Scented milestones

In As You Like It (one of my favourites, just for the pure gender play frolics of Rosalind as Ganymede), Jacques famously talks of the seven ages of man, in his standard less-than-chirpy terms, the great big sulky drawers. 400 years ago, people’s lives were a lot shorter, and Jacques has men (and it’s avowedly men, folks – no women to be seen) leaping from adolescent love-mooning, to the passion of young adulthood, to a contented and girth expanding middle-age. In modern terms, I’m not sure where the ages fit, though I guess by now I’ve had between three and four of mine. That is, I’ve definitely been a child, an adolescent and a young man. I’m assuming I’m on the cusp of middle age, even though I’m pretty sure I’m right in it, in reality… A smell the coffee moment? Now, strangely, there are three scents which mark out the first three stages of my life, though my ‘fume promiscuity means that no marker exists from now on. So, I know you’re gagging to know. In fact, I hear some of you cry out, ‘So, what are they already?’ Okay, okay, hold your horses…

At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;

First scent memory of any note is my grandfather’s Old Spice. My grandparents had a vanity unit in their bathroom; we didn’t. There wasn’t much in it – some cotton wool, a few prescription medicines, always a brown glass bottle of hydrogen peroxide, white label, old fashioned even in the seventies. I’d sniff it and get that funny hair salon sensation up my nose. But the prize for me was the Old Spice bottle. I would hold the cold bottle as though it was precious porcelain, reimagine the strains of Carmina Burana and the iconic surfer as I lifted the stopper and inhaled that sweetly spiced powdery goodness. My grandfather was a long way from a surfer dude (just as the model in the old ad was too, I now know) yet for the pre-teen me, there was something immeasurably, ineffably, hopelessly cool about this bottled magic. It’s a scent I still adore as much as any niche fancypants work of ‘art’. Good ole mass market genius. The best of the best. Just like my much loved, and much missed, grandpa.

Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.

At university, I attempted nerd chic. I bought old suits, wore them rolled up on the legs, above thrift store desert boots. Collarless Edwardian dress shirts, though I never quite got the nerve for the little round collars themselves. My glasses were some new graphite carbonised something or the other. And I was reading several books a week, smoking lots, partying, and generally thinking that no-one as witty or as wonderful as me had existed, really, except for maybe a few of my friends. In moments of doubt, I’d wrap my large camel duffle coat around me (second hand was the done thing, of course) and spray on some more Fahrenheit, confidence restorer that it was. Fahrenheit. The ghost of myself, arrogant young man, a performer without the worries of his allotted time on the stage, an aesthete without an understanding of the cost of aesthetics, a ponce, a frightened child, socially clueless, surviving on guile and a modicum of charm. We all know that feeling… The smell brings these things all back, and yet somehow it’s still wonderful. At times, I don’t like the carapace I wore in my undergraduate folly. I like the man hiding within – he’s a good guy, y’know. He was just too shy to show himself back then. But the carapace that is the startling, and over-familiar, green gasoline and honeysuckle jolt of Fahrenheit, well, that I’ll always love.

And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow.

My friend Sarah left for Paris as soon as she got her degree, and she’s lived there ever since, now works at the Sorbonne, and is raising two lovely kids with her Basque partner. I still make sporadic visits, but in my twenties, I seemed to be there a lot. She lived on the top floor of an old apartment block in the ‘less fashionable’ end of the Marais, on Rue Vieille du Temple. there were still old-fashioned shops around then – cobblers and keycutters, corner bakers. They’re mainly fancy boutiques now. Whenever Sarah came down her never-ending flights of stairs, the Portuguese housekeeper (oh, Parisian cliches!) would be out in flailings of floral dresses, tabards and dyed black hair, to remonstrate her for some misdemeanour or the other. Sometimes, where she’d stored her bike. Most often, playing music too loudly. We’d listen to rai, Natacha Atlas, and occasionally George Michael. We’d sit on the Ile St. Louis and watch the world and her lover go by. I’d miss Matt, who rarely accompanied me on such jaunts. I guess I’d sigh. Back at the apartment, I’d bathe, and use one of Sarah’s bath oils, scented markers of my times in Paris. My favourite was a Guerlain, but I didn’t really pay attention back then. One day, in my early thirties, I sniffed it once more. It was Eau de Guerlain, and of course I now have the perfume, though not the bath oil (it might have been bubble bath, but that sounds wrong for an epiphany, donchathink?). It’s a citrus begamot herbal eau de cologne, nothing more, nothing less, but the best of its kind. Like youth, it doesn’t last. But unlike youth, you can go back for more whenever you fancy. And that’s some comfort. If I need it. I rarely do.

So tell me. Three scents that are time markers for you in one way or another, fancy as you like or totally dime-to-the-dozen. We’re not proud here.

Georgian illustrations of Jacques’ speech come from

116 Comments

  1. hmmmmm avon soft musk for preteen early teen years. it made the boys come running and I sooo wanted to be the one the boys came running after plus, then I was all into where perfume came from. Soft musk came in a roll on and the, um fluid, looked like what “musk” actually was, even though it was most assuredly synthetic.
    Next came coco mademoiselle. I smelled it an fell in love it was my signature for most of my twenties. I reviewed it on my perfumequeen.wordpress.com for specifics.
    Now, as a 28 year old married mom of one, I’ve been flying through the wonderful world of perfume, experiencing everything. I’ve kind of narrowed it down to new Femme, because DH loves the cuminy armpit, Hermes Eau de Merveilles, because I love it’s sensuality and DelRae’s Amoureuse because it’s just gorgeous. I think the next stage of my life is just begining and I am auditioning perfumes for the course.

    Lee your box will be sent this week, I’ve been looking for something to no avail and have made new plans.

    • Oh no worries on the box front thing. Did the fume arrive yet?

      Thanks for the memories (he crooned)!

  2. oh,

    PS my pappy wore Old Spice too and smelling it makes me think of him and my grandmother’s home. I love the smell and love to buy the deoderant to wear from time to time. I think smelling a man’s cologne/aftershave/deoderant on a woman is pretty hot

    • Y’know, I’m sure I read something once about Old spice being originally intended for women – whether that was the name only, or the product it’s now attached to, I dunno…

      • According to Wikipedia, Old Spice for women was introduced in 1937, and Old Spice for men in 1938. I don’t ever remember seeing the women’s version, and have to wonder what it was like?

  3. Ah…I remember Old Spice in my brother’s stockings every Christmas as a young girl. At the time I was wearing something cheap, nameless, and Lemony. If not that, then Bonnie Bell’s Skin Musk. I also remember Muguet de Bois in my later teens.

    My early twenties were marked most notably by Niki de Saint Phalle. My hubby (before he was my hubby, and suffering from left-brain overuse) remarked romantically how I left the scent on his pillows. That was enough positive reinforcement to encourage abundant wearing for years. I’ve recently rediscovered it too, and love it just as much. Must have the parfum though.

    From then until just recently, fragrance was not a focus. You know…family, career, lack of money and time. My perfumes were mainstream, and not very interesting. Ohh…but now I get to make up for some of those lost years…yep…fragrance drawers are full and creaking, thankyouverymuch.

    Love those flash-backs!

    • You were sophisticated in your 20s, eh?

      I know the creaking drawers….

  4. Wonderful post Lee. I love the illustrations, too.
    Infancy: Nivea cream. Nothing like it. One of my grandmothers loved the smell of violets and always had violet hand cream. The other loved Shalimar. (I grew up with a lot of grandmas and great-grandmas and great-aunts and a lot of big sparkly brooches and earrings and soft powdery smells and hugs and flowered dresses… Lucky me!)

    Adolescence: My roommate’s Jean Nate’ in freshman year of college. Somehow it smelled so sophisticated back then…

    Young adulthood/Young love: I somehow got onto Chanel #22…I think because “Chanel” spoke of elegance to me but I wanted something more unusual than #5, and my violet-loving grandmother also claimed Chanel #19. Still love it (#22) but haven’t owned it or worn it for aeons. I should get some. 🙂

    • The illustrations are great, aren’t they? I love the smell of Nivea Cream, but my equivalent was Palmer’s Cocoa Butter, my Jamaican step-dad’s be-all-and-end-all of skin care…

  5. Ohhhh, what a great story and the pictures are perfect! First fragrance that I fell deeply in love with, spent all my money on, and hid so my mom wouldn’t find it and confiscate it: L’heure Bleu. My best friend laughed and said that boys really liked “Wind Song,” and I’d never get a boyfriend smelling “cheap” and French. My mom ws French. I ditched the friend.

    Next big moment–after college, hugely pregnant, couldn’t be without perfume, couldn’t stand to smell it. Wore “Blue Grass” by Elizabeth Arden. They had some sort of “tonic” splash that made my waddling through the infernal heat feel graceful.

    My 80s power fragrance was Mystere by Rochas. I was deeply in love with it, always had it with me. I can remember the dark men-cut suits with the little bow ties and shoulder pads, and always the Mystere. I finally grew out of it. Now I am not a floral fan, but still like chypres.

    • You were right to ditch the friend! And I’m glad something got you thru the heat…:d

  6. Oh, nice scented memories! Mine are rather mundane, I’m afraid. As far as I know, I’m the first perfume fanatic in my family, so I really don’t have any early childhood memories of scents to draw on :(( In late elementary and junior high school, I was devoted to the Love’s family of fine fragrances – Baby Soft, Rain, etc. Then in late junior high years came the Chanels, specifically No. 19 and No. 22. In young adulthood I became terribly fond of “green” scents and I suppose that Prescriptives Calyx was the one I wore most often. Now, like you, I can’t pick a single scent to exemplify this period in my life. Heck, I’m doing good to narrow it down to twenty-five for the annual top 25 lists! But I guess the ones I’m wearing most often are Sushi Imperiale and Jicky.

    Thanks for the memories!!

    • Good pair you’ve picked there Gail. to me, my scent memories are mundane and other people’s are special – I’m just egotistical enough to ramble on about mine!:)

  7. Back in my childhood I had a 15-years-older cousin who wore Shalimar. I thought it the most desirable fragrance in the world because she was then my ideal of womanhood. My father splashed Guerlain Eau Imperiale on his handkerchiefs; I loved smelling them.

    My junior year of high school I bought Fidji eau de toilette and took it with me to college. I got a sample of the parfum recently, but it’s not me at all now; I wonder if it ever was. I bought Fidji at the same time as my 11th grade English teacher; she was my ideal of womanhood then.

    I’ve turned out to be very much my own woman, but while we’re forming, we need idealized people to learn from. I’m glad I had those lessons in fragrance. 😡

    • Great family Maria! And I’m glad you’re your ideal woman now. I’m sure the two good-looking men in your life both agree with you…:x

  8. Love it! I mean, it’s so true, scent is such a time and place marker, and why not allow our fragrances to mark various periods of time in our lives? My first was because of my dad: Kouros and Kouros Fraicheur… he owned both and I gravitated toward the Fraicheur and still love it. As a matter of fact, I just bought it for him as a birthday gift after not having smelled it for over 10 years. College was marked by 4: AMen, The Dreamer, Egoiste Platinum, and Pour Monsieur Concentree. The Chanels were left in the past but I still own the other two… and interestingly in that, I guess they speak more to elements of me that will never be left in the past, that will always make me, “me”. Now, lordy, I guess my life, at 30, feels as schizo as my fragrance collection. 🙂 I keep wishing a niche fragrance would be as “me” defining as some of my more standard acquisitions, but they tend to speak more to the moment, my changing desires and tastes, etc. But at this strange age, 30, Terre d’Hermes says “me” more than any of them. Every time I put it on I say to myself (no joke) “it’s just ALWAYS right!” Thanks for the cool post 🙂

    • My (step-) dad (but lived with him from 4 onwards and he’s the best…) wore and wears Kouros too! Terre d’Hermes is great isn’t it? Even Maria above you has come around to the right way of thinking on that one…:d

  9. Brilliant, Lee, as always. I’m so glad I came straight here this morning.

    I suppose I could pick Old Spice for my infant scent, too, since I always adored it. My father kept a bottle all the time, though he didn’t actually wear it much. I have one in my bathroom right now. OS is a little too butch as a touchstone scent for me, though. I fell in love with My Sin at an early age, but that seems wrong somehow, too. I did love Blue Waltz, and no one disapproved of me wearing it, so I’ll say that was my fave of babyhood.

    For youth, it’s a toss-up: Chanel no. 5 or Tatiana. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to be timeless or hip. Story of my life.

    I think I’ll give my first womanly years to My Sin, though I was quite the Fleurs de Rocaille fan in my twenties, and I was also absolutely stuck on a heliotrope scent that came (I think) from Victoria’s Secret.

    • Babe, can’t you be timeless and hip? Or timelessly hip? Or something? You are to me anyways…

    • And Blue Waltz – I’d love to sniff something with a downhome name like that…

    • I love, love, love your blogpost today-I am a hiker, and focus, especially with one partner, on what he calls “far listening”-beautiful presentation of another sense 🙂

  10. I will have to do 4, Lee.
    Poison
    Marina de Bourbon and Fahrenheit
    Sotto Voce
    After the last one the time kind of went on unmarked by one significant scent. I don’t know if I am sad about it or not.

    • If you don’t know, maybe you’re not. I’m glad you’re promiscuous with your scented loves – you’re one of the people who drew me out into this splendid world of online scent craziness…:x

  11. What a wonderful read! I’ll choose L’Artisan’s Navigateur, which was in my high rotation scent groups consistently all through undergrad – somehow seemed just perfect for that time of my life. Was ballsy, fun and gave me confidence I certainly didn’t always feel. Another L’Artisan, their vanilla, marked one of my first major periods of loss and grief. I’ve always chosen vanilla scents for very bad times since it’s not a note I love enough that I would ever really regret not being able to wear the particular vanilla scent of choice again. And POTL marks the time when I first discovered MUA and other online perfume communities – great, happy surprise to find such a large group of fellow addicts. Don’t spend much time on MUA any longer and have gone off of POTL (although that may change again, given my fickle nose), but will be eternally grateful to MUA for all the people I met through it.

    • Elle – and boy are we glad to have people like you around. Love your comments!

      I’m wondering what my accord of sadness might be. You know, I think it’s an earthy vetiver… Sorry to say…

  12. Wow, scent memories. My writing skills are lacking for this task. Childhood. Dad. Shaving cream. Don’t remember the brand but I think a red and white striped can. My Mom wore Jean Nate Splash for everyday. Special nights out there was Joy and Chanel #5. I remember sneaking a spray and trying on her jewelry often. Teenage years. Love’s Baby Soft. Plastic and powder. But my older sisters had Shalimar and Tabu. Forbidden juices but I’d sneak into their rooms and dream of being older and oh so cool. Married with children years for me were all about Calyx, Clarins Eau Dynamisante, Halston and Paloma. Then nothing for years and years though I never stopped searching. Now, too many to even begin naming. My at the current moment favorites are NM Gotham and Chanel 22.

    Thanks for inspiring this walk down memory lane for all of us. I am so enjoying reading everyone’s scented memories. :)>-

    • Anne, love your terse, muscular prose. Funny how quite a few of us had nothing for years… I was even anti-scent for a while (but please, keep that between us…)

  13. Very, very lovely post today, Lee. I remember reading the soliloquy to my son to help explain what was happening to his Grandpa as he slipped from stage 6, somehat graceful old age, to 7, the final act. He already knew mom was odd, but I think it helped a bit.

    First scent-mom’s talcum powder spilled over my head after I yanked it from her dresser, age 3 or so. The scent mixed with her rage and White Shoulders.

    The school girl? Dope and patchouli to match my waist length hair and Frye boots. One scent to purportedly cover the other.

    And the lover…well, see, I think I still slide between the lover, soldier, and justice. Not a linear march for me. As an undergrad in France, I discovered my first “grown-up” perfume-Lapidus. I can’t even recall the scent, but just that my guy at the time loved it. In my post-grad years my sis introduced me to Opium, and began my ongoing love for orientals.

    I really miss the old Marais. Nice as the chichi new quarter is, I loved the feel and sounds of the original “marsh”. And the smell of the sewers, the unkempt square, spice shops, original bakeries.

    • It was losing that down-at-heel aspect when I first got to know it, Louise, but the buildings were still a little manky and the sewery smell was all-pervasive on warm days… Aaah, memories!

      Your mean ma! I’m glad some of the memories are good ones though!

      😡

  14. Lee – fantastic post. I think our lives are more controlled by scent-markers than we think. As evidenced by the beautifully written comments by the gallery. My memories are not nearly so dramatic.

    Childhood – Mom’s Chanel #22. She wore this pretty much exclusively until I hit college. Then she stopped wearing perfume.

    Pre-teen years – Coty Wild Musk. I had the oil and thought it smelled fabulous. Mom thought it smelled like used underwear and passed down a bottle of Dioressence. I would wear that on “dress up” days.

    High School – Giorgio and Obsession – with Obsession getting more attention from me. Strange combo since I spent most of my high school years in heavy metal t-shirts and steel toed boots….

    College (which lasted well into my early 20s) – Nag Champa, Patchouli, Night Queen and other ren-fest/head shop oils combined with the fine electrical dust and asbestos from backstage and a healthy dose of sweat. I still have a soft spot for head shop oils. Cheap and I knew I smelled tolerably nice (even after long hours as a stagehand – which got me through graduate school).

    Early Adulthood – Hypnotic Poison and Dior Addict (when I was feeling supremely confident). Still have these bottles and still wear them occasionally when I just want to smell “nice” and not think so hard.

    Who knows what the cusp of middle age will bring. I’m having too much fun playing in my sample pile to worry about it much.

    • Love your memories Wendy – I had a chuckle at least twice, especially re the soiled underwear and your mum’s response. Perfect!

  15. I love you for knowing what rai is. That makes one other person in the West who won’t think I’m talking about toast. I had Natacha on my iPod on the walk to work this AM.
    Childhood scent … there was a bottle of baby cologne that survived most of my childhood which I used to dab on sometimes after my bath. That, & Jean Nate.
    Maudlin 20s scent would either be Opium or something awful & green that I got as a gift which got up my nose & annoyed while I wondered why perfume always made my eyes water (duh, you don’t LIKE those notes, dumb girl) … Ralph Lauren, maybe.
    After that came a long passage of unscented years … & then there’s now when my olfactory garden is a riot of everything under the sun & nary a signature in sight.

    • There are few of us on this side of the Atlantic that know about rai, and have heard it almost too often in the hookah lounge down the street during lunch!

    • But rioting is great, isn’t it?

      There are still things that I mark as too perfumey (Sisley, I’m lookin at you, bro) though who knows, one day I might love em.

      Y’know I’ve been to a couple of gay rai nights in my time… :d

  16. As a child I loved smelling my mother’s Dioissimo (which sadly smells terrible on me)and I remember playing with my grandmother’s makeup and powders, doubtless attracted by her Chanel No 5. Years later in university, No 5 would be my perfume as well and is still my all time favourite. For a number of years after university I also wore Paloma almost daily, interspersed with days of Opium. Currently, can’t get enough of Guerlain!

  17. Before I was born, my mother wore Chanel n. 5, which she grew to intensely dislike while pregnant, to the point that she had to give away her bottles. I like to think it was little me already developing a nose (and I still do not love n.5).

    Childhood in the 70s was perfumes worn by others: Madame Rochas, Diorella, Courreges Empriente and Equipage (that my father still wears). I loved the smell of Bain de Soleil, the brown sun gel that my auntie applied on the beach.

    My first perfume love of my own must have been Lancome’s Magie Noire, of which I proudly owned a miniature. My fist full bottle was Anais-Anais, then my big love affair with Chloe began, lasting for I guess 15 years or more. Chloe was me and I was Chloe throughout my high school and Uni. It oppressed and repressed me, but I couldn’t abandon it.

    Then I eventually freed myself from it and perfume promiscuity began.
    😡

    • Yay for the freedom of (perfume) promiscuity!

      Your childhood was a tad more sophisticated than mine!:)

    • Pregnancy rule of the shared experience: A fun thought, that it applies to fragrance!

      This would seem to be a “but of course” kind of thing…I never could stomach tomatoes, then developed a passion for them shortly before discovering my “delicate condition.” You Know Who ate tomatoes as an early food, and still enjoys them. I, on the other hand, have started to retreat from them, 10+ years after that pregancy.

      Perhaps, instead of prenatal horoscopes, we should prepare scent-response charts for our about to enter the world offspring? 😉

  18. Such a lovely, nostalgic post, Lee. I’m enjoying reading everyone’s comments, too. Old Spice is one of my touchstone scents, too, because it was the scent my father wore when I was a child, when my parents’ marriage was as its best, before things fell apart in that regard. So in addition to just purely loving the smell of that spicy brew, it was the smell of the most deeply contented part of my childhood.

    In my teens, Tatiana: the first scent that made me realize that my own tastes ran towards white florals, although I wouldn’t have known about that classification then. I wore lots of teeny-bopper fragrances, too, but it was through Tatiana that I began developing a sense of my own person.

    In my 40s, Fracas would be the touchstone scent. Smelling its extravagant fragrance was like opening a porthole into an amazing new world–the world where I found this blog and others–and an understanding that I had reached an age where an array of amazing possibilities lay before me. 😡

    • Lovely comment Suzanne. I’m glad a scent can take you back to a harmonious childhood, even if it was unpleasantly disrupted afterwards.

      The comments are wonderful today, aren’t they? So pleased!

  19. Funny how memory and smell, at least for some people, are faster ways of travelling through space and time than images. My journey, in short, is as follows: Miss Dior on my mother’s shelf and on her scarves. Cristalle in my late teens, my first attempt at a signature scent. Givenchy III linked with the memory of a university teacher I liked so much. Paris as a reminder of those first years when I was in love with my job. And Mandragore, my first attempt at not having one signature scent, but many.

    😕

  20. No scents from childhood; only a longing to smell the perfumes in a small coffret my father brought back from Paris for Mom…

    Teens were spent wondering why scents didn’t smell better. In my early twenties (or was it late teens?), I finally found Zen. Still very unhappy with everything in the mall dept stores, but at least this was wearable for me.

    Mid-twenties, I discovered a niche fragrance shop that naturally went out of business shortly thereafter. It was there, however, that I discovered Bal a Versailles!! A true love that continues to this day.

    The other one that most expresses who I am now, however, is NM’s Midnight Tryst.

    Great post!

    • So, MT is really doing it for you, is it? Great news! You’ve bought a full bottle I guess? I’m going to need to do another post of Neil’s stuff at some point – there’s just so much to explore, though no other has yet captured and enraptured me in quite the same way as Burnt Amber. Longing to try Gandhara (sp?) next though…

      • Oh, yes, I hope I am never without it. That and Dark Season. I have FBs of that *and* Gandhara. Gandhara is a fresh perfume; it is beautiful florals with naughty panties on underneath….. :o) I can wear it in public around nurses and such without a second thought. The others…my thoughts are such I’m afraid my demeanor or the fragrance would be a bit too much for them. 😡

        • Uh, how did that clown get there? ROTFL! Anyway, I can’t wait to hear your next NM review! Have you considered going onto MUA and leaving reviews there? I did like 20 or so of them; they need other reviews besides only mine!

  21. This is beautiful, Lee. Quite lovely, indeed.

    Lets see, early scent memory for me – Mom’s Halston. I loved her in it and it suited her.

    At about 10, I was wearing Eternity.

    Then Claiborne Sport at about age 12, which I still really love actually. I get a daily dose of it when I use CHI silk infusion on my hair because the scent of the product is a dead ringer.

    Then came Age 14 when I purchased my first Big-time scent – Creed Imperial. Downhill from there, let me tell you. Fast forward a few years and all of these bottles are buried in a mass of glass. Oh well, what can be done?

    Halston remains one of my absolute favorite scent memories. Along with the Narcissus that grew behind the shed in my yard when I was a boy that my sister and I would wait and wait to rise every year and run to smell it constantly until it would die. The smell of the interior of my father’s car, the soup that my grandmother would make that I could smell as I was getting off the bus over 100 feet away. And now, the smell of Silver Mountain Water, my sister’s signature scent – gives me a bittersweet smile. Good memories of her, but they make me yearn to have her back.

    • MarkDavid-

      How could I forget Halston?? Oh my goodness, I absolutely loved that scent. Thank you for mentioning it! I might have to go track down a bottle. 😡

    • Thanks for sharing your memories, MD, especially the bittersweet ones. I’m a memory obsessive, about how it works, how we shape them, what stand out and why. I love where you’ve stroked your highlighter pen. And I wish you more happy memories with SMW than sad ones, in time, in time…>:d<

      • Dawn had other scents that she wore – Cabaret by Gres, Very Irresistable by Givenchy, EL Beautiful, Marc Jacobs Bluch, but it was SMW that stands out for me – A trip to the Creed boutique on Madison Avenue a few years ago yielded her first bottle. I bought Erolfa that day and she fell in love with SMW. Nobody has ever worn a scent so beautifully as Dawn in SMW. I now have her bottle on my dressing table, away from the rest of the collection. I dont wear it often, but I see it and smile or cry – I never know which it will be. Both are purging feelings, though. Equally important, I’ve come to realize in the past few months. 5 months on Friday, actually.

  22. This is lovely to read everyone’s memories this morning. One of my very first fragrances was an Avon solid perfume compact fitted inside a fuzzy bumblebee pin worn on my sweater. It smelled of oily LOTV. As a teen in the 80’s my closest few friends wore Poison, Obsession and Fendi, but my personal big-hair fragrance was Coco. A sniff (from that 22 year old bottle) brings back the foreign language corridor of my high school and awkward flirting with new wave boys. Undergraduate years were spent in hippie oils named “Rain” and “Earth”. “Wrappings” will always conjure up one of the great love affairs of my mid-20s…I have thought before that the downside of wearing a different scent each day (or 3 as I’m liable to) is that I am not creating these strong scent associations with people and an era in my life. Or perhaps all 20 of my current faves will evoke this time for me eventually, multiplying my nostalgia?

      • Unbelievably, yes! I actually wore it today, inspired by my memories. It is still it’s over the top, honeyed, sillage-scary self. Totally inappropriate for my workplace :d I haven’t smelled any recent bottles of it, but it might have lost a little of the top notes.

    • Great memories, and so funny how we all, in some respects, have similar paths. Love the big hair memories especially. And shoulder pads, no doubt?:d

  23. Lee,

    What a lovely, delightful post! Thank you!

    My earliest ‘chosen perfume’ memory is of Heaven Sent. Yow! Back then, though, it was soooo romantic… wearing HS, listening to Bread (‘Baby, I’m a-want you’) 48 times in a row……feelin’ all Wuthering Heights..

    Later teen years brought me to my mother’s dressing table, thinking I would gain some sophistication: Norell, which smelled divine on her. Alas, I smelled like a 3-day drunk. Shalimar – good grief, what was I thinking? Wearing Shalimar at 15 felt like I was dragging a Cadillac behind me.

    Interestingly, the two fragrances she wore for day, L’Origan and L’Aimant, I never touched. I chose Emeraude (which is now so vile it’s absolutely shocking!) Now I love both L’O and L’A Such warm memories…

    I was a perfume gadfly in my early adulthood, having easy access to nearly every perfume available in the US. That’s where I fell in love with Joy and Bal a Versailles, both of which I still adore. Lots of mid-range perfumes – I remember trying to make Anais Anais my sig fragrance…not quite the success I was hoping for. Chloe (pronounced ‘shlow’ by a hapless writer)…I remember everything about it – except the smell.

    Late early adulthood brought Fracas and Calyx. My then-husband adored Calyx on my best friend and we couldn’t have that, could we!. I never really liked it but everyone else did, so I wore it. Still love Fracas on alternate Tuesdays, in the winter, when I am dressed for it.

    Now, of course, the sky’s the limit!

    Thank you for inviting us on that lovely walk down memory lane!

    xo

    • And I so enjoyed walking with you. What a great addition you are to this daft ole community! Bread and Wuthering Heights – that’s a heady combination. The thought of David Gates dressed as Wuthering Heights, singing his heart out to Cathy by Penistone crags… now, there’s a thought and a half.:d

      • Thank you for the very kind welcome! I haven’t had this much fun (or edjamacation) in years!

        But I think your replies should come with a warning:

        CAUTION: “Hysterical visuals ahead. No drinking whilst reading Lee’s replies!”=))

        • I meant dressed as Heathcliff, of course. what a dumbass!:db-(

  24. Such a picaro, surviving on guile alone! Every time I read one of your posts, I swear to myself that my children will be educated in Europe. I love the part about Paris–I was just watching Sex and the City with a friend last night (she just broke up with her boyfriend), the beginning of the sixth/best season, where Carrie moves to Paris. Talk about cliches.

    For me, there’s three:

    Middle school was Candies for men. I liked the bottle.

    Highschool was a mixture of Marc Jacobs for men (I now cannot stand fig scents) and Ralph Lauren Romance.

    Freshman year in college was Polo Black.

    And then I delved into the world of fragrance, and poof, here I am, wearing Florascent Santal and waiting with baited breath for Sycomore.

    • Forgot that grandma wore Shalimar. I loved playing with the bottle as a kid. Grandpa always wore Old Spice too, and mom and dad always wore Eternity for men and Azzaro, respectively. Every year, I try to get my mom to try a new scent, but she just loves Eternity.

    • Some people, like your mum, are scent faithful. My dad is too. That’s a good thing. We’re just different 😉 .

      I’m waiting with baited breat for my bottle of 5pm, but I know the feeling…

      (the writing for you should be arriving early next week, with the wind on my side).

      • I’m waiting for that with baited breath as well, trust me 🙂

  25. What fun to read everyone’s comments! I’ve shared my scented memories on here before and will spare everyone from hearing them again. However, I am giggling at the fact that *I too* went through a Fahrenheit phase when I was being difficult and creative and avant garde and etc.

    • 😕 Aren’t we still creative and difficult and avant garde? Aw, shucks!:d

  26. What fun to read folks’ olfactory journeys. I’ve spent the last year reliving my fragrance past – haunting the various auction sites and vintage perfume purveyors in an effort to ‘collect’ my fragrance history. I’m still filling in gaps, but I’m making significant progress on developing a collection of every scent I ever wore with any regularity. Each time I open one of the packages and take a sniff, I’m flooded with often-forgotten memories triggered solely by the scent that accompanied them.

    Chief among my early childhood memories are the scents of violets and apple blossoms worn by my grandmothers. My mother wore Replique for every day and Chanel #5 for ‘good’. My dad wore a fougere of some type whose name I’ve forgotten.

    My first ‘real’ cologne was a bottle of Muguet des Bois which I wore throughout elementary school. In junior high, I switched to Coty’s Elan, and in high school I wore Miss Dior.

    In college I discovered Faberge’s Tigress which I would still be wearing today were it readily available. It was the most ‘me’ perfume I’ve ever worn.

    After Tigress was discontinued, I bounced around through a number of fragrances until I found Giorgio’s Red which was my signature scent through the ’80s and ’90s and which I still wear today, although not nearly as frequently.

    Nowadays, as a more educated perfumista, I’m loyal to no one. I drift from scent to scent as a bee drifts from flower to flower, although you can usually get my attention with a beautiful floral, a rich amber, or anything that smacks of chypre. 😉

    • OMG! Elan! Forgot ALL about that one. The minute I read it in your post the memory of that charming little sandblasted glass bottle (round, with a flat face, right?) and the warm-green scent came flooding back.. Didn’t the stopper have a ring-like top? I suddenly remember that fragrance as if I were wearing it right now! It sat more comfortably on me than Emeraude, if I recall.

      Elan. Wow. 30+ years since I’ve thought of that fragrance…

      • Just Googled ‘Elan’….yup…..exactly as I remembered it. I thought that bottle was just too fabu for words, sitting on my dresser…

        … such memories.

        I’m not sure if I feel elated…or just …old!:-)

        xo

        • Yup, Musette, you remembered it exactly! I have the identical bottle sitting in my collection. It’s only got about a half-inch of the fragrance left in it, but the scent has held up remarkably well. It WAS a lovely warm green fragrance and I’m at a loss as to why it wasn’t more successful than it was. They only kept it on the market for two or three years, I think.

          Like your experience, Emeraude was too harsh for me, but Elan, it’s gentler cousin, was just right.

          • Ooooh! Put a dab on and sniff for me, pleeeeze?

            ..when I think of all the scents I discarded in my heedless youth…

    • What a great idea to rediscover your past that way! And I wish I could sniff Tigress now to know how your spirit was bottled!

      • Please see the comment at the very end of all the comments. That was SUPPOSED to be in reply to THIS comment. Sigh. Technology is not my friend. :((

  27. Anais Anais is a special perfume for me because for as long as I can remember most of the people I most love in my life have worn it. My Mother wears it (still), my step Mom wears it (her and my Mom are best friends), and my American Mom wore it, (I was an exchange student). I also have a couple of best friends who used to wear it. During the 80’s it was the perfume to wear and I remember it being the most beautiful scent, just like everyone I loved was beautiful to me.

    I had a boyfriend when I was a young teen and I was so in love with him I thought I wanted to marry him. He bought me Le Jardin by Dana and I wore it with all the love in the world. He went back to the States after a few years and a couple months after he left I received a parcel with a whole set of Le Jardin products. He was my first great love and I’ll never forget him or Le Jardin.

    During the years I traveled in South America, mainly Argentina, I wore Miss Dior and a Brazilian perfume that no longer exists called Dama da Noite (Lady/Queen of the Night?). Those were some of the happiest years of my life, so I associate those perfumes with being carefree, happy and so very young.

    • *sigh*

      Lovely memories – funny how lady of the night has such different connotations in British (and American?) English… Though we don’t have the wonderful nasalisation on night that you do in Portuguese…

  28. Thanks so much, Lee, for bringing on the stories and the memories.

    Although Old Spice is in my olfactory memories, too, I’m not sure who or what or when I associate it with. My dad wore no “fragrance” at all, so it was probably my mother’s father.

    For my own milestones, though —
    The “infant” remembers a combination of things that mom wore — Faberge’s Tigress, yes!, which I remember the lush smell of, and also helping my dad buy it for her for birthdays and Christmas — and also the occasional rotation of Blue Grass and 4711 eau de cologne.

    The schoolgirl — this is still my favorite fragrance moment as well as memory. When I was in sixth grade, my aunt–whom I rarely saw because she lived on the other side of the country and this was back in the day before air travel made such distances negligible, and who had given birth only to sons but longed for a daughter–sent me a magical birthday package that included an elegant tooled leather evening purse from Italy, and a bottle of Je Reviens. This was in the mid-60’s, so I’m not sure which formulation it would have been. But I was enchanted by both the fragrance and the exquisite blue velvet bottle. I felt so grown-up! (And I still wear Je Reviens occasionally, although alas it no longer smells the same, and it’s not just my skin …)

    We’ll skip over the years of teen experimentation, which were more or less standard in spite of the high bar that my aunt had set …
    And move to, not the lover, but the soldier? My years in graduate school were marked by my first attempt at a “signature scent,” Ombre Rose, which I loved because I (still) love rose, but rose marked by dark and mysterious undertones. I doubt that Ombre Rose would satisfy that need these days (I haven’t smelled it in years), but the need itself persists. I believe that I was, ah, rather overenthusiastic in my appreciation. I still remember a friend telling me that he could always tell when I was approaching my study carrel in the library, because he could smell me before he could even hear my footsteps. At the time, I thought this was enchanting. Nowadays, I’m horrified!

    That’s three, but I’ll add one more for closure, even though I’ve told a variation on this part of the story here before. My entry into the world of perfume obsession began with Feminite du Bois. I bought it when it first came out, and it became my new signature scent for many years. I don’t recall why I (temporarily) abandoned it, but when I went looking for it again, I found Marina’s blog, and this one, and, well, you all know how that story continues …

    • More Tigress. I do so wish I could smell this!

      And the memory of the carrel – funny how our perceptions change as we age. Like you, I’m horrified if my trail is that strong nowadays!!

      Thanks for your wonderful comments.

  29. #1- My Mother’s vanity table. Joy, Bandit, Chanel No. 19, all of which I would sniff and wonder over. I think my favorite was Antilope, which smelled even more transportive than the rest. (I’m going to run out to the shops on Broadway and see if I can scare up this one,,)

    #2- Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien. It’s 1983. I am twelve years old and living in New York. I have a flat-top, khakis from Canal Jeans and live in a crappy flat with four room-mates. I think I spent about three weeks pay on a bottle of this. 25 years later I still reach for it (and am miraculously only 28!)

    #3- Gaultier. Ten years later in Los Angeles. I am with my (eventually to be) ex-BF. He wears this and well- it’s a sexy, musky vanilla with amber and touches of peach. I still can’t smell it without thinking of him. :”>

    • I still marvel at your stories of being a child runaway with a flat-top… 😉

      Tell me if you score the Antilope.

      And *sigh* at the last memory. Some scents are indelibly linked with people (Egoiste and a very very wealthy Greek bf I once had – he wasn’t all that though… ).:d

      • I originally typed “six years” in there but changed it.

        No on the Antilope, I’ll keep looking…

        I could use a wealthy Greek about now…

  30. 1.) Diorissimo (parfum)- this jasmin-y wonder was my mother’s going-out scent. to this day, it takes me back to that sunny hot room, and carefree lazy summer days waiting for cool shade.

    2.) Eternity (for women) for that brooding, trapped in adolescence, cool-post punk phase in my life. when life would be so much better if i could start college soon. (yes, yes, i know, teenage angst… quite drawn out if you ask me)

    Jumping to present day with 3.) Mechant Loup- my BF magically morphs this into a big woody freaky scent- simply delectable!

    • It’s good when that ‘life would be so much better if…’ feeling dissipates though, isn’t it?

  31. Great imagery in your post Lee, as always!

    1. Wild Country by Avon – dad wore this and used to dab a little into his handkerchiefs
    2. Tuscany by Aramis – my first real adolescent full bottle purchase, I probably over applied it and walked around stinking up my junior high school…but at the time I loved it
    3. Bulgari Pour Homme – the scent of my ex-relationship, an immature and tattered thing, that I am glad to have lived thru and learned from but at the time it was pure ‘drama’. Just smelling Bulgari Pour Homme brings all of that back. So, I stay away from it.

    • Tuscany – I left that out, but it’s a very vivid memory recaller for me too. Surprising how similar Parfum d’Empire’s Iskander reminds me of it – must be the citrus and heavy duty oak moss combo…

  32. Wow, Lee, that was a small masterpiece, but all the world’s a stage, eh? Sly Mr. S.

    Hm…
    (1) The Body Shop Nut Body Butter and Givenchy Organza Indecence were my main scents in high school
    (2) college was white florals, Tubereuse Criminelle in particular
    (3) and now I have Tabac Blond, Normandie, and Mitsouko to keep me busy

    • Kind words – than you!

      And judging from your most recent blog entry, you’ve been very scent busy!!

      • Ah, it’s so hard. I’m such a fledgling fumehead (only a few months). Eyeshadows, I get, but perfumes are just another level of insanity. Thank goodness people like you are around, Lee, to provide direction. 😡

        • Aah, but I’ve got plenty of my own blind alleys and dead ends…:)

  33. 1. My mother had a phalanx of perfume bottles on her dresser. The three I remember the most vividly are Cinnabar, Shalimar, and Elizabeth Taylor Passion. I loved the last one’s purple bottle (the acutal scent…not so much. I prefered the Cinnabar).

    2. When I was thirteen, I tried Tommy Girl, which had just recently come out, and I loved it. My mother bought it for me for Christmas, and it became my first real perfume. I still have the bottle.

    3. My current fragrance obsession began in a parfumerie in Berlin. I was an exchange student there, and I owned a grand total of four perfumes: Chanel No. 5, Opium, Laura Biagiotti Venezia, and something called English Rose that cost a couple of dollars at TJMaxx. I happened upon Miss Dior, and it stopped me dead in my tracks. What was *this*? I had never tried anything like it: So different from the huge, spicy orientals that the women in my family wore. It became the signature of my student days.

    • It’s amazing when that moment of ‘What IS this?’ happens, isn’t it? I haven’t had that joy for a while…:-?

      • Lee,

        I just had that feeling, for the first time in about 230 years, with that blasted L’eau D’Hiver! And the worst part? I couldn’t tell you why if you threatened my life!

        I could just smack ol’ Fred (and you-know-who) over that one. It’s really very inconvenient, dangit! Le parfum costs the earth…but the little sample keeps crooning to me, like a vampire, from the sample drawer (all the other little samples cowering in the corner, in abject terror)….I ………must….bend ….to the full bottle…aiieee!

        All I can say is, it’d better not happen again for quite awhile! My nerves can’t take it!:((

        • For those of us who love Eau d’Hiver, there’s nothing quite like it. A quiet, contemplative wonder of a scent.

        • How do you pronounce Eau d’Hiver properly (from someone who cannot speak French!)?

          :”>

          • Well, I’m reading everything on L’eau d’hiver (pronounced: oh dee-VAIR) because I am succumbing to the siren call. Must. reach. for.credit card.. . .

  34. Such a lovely post. 🙂

    Mine also include Old Spice, which my dad wore always, and that smell is just him mixed fresh bath, and it just feels like love and security and all things in the world will always be perfect.

    Stephen B is the perfume of my coming of age — wild, unfettered, a little slutty, but mostly just flat-out wild. Before you knew all the dangers and pain the world had in store for you, when heartache was romantic.

    I don’t have a third!

    • Heartache does stop being romantic, doesn’t it? But in a way, that’s a good thing – when love and pain become real…

      Wild, unfettered, a little slutty. We need more. I want more of those ‘Patty in high school’ photo opportunities!

  35. Well, nobody in my family wears perfume, or at least nobody did when I was little (now my sister sprays on some – ow – Light Blue) but I think scent no 1 will have to be some very old and very dark brown liquid in a tiny glass bottle without label belonging to my grandma. She never wore it but me and my sister played with it – I think we poured it on our dolls… The scent was strong and bitter, the typical “old lady perfume gone bad”.
    No 2 – and now I’m around 15 – is “Satan Instinct”. A bright orange concoction, supposedly veeeeery aphrodisiac, with a Christmasy scent of citrus, vanilla and spice. I still have it.
    no 3 – now I’m around 20, still way before I became a perfume nerd. FlowerbyKenzo, my first “real” perfume. I wanted to wear perfume but I had a hard time finding anything I liked in the stores. Anyway, I fancied the candied violet scent of this one, wished for and got a gift set one Christmas. I still have it and it’s still almost full. The bottle is pretty though…

    • Nowt (as they say your way) wrong with Light Blue, you know.

      Satan Instinct is a hilarious name for a Christmassy scent, though the aphrodisiac part might lead you away from singing carols to looking under cassocks I guess.;)

  36. I’d be delighted to help out with that. My email’s registered on this site. Send me a note with your mailing address and I’ll happily send you a sample.

    🙂

  37. So late, but it’s such a fun poll that I had to comment. These are the ones burned into my brain:

    – Tween years was Chanel #19 powder. In retrospect, way too sophisticated for a 12 year old, I think it was a hand-me-down
    – Highschool was all about The Body Shop Dewberry oil, very sassy
    – College was Dior Dune

    • Oh my word. My sisters were both addicted to dewberry – thanks for the reminder!

  38. What a lovely post — followed by equally wonderful comments! Like so many others, I’ve really enjoyed reading all of these scent milestones. Thanks, Lee. And as for me, let’s see… My mom still smells like Obsession in my mind. I wore Dior’s Dolce Vita all through high school and part of early university and then flirted with a few things until falling abruptly in love–or, given the perfume in question, perhaps “in lust” is more appropriate–with Bvlgari Black. That one carried me through a couple of sceney hipsterish years in New York… I still love both of these scents, although I really never wear the Dior anymore. Black still gets some action, and it’s the frag that kick-started my obsession with leather scents. And here I am at 27, sampling like a fiend (like the rest of you!) and wearing a pretty steady* rotation of No. 19, Le Parfum de Therese, and PG Cuir d’Iris.

    *where “steady” = this week and a bit of last… 😉

  39. Great writing Lee – and comments are fascinating…
    Mine are…
    1)L’Air du Temps, Avon Hand cream (turquoise bottle)
    2)Fleurs d’Orlane, Obsession for Men, and Safari for Men, Lou Lou, Diorella and Dioressence
    3)Tendre Poison, Safari for Women, Coco, Byzance, 5th Avenue
    Editing my scent memories is hard – there are quite a few stages in between that appear as gaping holes…but anyway, I bet you can pinpoint my era with these!

    My newest time markers were Osmanthus – Ormonde Jayne and Hermes eau de merveilles and then a Rosine or two…which came about from a scent exploration/fascination that began a couple of years ago…I guess I was bored…8-|

    • The editing part is the trickiest, but like milestones, some points of the journey are etched in more detail than others, aren’t they? Obsession for Men – somehow missed that off my list, though I never wore it…

  40. The first perfume memory is the dark blue bottle of Evening in Paris on my mother’s dresser – the name and fragrance oozed sophistication and mystery to me. My father and grandfather wore Old Spice and I loved the fragrance then – I still do. One of my older favorites (discovered in my 20s, I think) was Caswell-Massey No. 6, a great citrus-spice cologne (reminds one of Lorenzo Villoresi Piper Nigrum and Miller Harris Tangerine Vert). I still enjoy No. 6, though its longevity is lacking – but at only 30USD per bottle who can complain?

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