Have you ever decided you’re going to love a perfume before you’ve even smelled it? What happens when you finally try it—that perfume that is going to be The One, The Ultimate, The Perfect Perfume—and it’s nothing like you expected? If you’re like me, you beat your head against that perfume bottle, trying to force it to become the perfume you wanted it to be.
I beat my head—figuratively, that is—against Hermes Caleche for a solid decade. I worked near Saks and used to spend lunch hours snuffling ‘fumes. One day, I was introduced to the new “Soie de Parfum” version of Caleche, and I was smitten—by my idea of myself wearing it. I’d recently turned 30, I was a semi-big wig at work, and Caleche smelled as sophisticated as I wanted to be. So I wore it. Or rather, it wore me. For years, I’d spray it on periodically and would try to live up to it. But I couldn’t. Then one day I slapped on the Caleche and was utterly unimpressed. It was dull. A bit sour. Loud. It still wasn’t me; but I no longer wanted to be it. And I stopped beating my head against that bottle.
But Ormonde Jayne Woman took its place. I’d read about it online and became convinced it was going to be My Perfect Perfume. Maybe it would even be my Signature Scent, something I’d long given up on. When it arrived, it lived up to my dreams. Cool, dark, a bit magical, utterly individual. Everything I wanted to be. And when I put it on, I was. Eureka! I’d found The One. I imagined spraying it on letters instead of signing them; I envisioned leaving a delicate waft in my wake that people would identify as cool, dark, mysterious, unique me. And that would have happened—if I’d lived in the Pacific Northwest. Or a rainforest. Because it turned out that OJ Woman glowed and glimmered on my skin in the rain and fog; but on a bright sunny day, hot or cold, it turned. The resin was stinky, the green became bitter, the amber smothered and cloyed. It gave me a reason to love rainy days; but it would never be mine, all mine.
Chanel No 5: I wanted to smolder like Marilyn Monroe, but it moldered on my skin like yesterday’s fried chicken. Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur: I craved naughty, I got cuddly kitty. Donna Karan Black Cashmere: I sought warm spices and mystery, it dispensed someone’s musty spice rack. Let me be clear: there’s nothing wrong with these perfumes. The problem was my idea about what they would smell like—and what I would become in wearing them.
So what sets these perfumes apart from fragrances I tried once or twice and simply didn’t like? One word: denial. I didn’t shrug and put these scents aside. Instead, I bought bottles and kept spraying. Maybe not every day, but regularly, and for years. I remained convinced that one day I’d spritz on one of these fragrances and it would be…perfect. Just what I’d always imagined. And I, in turn, would be transformed.
What about you? What perfumes were you convinced you’d love before even trying them? Is there one you’ve persisted in spraying despite a distinct lack of love for it? Or am I only the one beating my head against a perfume bottle here?