It’s funny (well, at least to me) how a random FacePlace post will bring back memories. Someone out there published a photo of their collection and in it was a little bottle in the shape of a snail, which brought back memories. I know my Mom had one of these on her dresser; I was fascinated by it at an early age because it was just so odd. Who would make a perfume and sell it in a flacon the shape of what is best an appetizer and at worst a garden pest?
Well doing a few minutes of research on the interwebs, I found out, and after a few minutes more on that online auction site I had one on the way: it was Avon
Mind you, I have no idea if Avon still exists or has been replaced by more aggressive and less charmingly cloaked MLM schemes, but when I was a kid, pretty much everyone got something from Avon. Someone you know sold it and you were going to get roped into buying something. And, for the most part, they were (as I remember them) pretty decent quality stuff at decent prices. There was also the legend that their Skin-So-oft lotion was some magic mosquito repellent, but I don’t remember that being proven true or false.
What Avon was good for was getting product into consumers hands without the hassle of finding a retail outlet or in some cases the intimidation factor: You didn’t have to worry that your Muu-Muu and slides, which would get you serious side-eye at the Vincome Counter and Snootypants and Sons, would in any way cause the same reaction from your Avon lady. Of course, what she told her next customer, you never knew, and perhaps never cared, since you likely had seen the state of her kids and kitchen. They were kind of a homier version of Amazon, before online shopping was a thing.
Now some of you know that I did not grow up in the big city, but in the wilds of Western Massachusetts, in a small college town where my father’s family had lived since Cotton Mather blathered. When my parents were married, they bought a home in a village outside of town, which was rather laughingly referred to as a “suburb” of the town, as if said town was a big enough urb to warrant a sub. The village was founded on the backs of the silk mills on the river (cleverly named “Mill”) and the ideas of temperance and abolitionism, complete with a stop on the underground railroad. Noted abolitionist and former slave Sojourner Truth had a home on the same street I grew up on, and a statue of her was several years ago erected in a small park right in front of our old house.
What the village lacked was shopping. The downtown of our town, the Urb that we Subbed, saw a decline in the late 60’s and early 70’s, as did many small towns as their industries dried up. The opening of a mall across the river in what used to be a tobacco field didn’t help, and the opening of a second one helped even less, although it did give some sense of schadenfreude in that it killed that first mall deader than smelt.
The downtown did come back fairly quickly: some new people bought the hulk of the old downtown department store and came up with the brilliant idea of leasing individual spaces in the cavernous old building as individual boutiques, which is still going strong today. Other cafes and shops opened, but they were rather more geared to the college crowd: the young matrons of the town had little use for Norma Kamali dresses and Manic Panic hair dye. Yes, we could go to the mall, but when you grow up in small New England town your sense of distance is perhaps stunted: while my adult Los Angeles living self would think nothing of driving 95 miles one way to Santa Barbara for lunch, back then 5 miles to the mall was something you would need to pack a lunch for, if not sled dogs.
So the Avon Lady ding-donging her way into your life was no bad thing.
So I now have my little snail to grace my desk. The juice in it is something called “Charisma.” It’s a strong green floral, with hyacinth, neroli, peach, and musk. Guerlain it ain’t, but it’s perfectly nice to sniff. I just won’t wear it to Snootypants and Sons. I don’t need the side eye.
Did you ever get products from Avon? Amway? Did you get caught up in Herbalife? Discuss in the comments- I really want to read!
My bottle of Charisma was purchased from eBay. Pictures are from Pexels, my iPhone and the internets.