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Long Time Coming

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I first heard of Chanel No. 5 at age 13, when I began to read YM, Seventeen, and Sassy. I was not born of high circumstance, and my sisters and I went to private schools my parents made sacrifices to send us to. These magazines, while entertaining enough to read, had very little in common with middle- and high-school life as I knew it. Chanel No. 5 was spoken of as the ultimate in preppy, popular, prom-going sophistication, something that they needn't advertise because any teenaged girl who was anybody already had it in her wardrobe. My modest upbringing and unspectacular appearance had automatically put me at a disadvantage.

I became instantly skeptical.

So much was this Chanel No. 5 mentioned that, as I walked through the local mall with my mom and sisters one Saturday, I ducked into the sterile, luxurious, heat-lamped atmosphere that was the Nordstrom makeup department. Undetected amidst the well-heeled and coiffed women bustling about the Chanel counter, I picked up the clear glass bottle and sniffed the atomizer.

And set it back down again, haughtily. This was what all the hubbub was about? I thought it was supposed to smell like flowers. I didn't know what that smell was, but I did know that there were a lot of people buying into a lot of hype. I became smug. I knew better. Those preppy magazine girls, whoever they were, didn't know anything.

Fast-forward through the rest of high school, and through my college years and early 20s where my tastes ran decidedly all over the board. Here we are, 16 years after I had first heard of Chanel No. 5, and I'm trying on a new hobby for size. Nicole Kidman is its spokesmodel, the Baz Luhrman ad has come and gone, and the Chanel name in general has gone from the height of sophistication to one worn by desperate starlets in an effort to appear something they are not. I see the perfume itself as a cultural juggernaut, now too readily available, much more about the image and the history than what it actually smells like, and still unworthy of the hype.

I walk into the Nordstrom makeup department I have since become familiar with and request a sample of Chanel No. 5. It deserves a wear, I think. But I am bound and determined not to like it. I wish I could try it blind, because I find it so hard to be objective about it. I try. I wear it out to my mom's house one day, after determining the headache that plagued me in the car was caused by this perfume (strike ONE!). Mom and I are doing housework and the stuff wears off after two and a half hours. She doesn't like it, anyway. (Strike TWO!!) I go home and reapply (those aldehydes hitting my skin are kind of nice) for my husband to smell when he comes home. He doesn't like it either, I knew he wouldn't, and now I think I smell Johnson&Johnson baby lotion. (Strike THREE!!! OUT!!!) I go to write my review and give that it wasn't really that bad, agree with the gal who speculated that its inception was the right place at the right time, and wrap up with a scathing remark that if it weren't for its surname, nobody would care. One of my first SotD posts was No. 5, where I again expressed my disdainful indifference towards it and decided I need not wear it again.

The curiosity this hobby awards led me to spritz on some Eau Premiere when I was in town earlier this week. The SA offered me a sample of the original. "No," I said. "I don't like it." She gave me a sample of Eau Premiere along with that which I had originally declined, saying I could layer them for the evening. I met my husband for lunch, awash in bright, sparkly, creamy flowers that I was beginning to fall for. I proffered my wrist for his judgment. He liked it, too, in fact, it was the most positive response my incessant sampling has elicited from him yet. It smells just like the original, to both of us, but without...the...aldehydes.

Wait a sec. I like aldehydes. In fact, they were my favorite part of No. 5 when I first tried it this winter. Why is it that I am almost instantly enamored of Eau Premiere but am in steadfast dislike of the original? I decide, since I have my new sample, that it is worth another wear. I suspect I have been too judgmental.

I spray myself with original Chanel No. 5 for work the next day. There are those sparkling aldehydes, mmmm. As I drive to work, I am once again awash in beautiful, creamy flowers, not quite as fresh but with the added sparkle and lushness of the aldehydes.

I get out of my car and begin the short walk in, and I feel a change come over me. I can't say what, exactly, or why, but those lovely, creamy, indescribable flowers are surrounding me like a perceivable aura, and I feel, to borrow from the lovely lady herself, exquisitely me.

I have decided I want a bottle of both. Eau Premiere because it is an increasing rarity that my husband and I agree positively on a fragrance. And original Chanel No. 5, just for me, because I have learned to listen not to hype, or to preconceived notions, but only to nose and skin.


  1. analavande's Avatar
    Very nice read. I too, have learned to listen 'only' to nose and skin.
  2. exquisitely me's Avatar
    Wonderful post, Sunnyfunny!! I've struggled so much with No.5... all the same reasons... isn't it fascinating the way this whole perfume experience can change our perceptions?! I'm always going back and challenging the "juggernauts" out there, because the cultural associations can tower over our own fragile experiences.

    But juice is juice. Its an insubstantial thing that can't hope to hold you, as glorious as you are. As we all are. Hugs for your happy moment of self-realization!

    And I'm thrilled you and your honey loved Eau Premiere! I'll have to give that one another sniff!
  3. Aiona's Avatar
    Tee hee! "Never say Never!" Cheers to you, Sunny! Now I feel like trying Eau Premiere!!! (I have a sample that ubu gave me that I've been reluctant to try for the very reasons you mentioned in the earlier part of your post!)


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