“Mmm…smells like Allison,” is not the most desired greeting when a friend enters your dorm room, especially when you go to great pains to cultivate an odor-free room.
But sure enough, my friend, a former Allison resident, informed me that my room was filled with that distinct, pervasive Allison smell: a touch of cheese mixed with wet towel. I tried everything to rid myself of this unfortunate problem. To my dismay, Oust didn’t work, Febreze was a no-go and a Glade plug-in resulted in a $3.99 migraine. Only perusal of the latest Elle Decor yielded a viable solution: scented candles.
Unfortunately, the university forbids lighting said candles under any circumstances. Northwestern students who have endured the mandatory fire safety orientation programs know that dorm fires never end well.
Although I never would be able to light my candle, I went off in search of the strongest smelling one I could find. At least I could pretend it was burning. The scent had to be masculine (read: no florals), trans-seasonal (read: no pinecone or Christmas spice) and simply packaged (read: no ribbons or unnecessary frills). I immediately took to the streets of Evanston to see what options Sherman Avenue and its offshoots might provide.
My first stop was CVS, which, tucked behind the hosiery and across from the eyelash curlers, boasts a surprisingly ample shelf of candles. A brand called Candle-lite offers scents like Creamy Vanilla, Tropical Fruit Medley, and Ocean Blue Mist, with a doable $7.99 price point to boot. However, with names like these, one might conclude that they are the candle equivalent of Bonne Bell Lip Smackers (also conveniently sold at CVS), and who wants their room to smell like junior high?
More grown-up offerings with equally baroque smells were available from Essential Elements. Though scents like Lavender-Cedarwood didn’t do anything for this shopper, the brand does offer three-pack votive candles for placement around the room. CVS has plenty of options for those less discriminate about their scents and is an easy place to pick up candles along with life’s other necessities.
Next up was Urban Outfitters. One might assume that this college megastore would have candles lurking amongst the plaid shirts, sequined tops, and sex dice, but surprisingly, there were none to be found. Urban Outfitters does carry the requisite candle accessories — reasonably priced candle holders and small plates to support freestanding candles. However, I don’t recommend allowing a candle to stand by itself on a surface without some sort of glass container, unless you’re going for the voodoo look.
Visits to Evanston’s Whole Foods and World Market stores turned up holiday-oriented candles. Silver Lace Pillar or Spice Ornament candles aren’t my thing, but for the festivity-obsessed, you now know where to go.
I jumped on the El and headed into the city in a last-ditch effort to find a candle. A trip to Barney’s on Oak Street finally brought me to the candle of my dreams. Among the pricier offerings, I found a candle called “Feu du Bois,” French for firewood, from the brand Dyptique. It was woodsy, but not too harsh, unobtrusively packaged, and possibly one of the most frivolous purchases I have ever made at a whopping $60.
Once the proper candle has been procured, placing it within the dorm room is a little tricky. There are no mantelpieces or coffee tables, and somehow a candle doesn’t look so cute next to that Theories of Persuasion book on your desk. I suggest putting it on your windowsill for a homier look.
The ultimate instant-chic solution, however, is to put the candle on the school-issued dresser, in front of the mirror. The reflective surface of the mirror adds depth, and the candle’s location elevates the mundane nature of surrounding objects like toothpaste and hand lotion. Add a postcard or a small picture along the mirror to create a tableau, and voila, your single in Plex no longer smells like a cell in Azkaban — or worse, Allison.