I really admire people who are loyal to a fragrance all their life. It's pretty incredible when you think about it: They've found their one and only, and forsaking all others, choose to wear the same fragrance every day for the rest of their lives. It's like they've found their soul mate - and that's always an admirable accomplishment.
I don't have a signature scent myself.
I wonder if I should. After all, I know the power of scent: There are a few scents that remind me of people I love, and since some of those people aren't in my life anymore a trip to a department store brings back memories as reliably as rereading old letters or diary entries. Colors by Benetton, for instance, reminds me of my best friend in elementary school - of sleepovers and Seventeen magazine and slambooks and making papier-mache volcanoes. Must de Cartier reminds me of my mom getting ready for a night out. I still think it's an unbelievably sophisticated scent, and I don't dare wear it myself. Another childhood scent is L'Air du Temps – that one is all innocence – and it was the only one I was allowed to spritz on on special occasions. I can't help but laugh when I smell Drakkar Noir on someone because it reminds me of every single boy in Jr. High.
My first perfume was Fidji – my father brought it for me as a gift from a business trip to Haiti. From there it's been a steady stream of fragrances, each of them reminding me of a discreet period in my life. Because even while I change fragrances frequently, I tend to wear the same one for months or even years at a time before moving on to something new.
Exhibit A: Bulgary Eau de Te Extreme I bought it in Paris and wore when I was an exchange student in Spain. It's subtly exotic and reminds me of adventure and spontaneity.
I was wearing Angel the night I met my husband. Coincidentally, chocolate is one of the basenotes of this perfume. Hmm.
I bought my bottle EnJoy during the trip where my husband asked me to marry him and every time I wear it I feel like a newlywed. I always wear it on our anniversary, of course.
I stopped wearing perfume once I started having kids. It was just one more thing to do in the mornings, not to mention another expense, so for the past three years I've mostly smelled like cheerios and Play-Doh.
A few weeks ago, I decided it was time I found a new scent.
It wasn't an easy quest. I'd steal off for a few minutes whenever I was near a Sephora or a perfume counter and sprayed my wrists with fragrances old and new. Many were plain irritating, and a few of them literally made me ill to my stomach. As determined as I was to fall in love with a scent, it is not something that you can do at will - it has to happen on its own.
The other day I was looking for shoes (nothing glamorous, I just needed something to keep my ankles warm while running errands. I thought maybe I could pull off Uggs, but I couldn't bear to buy shoes that ugly ON PURPOSE) and on the way out of the store, pushing my double stroller and angry because I had dragged the kids around all morning and I was still empty-handed, my eye was distracted by a something shiny and sparkly on the perfume counter. There were all sorts of pretty bottles filled with promising liquids, and I don't know why, but I went straight to the cluster of identical Annick Goutal bottles and picked one out at random. I spritzed it on my wrist, gave it a minute, and with pulse racing, I took a sniff.
It was powdery and mangoish - smelling like what a tropical spring might smell like if there was such a thing as spring in the tropics.
When the saleslady came to see if I needed help, I told her I wanted a bottle of whatever it was I had just sprayed. It was only then that I learned the name of the fragrance I had fallen in love with - Folavril - Annick Goutal's first creation, the beginning of her fragrance empire.
I wonder if it heralds a new beginning for me as well.