(hi, folks — here’s a guest post by Nava, a regular reader and contributor at Perfume Critic and Makeupalley, and a commenter at the Posse as well as other scented and unscented blogs. She lives in New York with her husband and cat, and loves to be a contrarian in her spare time.)
I am convinced the act of hoarding is hereditary. The female members of my immediate family have proven to be fine examples of this art of “collecting”. My maternal grandmother hoarded food; she survived the Great Depression after emigrating from Poland to Canada after World War I. In better times she also hoarded bed linens, table cloths and tea towels. We´re not talking cheap stuff, either. The finest Irish linen you could bargain for on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, purchased during a time when you could bargain for such things. Unfortunately, I never got to witness my grandmother in all her bargaining-mode glory, but I did see all her purchases come tumbling out of the hall closet after her death when I was 9 years-old. As my mother cleaned out her apartment, she could not bear to part with all the pristine linens that never graced a bed or table. Since my mom´s passing, they now reside carefully stored in my attic, along with other family treasures. But the hoarding did not end there.
I have a Serge Drawer. Yes, a drawer that contains nothing but Serge Lutens fragrances. My drawer is not part of a girly, organza-skirted vanity table or antique armoire; it is one nondescript drawer of a 17 year-old Ikea pressboard dresser that I bought when I moved into my first apartment. I used to keep underwear in this particular drawer. It is a top drawer after all. But now it houses 15 export bottles and 23 bell jars, all of them still shrink-wrapped and just as pristine as my grandmother´s 50 year-old linens. I cannot bring myself to unwrap them, much less consider wearing them. I wish my Bubbie Sarah was still around so I could ask her why she bought all those linens if she never intended to use them. Then, maybe I´d have some insight into my own peccadillo, and an answer to why I never touch any of these bottles of fragrance.
I think a goodly amount of my reticence stems from the exclusivity of the Serge Lutens line, the fact that most of them are only available in one specific place in one particular city. My husband and I took a vacation to Dublin and London 3-1/2 years ago, and journeyed via Eurostar through the Chunnel from London to Paris. Since we were spending only one day in the City of Light, I had only three must-see destinations: the Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa (we were, after all, tourists), and the Salons du Shiseido. My husband was quite the good sport whilst I pillaged the Salons; he waited outside. When I finally emerged, we made our way out of the Palais Royale and over to the Louvre so we could do a mad dash through as much of it as possible (reference Mark Twain´s images of American tourists in Innocents Abroad running through the Vatican Museum to get to the Sistine Chapel; been there, done that, too). As we approached the glass pyramid, I wondered why there were not more people milling about, despite the fact that we descended on Paris on a very grey, chilly November day. It was a Tuesday, and you would think we would have known that the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. No such luck. No mention of it either from the lovely French girl at the concierge desk in our London hotel who very happily almost booked us 2 first class Eurostar tickets which would have set us back about £800. Of course, I prevented that from happening.
Turned away at the Louvre, myself, my husband and my 4 bell jars (Rahat Loukhoum, Muscs Koublai Khan, Bois et Fruits and Cuir Mauresque) went stomping all the way down the Champs-à‰lysées, to the Avenue Montaigne, past every designer shop and the Plaza Athinée, without even pausing to look at anything. I was following the Eiffel Tower, just like I used to follow the CN Tower all over the city of Toronto when I was a kid. I was a woman on a mission. I kept thinking, OK, I can still make two out of three, with the Meat Loaf song “Two Out of Three Ain´t Bad” earworming its way through my head the entire time.
When we finally reached the tower, and while waiting in line to buy tickets, I noticed what I presumed to be an American couple standing in the snaking line. What gave them away was that the woman was carrying the Frommer´s Guide to Paris, something I flat out refused to buy since I didn´t think we´d need it; we were only going to be there for one lousy day. Armed with just my trà¨s, trà¨s mal university French and a fistful of Euros, I thought we´d be fine. Of course I inquired of this woman, “Could you please tell me if your guide says which day of the week the Louvre is closed?” She, a very nice lady from Des Moines Iowa traveling with her husband, graciously informed me, “Uh, it says here the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays.” Upon hearing that news, I believe I turned a shade of red non-existent in nature. At least that´s what my husband claims.
On the train back to London, I clutched my bottles of fragrance with the vehemence of a lioness guarding her newborn cubs. I couldn´t help it; they were the most significant souvenirs of my trip, along with my disappointment and frustration. I vowed I was going to hunt down that French concierge girl and beat her senseless for not informing us that the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. I did make mention that it was one of our planned destinations, but alas, for reasons not known, she never communicated that little tidbit of information. I remain disappointed to this day, since I have not been back to Paris. A travel journalist friend of mine loves to tell people that you should never go anywhere thinking that you will never revisit the place you are going to. Of course, he traverses the globe on the good graces of the airlines and stays at the best hotels in the world for a mere fraction of what Joe Schmo tourist would pay. In all fairness, I must mention that our trip was made possible by his contacts, and if not for them, would have cost somewhere in the neighborhood of a loaded Toyota Corolla.
As I previously mentioned, my Serge Lutens collection has grown significantly from the original 4 bottles. The “export” fragrances can be had fairly easily, but there is just something about those bell jars that elicits a powerful I´ll-walk-barefoot-over-broken- glass-then-wade-waist-deep-through-raw-sewage urge to get my hands on them. I have gone through backchannels and shopping services and of course, the ubiquitous auction site to obtain my bottles. I don´t consider myself overly materialistic, but I will admit that my Serge Drawer houses some of my most prized possessions. I still harbor the dream of going back to Paris one day and re-visiting the Salons, and going back to the Louvre, of course; just not on a Tuesday.