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Portland, OR

I exist to help dads learn to communicate and engage with their young adult daughters.  I provide resources from my vast amounts of research and experience with dads and daughters, and this is the place where you'll find the tools you need to become the hero you've always wanted to be.


Perfume, Pottery, Painting & Powell's

Michelle Watson

For those of you who have been reading my blog for the past couple of years, you already know that one of my favorite days of the year is affectionately called, “Perfume Day!” And for those of you dads who are new to this conversation, I’m excited to share more about why this event is one that’s worth turning into a tradition with your daughter, no matter her age.

Perfume Day is now an annual tradition in the Watson family, one that my father invented when he was challenged 25 years ago to think about how to be a better dad to his girls. He tells the story of going home and asking himself, “What do girls need to feel special? I think they like to smell good!” 

And from that, Perfume Day was born. 

Each year on December 23rd or 24th, my dad takes me to lunch in downtown Portland, followed with a trip to Nordstrom. Once there, my dad finds a comfy place to be seated in the perfume department, and then we begin the calculated process of diligently smelling our way through the maze of invigorating aromas while together choosing just the right perfume…for me! My dad has all the patience in the world as we narrow the selection, beginning with our top contenders and finally landing on that one perfect scent. And, of course, the day wouldn’t be complete without taking an insane number of photos, which always garners the attention of female clerks who chime in by saying they wish their dads would do this for them.

The reality is that this tradition not only yields dividends far greater than the perfume in the bottle, but it lasts far longer than the money that leaves my dad’s wallet.

Imagine with me what it would be like to start this tradition with your daughter as you, Dad, bring this kind of memory-making, just-about-YOU-and-HER event into your Christmas season.

Now time to switch gears. Rather than tackle this theme single-handedly, I’ve enlisted the help of a few friends who’ve been happily willing to share their stories in a Q & A format. I trust you’ll enjoy hearing from other dads and daughters
who are now in the “Perfume Day Club,” starting with my own dad, Jim. 

1. Jim Watson:

In one sentence, what does Perfume Day mean to you? “It’s always a special bonding time at the holiday season which includes lunch and tons of pictures.”

What stands out to you as special in our tradition? “Just watching the interaction with you and the sales people and before long there are two or three involved in the process and I get to be a part of it and enjoy.
What would you tell other dads who are reluctant to do this event with their girls? It’s not about the cost or the frivolity perhaps that some would think. It’s about the event where you do something special with your daughter and regardless of the expense, you will derive far more not only that day but throughout the year as your daughter knows that you love and care for her. And every time she puts on a spritz, that’s the reminder that she is loved much.”

But I don’t want you just to take mine or my dad’s word for it. Now I’m going to share some stories from other dads and daughters who have done Perfume Day. Notice how many of them use the words like “fun” and “excited” to describe what it’s like for them!

2. Maddie (age 15) and dad, Steve:
“Maddie and I enjoyed our first Perfume Day on Christmas Eve in 2013 and we’ve done it every Christmas Eve since. It’s part of our rhythm now and so much fun. At first, she was all, ‘that's weird.’  But then she said, ‘Dad, I'd really like to do that’...and so we did. I think she was shocked that it didn't matter what it cost - $59 for a sense of value beyond a sticker price seems like a good value. Why wouldn't any father do that? I suppose many do; it grieves me that many don't.” 

“The first time we did Perfume Day was when I was in 7th grade and I thought it was pretty weird. It felt weird to go to Kohl’s and sniff all the perfumes and take a picture. I hated the picture part especially. It felt weird to get perfume since I had never had any before and my mom never wears it. BUT... I now look
forward to it and I get excited to go with him. I still don't like the picture part as much but I don't mind it. I like going to lunch and getting my mom’s gifts with him without my brother. It's always quality bonding time and I have a lot of fun with him. 

I'm looking forward to this year since I'm not sure which perfume I'll get and I'm excited to spend that little date time with him. I love doing it each year; it feels like it's ‘our’ thing. It's totally worth it--the time and the money. I wouldn't even care if I didn't get the perfume. I just enjoy being with him and knowing it will for sure happen each Christmas time.

What would you tell other dads who are reluctant to do this event with their girls? “I think my dad would say it's ‘money well spent’ though I'm not sure it always is since in past years I haven't even finished the bottle of perfume. But it is money well spent and time well spent. I'd recommend every dad to do this with his daughter even if it wasn't for perfume. If my dad took me every year on one specific day for donuts and coffee, I would get excited.

3. Danielle (age 25), Stephanie (age 33) and dad, Mark:   

“Every year just after Thanksgiving both of my daughters start asking me in earnest if I have any 'funny money' set aside for our perfume date and to come up with a few dates to choose from so we can hang out and pick out that perfect perfume for them. Oh, and they have as much fun picking out a new cologne for me too. 

Our tradition includes grabbing dinner too, a great time to just hang out and talk. It truly has become the most anticipated event of the year.

What would you tell other dads? My council to any dad is that this intentional investment of time will be one of the best opportunities to create those Abba moments they will look back on and cherish and more importantly, your daughters will.

My dad and I started doing Perfume Day four or five Christmases ago! I think it's really fun and special to do this type of date with my daddy and my sister. 

It's an amazing feeling knowing that my dad wants to take time out of his busy schedule not only to spend time with his two baby girls, but to also spoil us in the process. While his time alone would be enough for us, what girl doesn't like to be spoiled with some amazing smelling perfume?!” 

“As far as its impact, it's pretty special because being married now I don't see my dad as much or get to do fun things like this with him. Usually, now I do everything with my husband. So, having this special thing we do together (especially over the holidays when everything is so festive) is something I look forward to every year. It's fun to spend time with my sister and him alone. I've actually been looking to our perfume date this year for awhile now! Plus, it's awesome to go home with a new bottle of perfume every year ;).

What would you tell other dads who aren’t sure they want to spend the money or take the time to treat their daughters to perfume and a date like you do with your dad? I would ask them what is more important than investing in their daughter emotionally, or financially? My dad has invested more than just this way, but every time I look at my perfume and put it on I remember where it came from and the amazing time we had shopping for it. 

While sometimes finances may be tight, or you just don't feel like spending that much, the memories will last a lifetime, and it's something that can be passed down to your daughter’s husband and their little girl. It's worth it. Invest the time, invest the money. 

4. Jim (a grandfather):

“My granddaughter, Rayna, is in Germany now, as her dad is in the Air Force, but I did Perfume Day with her the year that they lived Spokane. I remember the lady at the counter was so helpful and made her feel so grown up, even though she was only six at the time. We made a day of it starting with lunch and then off to Macy's. 

Those type of things built our relationship, which is good since she is not my biological granddaughter. She is now twelve and FaceTime's me almost daily from Germany, sharing her struggles with me. That day is still a special day for me, kind of like my first day hunting with my son (I am not a hunter, but it was something my son wanted to do). The Perfume Day set the tone for where we are today. Thank you for sharing this with me because I would have never come up with it on my own.”

Before I sign off, I want to give a few alternate ideas to those dads whose daughters may not like perfume:

Perhaps you might want to start an annual tradition of painting on a plate or bowl at a “Decorate-Your-Own-Pottery” store. The way it works is that you paint it one day, have it fired in a kiln the next (they do this for you), and then you pick it up a few days later. The staff will help you start-to-finish so you don’t have to be a seasoned artist to create an awesome masterpiece. Step out of your comfort zone and try something new!
Or you might want to follow Nate’s idea of taking his daughter Maddie to an art studio that caters to the novice painter while each participant is systematically walked through the process from beginning to end, thus making it super easy. Each of them went home with a finished painting in their hands, making the experience a huge success! Just to give you an idea of what these places are called, in my area we have Vine Gogh and Wine & Canvas.

I’ve got one more creative alternative for you: Your daughter may prefer books to perfume. That’s the reality for my Abba Project co-leader, Clay Swanson, with one of his three daughters. So their tradition includes going to our largest bookstore in Portland, Powell’s City of Books, where he lets her get as many books as she wants, adding that he “gets to know more about her as we tour the shelves and talk about book series.” 

Clay sums it well when he says, "What a joy to have a tradition that means so much to my girls no matter the age!”

Dad, today you’ve heard how we as girls feel super valued when our dads invest in us in these extra, over-the-top, even unnecessary and extravagant ways. So this year, whether it’s perfume, pottery, painting, or Powell’s Books (or a bookstore in your local area), the important thing is the tradition and the planning, as well as the fact that you’re willing to spend money on your daughter while spending quality time with her. 

So Dads…gear up and choose your event---the one that will be your tangible way of expressing love to your daughter in an extra special, fun way this Christmas season. She’ll never forget it…and neither will you!

(As always, I’d love to see pictures and hear all about it! Write me at

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year, to each of you. I’ll see you back here in 2017!