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sherapop

Perfumes, Persons, and Poems. Perfumes as Persons, Part I—counterpoint.

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[B][I]Oscar[/I] and I grew apart and eventually went our separate ways...[/B]

For years we were united as a solitary front, and nothing seemed capable of rending us asunder. But one day I woke up, gazed over at him lying next to me and thought to myself, “This just isn't working anymore.” I was no longer satisfied with what [I]Oscar[/I] was able to provide. It wasn't that he withdrew his affection from me. No, the problem, I felt, was that somehow he had not kept up the pace: [B]he [/B]had not evolved. He started to become, sad to say, like a broken record, like a bad lyric from a seventies pop song which I could not purge from my mind. What used to be endearing turns of phrase now seemed hackneyed and banal. The “knowing” gazes had become annoying in the extreme, like the sound of styrofoam rubbing against styrofoam or fingernails dragged across slate.

What had drawn me to [I]Oscar[/I] in the beginning was the novelty and excitement, the richness and glamour that seemed to envelop us in a golden glow whenever I was at his side. But now, suddenly, everything had changed. Somehow [I]Oscar [/I]had lost his luster. He was growing older, it is true. But so was I, and as time went by, he slowly transformed from desirable to cloying, clinging to me like a vine. Snapping at me, it seemed at times, like a Venus fly-trap, at the slightest provocation. Irritating me with his predictable tics and histrionic mannerisms. The sparkle of the freshly poured champagne which our relationship once was had evaporated entirely away, leaving flat, warm, stale, urine-colored liquid in a glass abandoned by a drunken guest who passed out on the deck.

I had traveled many paths in many different directions over the years since our initial tryst, and each individual experience of mine had changed the person who I was. Yes, there was a continuous thread running through my life, and I cannot say that I had not retained any of my former self—surely some of my cells were the same—yet, it was nonetheless true that who I was, the referent of my name, had gained new perspectives, ideas, and beliefs. [I]Oscar[/I] remained ever faithful to me, through thick and thin, in health and in sickness, right up to the bitter end. And it was, at least to him, of that you may rest assured.

I had loved him so, and at times promised to be with him and him alone forever, that I would never, ever abandon him. But as the adage—or is it platitude?—goes, [B]“Never say [I]never[/I].”[/B] The problem with such promises—“'Til death do we part,” “I will love you forever,” “I love you more than life itself,” the list goes on and on—is precisely the problem with the oath witnesses are required to make before testifying in a court of law, their hand hovering hypocritically over the Holy bible: “I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” The whole truth, of course, could only be uttered by God Himself, and so with the recitation of this oath, all bets are now off, as the witness has committed, at best, the ultimate act of blasphemy. But wait, there's more: the witness has also effectively perjured himself—whether wittingly or not, and I presume that in the vast majority of cases the person has not actually lied, though what he has said is also not true, even if he happens to believe that the word 'God' is not a surd, and the book over which his hand hovers is not filled with fairy tales. But I digress...

When we promise unerring devotion to someone like [I]Oscar[/I], we are who we are when we make that pledge. Later, we become someone else. Yes, we are the person who spoke those words, but later on down the line, they may no longer seem binding at all. For now we know more, much more than we did, and had we not been gripped by our ignorance of what we now know, we would never have uttered—or sputtered—those words!

What was it, then, that ultimately drove us apart? What was the wedge? What melted the blissful bond between us? Although it may sound mean to confess, I just felt that [I]Oscar[/I] had become predictable and hum-drum. He wasn't a bum, squatting in my apartment while I paid the bills, leaving piles of dry pasta-encrusted dishes in the sink, half-empty cans of old beer in the living room, and stinky laundry on the floor. No, he always did his fair share, fully prepared to pull his own weight. But slowly, over time, he began to grate on my nerves. Where I used to see a regal, roaring lion, I now saw a scraggly, whimpering dog.

His doting devotion began to suffocate me to the point where I devised pretexts allowing me to avoid encounters with him. At some point, and this was perhaps the beginning of the end, I began explicitly to lie. No, I'd pretend, I could not go out tonight. A paper, some reading, a headache, even a hospitalized friend who needed my help—the excuses became more frequent and more creative in direct proportion to my feeling of desperation to escape from the trap that [I]Oscar[/I] had become, the ball and the chain, the shackles holding me back, the prison, yes, of my own creation, but a prison all the same. I was gasping for breath, screaming in my mind “Give me some air!” not at all unlike the Susan Hayward character in the Robert Wise film [I]I want to live![/I] (1958), based on the true story of a woman framed for a murder and awaiting on death row her unjust execution. I had never bargained for this, and yet here I was, latched to [I]Oscar[/I], who would not release his tenacious clasp as I struggled to break away. I had embarked upon a journey toward self-actualization, while he remained the same, in what began to seem like an ever-more stagnant state.

Truth be told, I've left many a suitor in my wake: [I]Oscar[/I] was my first love, but he was certainly not the last to be left in the dust kicked up by my spinning wheels. The ranks of those who once wooed me have swelled by now to the point where [I]Oscar[/I] himself may no longer mind that I pay him no heed. [I]Femme fatale[/I]? Not likely to be [I]Oscar[/I]'s view of the matter. Try: “shameless hussy” or “treacherous tramp”. What did [I]Oscar[/I] and the many others littering the path I've traveled down ever do to me? In a word: [I]nothing[/I]. They never did anything wrong to me at all. They had remained the same, ever faithful, but somehow fell out of my favor, not because they had changed, but because I, in contrast, had.

So, you see, the story reads quite differently, told from the other side. Some perfumes exhibit a remarkable stability, are never reformulated and never go stale, but still they become mere memory traces, no less than our most beloved discontinued vintage perfumes, which cannot, it seems, be resuscitated even by an act of God (or reasonable facsimile). Meanwhile, adding insult to injury, cheap imposters carry forward their names. But in the case of the perfumes abandoned in the back of my armoire, there is no one to blame. We may retain fond memories of what our love once was, but now that the love is gone, [I]Oscar[/I], too, has become a part of the past, yet a chapter in my personal history of perfume.



(next up: [B]Perfumes as Poems, Part I[/B]...)
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Comments

  1. ts brock's Avatar
    I think we need a deconstructionist for this one...
  2. awesomeness's Avatar
    What I am enjoying about your posts, sherapop, is that it highlights our relationship with perfume ... plural or singular ... and our relationships through perfume. And although it's been a while since I've been over at the other place and read your profile, I do remember (I hope I remember correctly) that Oscar had been a gift from a beau ...

    So somehow I see 2 relationships in this post, whether you intended it or not.
  3. awesomeness's Avatar
    Well, sherapop, you inspired me. I started thinking about my relationship with fragrance(s) ... I wrote it up for a review, but it will take forever to get posted. So, here it is ...

    ----------

    I have been unabashed in my adoration of Lady Stetson. Perhaps it's my stubbornness.
    You see, I had a heiress as a friend in graduate school. Money meant nothing to her. But as a working class kid of even more modest means as a young adult, it meant everything to me. Making ends meet until the end of the month was my biggest challenge. But that may or may not be the point.

    One Christmas my heiress friend asked her two gal pals (me & another gal, whose name escapes me) what fragrance she could bestow on them. "Chanel Number 5," my one friend squealed. "Lady Stetson," I said. "Just Lady Stetson." For I honestly knew not what to say. A working class kid being asked to name a gift, any gift, with the implication that money was no object.

    My beau had bought me Estee Lauder Beautiful, and I hated it, just hated it. Exclamation was my perfume of choice at the time, I think. And before that, Vanderbilt and Oleg Cassini and Enjoli and Charlie. My perfumes were restricted to Walgreens ... on sale. And so was my choice as restricted - Lady Stetson - as I think I had seen it advertised recently for the holidays. It seemed right up my alley.

    And a few days before Christmas, the heiress had us over, for treats and cocktails. And there waiting for us were two department store, ribbon-tied boxes, from Marshall Fields no less. My friend, squealed again, and opened her Chanel Number 5. The heiress handed me my package, perhaps with the biggest gift-giving smile I had ever seen. I wondered, had she possibly given me Chanel too? And as I opened it, there was exactly what I had wanted ... Lady Stetson, in all its mass market glory. She leaned over, and said, "I had them give me an extra box." You see, Lady Stetson was not at the department store. The heiress had to make a trip to Kmart. We have been friends ever since.

    No, the Lady is not Chanel 22. She was never meant to be. She captured the imagination of young American women, and I was one of them. But I think I will always remember the Lady for what she is to me ... something I rarely got as a working class kid growing up ... exactly what I wanted at Christmas.
    Updated 16th October 2011 at 04:55 AM by awesomeness
  4. sherapop's Avatar
    [QUOTE=awesomeness;bt5945]What I am enjoying about your posts, sherapop, is that it highlights our relationship with perfume ... plural or singular ... and our relationships through perfume. And although it's been a while since I've been over at the other place and read your profile, I do remember (I hope I remember correctly) that Oscar had been a gift from a beau ...

    So somehow I see 2 relationships in this post, whether you intended it or not.[/QUOTE]

    Mind like a steel trap, [B][COLOR="magenta"]awesomeness[/COLOR][/B] (living up to your name, as usual)! Yes, indeed, your memory serves you well: [I]Oscar [/I]was a gift from a beau (he hated the perfume which I had been wearing at the time). Especially interesting, though, is that my relationship with the perfume ([I]Oscar[/I]) lasted far longer than my relationship with the person who gave me the perfume! Nonetheless, you raise a fascinating psychoanalytic possibility with your searching question, which ultimately in fact leads me to reflect upon the person (another beau) who caused me to drop [I]Oscar[/I] and later (upon the rupture of that relationship), seems to have caused (at least in some sense, to some extent...) my full-fledged perfume OCD!!!! :rolleyesold:

    Somewhat unbelievably, it was actually a religious difference which caused the rift between me and the person who introduced me to [I]Oscar[/I], which became my signature scent (in a quasi-religious way...) for a number of years. It was also (in part) a religious difference which led to the second rupture as well!!! I'm so glad that you pointed all of this out to me. You are right: the story is so much more complex than I myself recognized in writing the above text...

    [COLOR="blue"][B]THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!![/B][/COLOR]

    (Apologies to any confused readers for the admittedly cryptic content of this response! )
  5. sherapop's Avatar
    [QUOTE=awesomeness;bt5947]Well,[B] sherapop[/B], you inspired me. I started thinking about my relationship with fragrance(s) ... I wrote it up for a review, but it will take forever to get posted. So, here it is ...

    ----------

    I have been unabashed in my adoration of Lady Stetson. Perhaps it's my stubbornness.
    You see, I had a heiress as a friend in graduate school. Money meant nothing to her. But as a working class kid of even more modest means as a young adult, it meant everything to me. Making ends meet until the end of the month was my biggest challenge. But that may or may not be the point.

    One Christmas my heiress friend asked her two gal pals (me & another gal, whose name escapes me) what fragrance she could bestow on them. "Chanel Number 5," my one friend squealed. "Lady Stetson," I said. "Just Lady Stetson." For I honestly knew not what to say. A working class kid being asked to name a gift, any gift, with the implication that money was no object.

    My beau had bought me Estee Lauder Beautiful, and I hated it, just hated it. Exclamation was my perfume of choice at the time, I think. And before that, Vanderbilt and Oleg Cassini and Enjoli and Charlie. My perfumes were restricted to Walgreens ... on sale. And so was my choice as restricted - Lady Stetson - as I think I had seen it advertised recently for the holidays. It seemed right up my alley.

    And a few days before Christmas, the heiress had us over, for treats and cocktails. And there waiting for us were two department store, ribbon-tied boxes, from Marshall Fields no less. My friend, squealed again, and opened her Chanel Number 5. The heiress handed me my package, perhaps with the biggest gift-giving smile I had ever seen. I wondered, had she possibly given me Chanel too? And as I opened it, there was exactly what I had wanted ... Lady Stetson, in all its mass market glory. She leaned over, and said, "I had them give me an extra box." You see, Lady Stetson was not at the department store. The heiress had to make a trip to Kmart. We have been friends ever since.

    No, the Lady is not Chanel 22. She was never meant to be. She captured the imagination of young American women, and I was one of them. But I think I will always remember the Lady for what she is to me ... something I rarely got as a working class kid growing up ... exactly what I wanted at Christmas.[/QUOTE]

    Great story, [B][COLOR="darkorchid"]awesomeness[/COLOR][/B]! Thank you so much for sharing your touching tale. Your anecdote illustrates, again, how our relationships with perfumes dovetail with our relationships with human beings. Perfumes enrich people, but people also enrich perfumes by providing meaningful contexts for such exchanges...

    How nice also to discover that you had the wherewithal to [B]hate[/B] "America's #1 perfume"! Now that's what I call [COLOR="darkorchid"][B]BEAUTIFUL[/B][/COLOR]! My own (rather cynical...) take on the ridiculous success of that EL creation is that many, many American women know zip about perfume. So they ask at their local department store, "What should I wear for my wedding?" The reply, "More women wear BEAUTIFUL than any other perfume!" naturally perpetuates the success of the perfume. In my view, women buy BEAUTIFUL because they seek the advice of people who tell them what other people like. In reality, many of them "like" it only because they've been told that others do and, not knowing any better, they figure that they'd better too!!:evil:



Loving perfume on the Internet since 2000