Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sweet-smelling, after all these years

Until late last year, I never wore perfume. No, not quite true. When I was on the brink of becoming a pregnant teenage bride, my husband-to-be arrived in London with a little box of six perfumes he'd picked up duty free, en route from Wellington. The only one I remember is Worth's Je Reviens (as indeed he had).  I also remember that within minutes of applying it, I felt nauseated and longed to escape its aura. No dice - it was the real deal, not eau de toilette, and it stayed and stayed.

This sickening effect survived the pregnancy. Any time I came into contact with a smear of perfume, I would feel squeamish. A feeling like motion sickness, or giddiness. As if, by being prevented from smelling my natural Plain Jane smell, I became disoriented and couldn't find myself. So for years I adeptly dodged those young women who try to ambush you near cosmetics counters. And, since the X claimed to dislike bottled smell too (well, he was an old hippie), odiferously unadorned I remained.

Until, late last year, I met M. M, for an impressive array of reasons, was a romantic disaster area, but the two lasting legacies of our brief intense liaison were tango, and, yes, perfume.

We'd been going out (as they call it) barely a week when he turned up at my house unannounced, with an armful of gifts (no, he wasn't Greek so I failed to beware). An array of tango dresses plus fragrance in a bottle.

What sort of a feminist lets a new lover shower her with perfume she doesn't use and five dresses (yes, five: they turned out to be symptoms rather than garments) of a type she's never worn in her life and never wanted to? My sort, apparently.

Getting any kind of present makes me feel loved, and since I'd been to a couple of milongas with M, I was already captivated by tango and thrilled by the dresses. I mean, look at them - what girly nonsense.

I was less certain about the fragrance, Armani's Mania (aptly named), but obligingly sprayed it on. I liked it. M, equally thrilled by the whole business, explained he'd chosen it because he too wore Amani and the two "fitted". More joy on the part of the naive recipient.

Within three weeks, M was a goner. But Mania remained. I spray it on when I go dancing or to any other social function. It smells of good times and dressing up. It smells happy. (The dresses are another story. Curious that I photographed them within a day to two of getting them, as if I knew they'd only be temporary guests. They became the subject of wild accusations that ended the affair and, under cover of darkness, were stuffed back into M's letterbox. I had worn two of them.)

A week or so after M's house call, we went shopping for tango shoes for me (which is another story). On the way, we called in at the store on Willis Street where he'd bought Mania. I tried a few other scents, between sniffs of coffee beans to cleanse the nostrils, and found one I really liked. Citrusy, happy (although I suspect that last adjective isn't included in the arcane lexicon of perfumology). Unfortunately, it was called I Love Love. Can you imagine striding up to a counter and asking for that? So far, I haven't managed it. I've investigated buying it online, but then I couldn't have another sniff to see if I still like it. So I shall have to go to the store and ask for it, sotte voce, by name.  I shall report back.

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