazards of certain air fresheners to what we’re really getting for our money, just so we can have a pleasant fragrance around the house that’s not just “fresh air.” My favorite line is when he talks about the “ideal” air freshener being an open window! Kudos!

Here’s the thing. Fresh air in certain polluted situations is not unwarranted. If you live in New York and you don’t have a fan system in your bathroom (and let’s face it, 98% of us don’t) and your tiny bathroom window faces the inner “courtyard,” then buying some Oust, Febreze, Lysol, AirWick and/or Glade products are not uncalled for. If you have roommates, these products are a lifesaver. I subscribe to both lighting a match and spraying something fragrant into the air upon finishing up in the bathroom when it’s not peeing. It’s worked in many a household.

But when you’re at work and no air freshener is around, it is absolutely mandatory to perform the Courtesy Flush. The Courtesy Flush, by definition, is “the act of flushing the toilet the instant the nose cone of the poop log hits the water and the poop is whisked away to an undisclosed location. This reduces the amount of air time the poop has to stink up the bathroom.” (Courtesy of If it didn’t cost so much money, I would vote to have a lovely Glade scented candle burning at all time in the women’s bathroom.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore candles. And if you believe this guy, the “Candle Aficionado,” macho dudes are just as hooked on candles as women. The home fragrance industry, along with shops like Bath & Body Works, are doing their part to help homes look, feel and smell more fabulous.

One of my favorite B&BW candle scents.

Candles now have an appeal on many different levels. Candles – not just for light anymore! And certainly the more the consumers have buyer awareness of these things, more of us women can expect the candle gift basket when no one knows what to buy you when they get you for Secret Santa or if you’re throwing any kind of party at your home, and/or an acquaintence is forced to stop somewhere and buy you a gift, despite the fact that they don’t know you. (Society rules…I swear.)

Last Christmas, my ex’s mother gave me a flameless, scented lavender candle. It was battery operated. It simulated the flickering of a flame (weakly). I suppose it was just meant to look pretty sitting up on a shelf. It sorta did. I had to put it right under my nose to smell any of the lavender scent it emitted. I don’t think I got much use out of it. But this is just a perfect example of things the candle industry is coming up with to “improve” on the basic design of wax-and-wick candles. And these things don’t come cheaply. Made with beeswax or soy, “designer” candles can cost hundreds of dollars. It almost makes a person want to dip some string in some cheap, colored wax you can buy at Michael’s. (A post on Michael’s will probably be put forth at some point in time. It’s one of the best stores on earth, if you like crafts. And I do.)

I don’t have a “side” on this issue, like boycott the home fragrance industry or anything. Although I do think that $9 billion is a little excessive and I don’t really need to be hit over the head with ten different ads about freshening up my home. But it begs another question about Marketing: is this really what women are running out and buying? Do those marketing reports really show that out of all the products in the world women between the ages of 25 and 55 could be buying, candles and other scented shit make the Top 5? I’m all about having some candles in a drawer for emergencies, and candles on shelves and on window sills for romantic moments. But the sheer pressure to buy scented candles all the time just feels a bit like overkill. “Buy! Buy! Buy! Your home will smell like regular air otherwise!”

And may I say, never was there a better pairing than when the disinfectant industry teamed up with the home fragrance industry, so we can be germ free AND smell artificially awesome. It’s what living in America is all about.

Buy your candles with care. That’s all I’m saying. Smell responsibly.



  1. I don’t understand this one much either. I also don’t understand how every mall nowadays can support a “Yankee Candle” store, even though a broad range of stores stock candles as miscellaneous junk. And unfortunately I get lots of them as miscellaneous gifts. And they’re nice and all, sure, but I usually don’t think to light them, so they take up space til I need space and then they’re in the garbage.

    While I highly support their use in smelly situations, we in America shower pretty damn frequently and already have a ridiculous range of cleaning products emitting their own lemon fresh scent. So who really needs a candle? A small percentage of the population.

    Not to mention that I don’t want to light the candles. Maybe its just me, or maybe we all worry about too many unlikely events, but I keep imagining the candle falling over somehow when I’m not looking or in another room and then poof my whole house goes up. I see candles and air fresheners as something you could add to a list of “Shit we don’t need, but we think we do”

  2. I was going to put in a blurb about Yankee Candle stores and decided against it. I don’t know THAT much about it but I think the scents are pretty overpowering when you walk by the stores in the mall.

    I also think it’s cool if a guy keeps a few candles handy but I personally would be wary if I walked in to a guy’s house and he has more than I do.

    That having been said, I think Bath & Body Works has some of the nicest scented candles out there (in case anybody cares). Free plug to them!


  1. […] hour or two later, the house was airing out, scented candles and Febreze came to the rescue, and normalcy […]

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