Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Revisiting an old scent
My first "real" perfume was Hermes Caleche. I received it as a gift from my roommate's boyfriend. I'll always be grateful to him, even though I don't remember his name.
I had a birthday coming up and I remember whining that noone ever gave me "feminine" presents. I always got books and records (I almost typed CDs and then had to remind myself they weren't around then). I believe (but I wouldn't swear to it) that I even specifically stated that I'd like to receive perfume as a gift.
Whatever it was I said exactly, this nice young man gave me a bottle of Caleche. Not only did I not expect a gift from him, for I hardly knew the fellow, but I certainly didn't expect a bottle of French perfume.
I found it an enchanting scent, feminine without being flowery. It became my "signature scent". When I used up my first bottle, I wanted to buy another, and went to a department store. They didn't sell it! The sales woman told me I had to go to the Hermes store or that, perhaps, one of the perfume discounters in lower Manhattan might have it.
I was terribly intimidated by the idea of going into the Hermes flagship store. That place sold little scarves for hundreds of dollars! But I didn't have to, for the woman behind the counter at Altman's was right - I was able to buy some Caleche at a small discount perfume store. I still remember the shock on the store clerk's face as I asked if they carried Caleche. Such an old-fashioned perfume, and I certainly didn't look like anyone who would wear it. The Hermes came in an awfully dull beige bottle which just screamed conservative. I, on the other hand, wore strange clothes I made myself, nearly white facial powder and red eyeshadow. Not your typical Caleche wearer.
When I moved to Maine in 1991, I brought my perfume collection with me. But soon, I realized that wearing scent was just not part of my new life. I could not imagine wearing perfume while attending to my sheep. It didn't fit. Besides, I was so in love with all the new smells of nature, I didn't want anything to stand in the way of that. So, I gave my perfume to the Salvation Army. I'm sorry I didn't keep it, for everything I had has been reformulated.
Tonight, I finally opened up the sample vial of Caleche that I have in my possession. I've been putting it off for months. Knowing that it would be different (and having read all the bad reviews) I felt like revisiting it would be like smelling the scent of dissapointment. I'm in a bad mood this evening, so I figured it couldn't make it worse, but it might make it better. Either I would be pleasantly taken back to one of those lovely firsts in life or I would be, well, dissapointed. But, really, I was expecting something truly awful, so there was nothing to lose.
I opened the vial. My first impression, "No! It smells the same! What were they talking about?!" Ah. I smiled.
It took, at most, a full minute for my reaction to take a sudden turn. That first impression was about as fleeting as they come. Around the time I started to smile, my nose sent me a message, "Hold on a moment. That was a ruse."
And so it was. What has changed? The first moment, so perfectly like the original, turns immediately into baby powder. And not a nice baby powder, but used baby powder. Not a pretty picture. And certainly, not a nice scent.