Interview with Monica Heisey, author of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better”

Interview with Monica Heisey, author of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better”

Heisey is funny, honest and insightful in her new book, which is subtitled “A woman’s guide to coping with life”. We figured she’d have an opinion about perfume. And of course she does.

We contacted the author-comedian-editor because although she sheds some major personal insight in her recently released book (our particular favourite chapter is called “Female Sharing Evenings: A Sacred Rite”), she didn’t tell us about her favourite perfumes. Luckily for us, Heisey did share when we asked—and with that same funny, honest, insight that made us fans of her writing.

QUESTION: What is your favourite scent memory of childhood?

MONICA HEISEY: Christmas was an extremely potent time for scents in my house. Both my parents are great cooks, but my mom in particular is an incredible baker, and she really went H.A.M. during the holidays. (She still does, actually, I just don’t live with her.) She’d bake cookies and other amazing desserts and wrap pine garlands around the stairs and make wreath centrepieces for the table. We’d do crafts and stick cloves into oranges to hang on the tree. A lot of spicy, woodsy smells, with a hint of cinnamon or mulling spices or baked goods. Actually, those are all the smells I’m most attracted to to this day. I guess I can cancel therapy this week.

Q: What was the first fragrance you bought yourself and why did you buy it?

HEISEY: I bought Burberry Brit as an impressionable teenager because some cooler friends of mine were Kate Moss fans and I think she was the spokesmodel for it. Also it smelled nice without being too strong and the bottle was simple and cute. I wore it throughout my first two years of university, but not every day. It took two years to finish that one bottle.

Q: What maternal figure influenced you most in your attitude towards perfume?

HEISEY: My mother wore Dior’s J’Adore when I was a tween, and I remember thinking the bottle was very elegant and the process of applying it very fancy and glamourous. I was never particularly into the smells of different perfumes, but the product as a whole was very interesting: the ornate bottles, the packaging, the ludicrous art-y ads.  

No4_1024x1024Q: What does your favourite fragrance say about your personality?

HEISEY: The fragrance I’m currently wearing is Maison Louis Marie No.04 Bois de Balincourt, and I love it a lot. I think what it says about me is “This woman wants you to tell her how good she smells.”

It smells great, and has really been bringing in the compliments, which is a key factor behind any aesthetic or sensory choice, I think.

Plus: vetiver.

Maison Louis Marie No.04 Bois de Balincourt, $85 (50 ml),

Q: What makes you notice a fragrance?

HEISEY: I’ve been learning more about fragrances and what’s in things as I continue looking for the perfect candle to finally commit to and settle down with. It turns out I’m very into scents that are typically marketed to men, so I’ve been visiting a lot of those little men’s boutiques that have like, whisky and a record player in the window next to one $500 sweater. That’s where the good candles are, ones with notes of balsam or leather or tobacco, maybe evened out with a little vanilla or orange.

Q: How many fragrances do you own?

HEISEY: I only own one fragrance right now, but sometimes I’ll pop some lavender or orange essential oil on my wrists instead of a perfume. Other days I’m pretty into just smelling like classic men’s Old Spice deodorant, or my own B.O. I have a secret theory that everyone likes the smell of their own body, even if they wouldn’t want others to smell it.

Q: How many fragrances do you regularly wear? 

HEISEY: Really just the Maison Louis Marie, because perfume is expensive and I’m not a millionaire. As I mentioned I’m also into a man’s deodorant smell. It feels sexist to me to dislike most fragrances marketed to women, but really it’s probably more sexist to think all women want to smell like a flower garden that just did its laundry.

Q: What do you smell like?

HEISEY: Ideally clean, a bit musky, maybe slightly woodsy, like maybe I’ve just been making out with a hot man in his car after a hike.

copper_prd_1024x1024Q: How do you scent your home?

HEISEY: I want people to enter my home and immediately ask themselves, “Does this woman own more than one luxury candle?” They will be wrong, I own one and move it around the house to whatever room needs to feel the most luxurious. Right now it is a mine | design cuivre copper candle in lark, which is a mix of “burnt redwoods, smoke, tobacco leaves, and notes of neroli.”

Pretty soon I’ll switch to Brooklyn Candle Company’s giant mason jar full of spruce-scented soy, which is like Christmas in a bourgie jar. Sometimes it just feels good to spend $60 on a candle. I don’t make the rules.
mine | design copper candle, $40 (325 ml),

Q: Who is the best smelling person you’ve ever met, and what did they smell like?

HEISEY: My partner Alex has a super distinctive smell (although I guess everyone thinks that about their partner); sort of a sweet sweat. It sounds gross but so does the concept of marriage, and I also really like being married, so here we are.

Q: Any tips for telling someone you care about that you really hate their perfume/cologne?

HEISEY: I mean unless it’s your partner and you’re all up in it 24/7, I don’t really think it’s any of your business. Maybe wander down to a perfume store and talk about what smells good to you and ask what smells good to them? Or just like, relax.

Q: If you could bottle the scent of a favourite place/city/memory/moment what would it be and please describe the smell.

HEISEY: In 2014, I spent a very quiet fall living in Greenwich, in London, and there was a little park right beside my house that I had to walk through to get home from the subway. The smell of that park in October after some rain was perfect. Conveniently, in England it is always either raining, about to rain, or recently stopped raining. It was a really dinky little park behind a church in the middle of some row houses and no one was ever in it, so you could sit undisturbed and just sniff it up for hours.

Q: What scents/smells are overrated?

HEISEY: Not really a scent, but I’m very over people proudly stating that they “actually really love the smell of gasoline,” as though it makes them either engaging or unique. Get better gas station small talk!

Q: How do you feel about having a signature scent? Is it freeing or limiting?

HEISEY: I’d love to have a signature scent. I feel like people who have a signature scent really have their lives together. You know, “That’s Lola, she always smells of persimmon.” Cool.

book coverQ: What piece of fragrance advice or wisdom do you want to pass on to your kids/your friends/the next generation?

HEISEY: Less is more, and you will get shamed for wearing perfume to a scent-free workplace.

Q: How important is fragrance to your life, to your sense of style?

HEISEY: Lately it’s more and more important. I feel like a nice perfume is The Dude’s rug but for outfits: it really ties the room together.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better: A woman’s guide to coping with life, by Monica Heisey, $18,


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Alexandra Donaldson is the editorial assistant at The Whale & The Rose and a freelance writer and content creator. Although she recently took up yoga in an effort to be a healthy adult, she still binge-watches cartoons on a regular basis and dreams of running away to a cottage in the woods. She has yet to nail down her favourite perfume, but knows that it smells green, earthy and maybe a little bit spicy, but definitely not sweet.