Wednesday, September 1, 2010

all scents are not created equal

Growing up I remember jumping up onto the front seat of the car and shutting the door as we headed off to Sunday morning service. Within a matter of seconds after pulling the heavy minivan door shut, a thick layer of my mother’s Ciara perfume crept across the steering wheel, meeting me square in the face. The overwhelming scent was suffocating. Blocking my airways and giving me a massive headache. Rapidly rolling the window down, I’d stick my head out the window, searching for the scent of fresh air. Every Sunday I’m sure the man mowing the lawn around the corner saw me, similar to a dog, sniffing for air.

My mom wasn’t the only person who had an overwhelming love for her perfume. I’m pretty sure she learned from her mother. You don’t know what Interlude really smells like until you’re trapped, driving at 30 miles an hour down the freeway, windows rolled up, on the hour ride from San Jose to Tracey.

And still, there were the girls that start wearing make-up at 14, hung a mirror in their locker, always have a can of Aquanet hairspray handy, and freshened-up with Bath and Body Works fruit body splash right before they'd slide into their seat in biology class. These are the same ladies that grew up, and freshened-up with frequent sprays of Pink by Victoria Secret before their communications course in college. The scent sticks with them -- that misty, musky, funky smell. (My husband is standing over me saying, “stripper, it smells like stripper.” I’m not going to ask how he knows what a stripper smells like.) Enough said.

Needless to say, I was never going to wear perfume. I hated it. Note here the word "hated", as in past tense.

Recently my grandmother handed me a small bottle of Balenciaga Eau de Parfum. Of course, she wears Interlude, so she had no use for it. I figured is sounded cool, I mean it was Balenciaga right, so I would give it a try. I started with a dab on my wrist, and within days I was wearing it on my neck. Not bad I thought; after a few days I was getting used to the smell. It was good, but not perfect. With the possibility of a tolerable, perhaps pleasurable perfume out there, the quest was on. I did some research, a quick 1-2-3 tutorial on what makes perfume, well perfume. No matter what I read, what I kept coming back to was Chanel.

This is getting long, so I’ll get to the point. . . I love Chanel No. 5. No, it’s not a hip Marc Jacobs Daisy, it’s not a Gwyneth Paltrow frolicking with flowers and baby lambs in Pleasure, and it’s certainly not sexy Scarlett Johansson The One by Dolce and Gabbana. It’s better.

Chanel No. 5 subtle, sophisticated, refined -- just like a lady should be. Perhaps a little old for a 26 year-old, but certainly something every woman can grow into. It’s not what you wear, but how you wear it, right? Perhaps the age-old saying applies to scents, just as much as it applies skirts, scarves, and so forth.


Insomnia said...

My mother is a lover of heavy, "headache" smells. Growing up I used to spray her Poison from Dior or YSL's Opium and regret it the same second. My grandmother used even harder perfumes.

I never liked that kind of heaavy perfumes. I'm much more softer...
Chanel no.5 is not for me either, I prefer Coco Mademoiselle. But maybe I'll grow into it, as I'm only 22.

medis said...

lately i have discovered Andy Tauer perfumes, and his Vetiver Dance, and Une Rose Chypree - they are a bit heavy, but embraces with such naturality - amazing! well, Andy Tauer is a true naturalist, using mostly the natural ingredients.

what i really hate is meeting the same perfumes in the street or anywhere in general. yeh, i know that every perfume surely reacts differently to every person, but it still gathers the identity, that is quickly recognized. so i look for my scents very carefully as i know that this is how i stamp myself in the other people´s memories, as well as i stamp memories with that smell for myself.

C D said...

White Shoulders was my mother's perfume of choice while I was growing up... a boyfriend of hers in college always gave her Chanel, which I also loved.

Your grandfather's sister (my nana) always wore Estee Lauder -- I think it was Youth Dew. When I was in high school I wore the same perfume (can't remember the name now), and when I smell it now it always takes me back.

Smells and music... such a fabulous way to remember various random and yet specific times in our lives... and of course, random and specific people, too.


Anonymous said...

This is what my mom wears. love it.

josephine said...

I loved this story! My grandmother was a big fan of perfume. We shared a room growing up, so for me perfume is always linked to my memories of her. For years, I described myself as "not much of a perfume person," but now of course, if you open my nightstand, I've got a little collection going. I even have a bottle of Chanel No. 5 that my grandmother bought. For some reason, I'm reluctant to open it. It still has its plastic wrap around the box.

Do you ever visit Lucky Scent? I like how they seek out hard-to-find fragrances.

Joanna said...

Welcome to the (perfume) dark side. Happy to have you! I adore perfume; it's always the people who don't understand that a little goes a long way that ruins the experience for others. Perfume can be so evocative of memories past and can be like little journeys unto themselves, the way they change and unfurl on the skin. You've chosen a classic. Enjoy it!

P.S. You are never too young to wear Chanel No. 5! Unless, perhaps, you're 8.

Compensation said...

i have already finished my Chanel collection. now i need a break

kaye said...

Maybe it depend on the person . some may like it some dont ..

Bianca said...

i love that this is not a floral scent. I guess it also has to do with your body chemistry. I always get complements when i wear no. 5.
and ....
"A woman must smell like a woman, and not a rose." Coco Chanel