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Nostalgia February 2017

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Eau de Shopping Mall: The Pungent Powers of Perfume

By Anne Ashley

On one of her rare appearances my aunt leaned over to kiss my cheek and I became mesmerized by the waft of perfume she left behind (and in front, beside and over me) as she passed. I remember this particular occasion well because it was also the first time I’d heard the word floozy!

* * *

Even as a grandmother I still wear the same scent today – although now it’s less about being wife-mommy-sassy and more about being companion-superfluous-stubborn.

I lost track of how many times over the Christmas period I was approached by a sales person in a department store asking if I would like to sample the latest wonder-fragrance created for both men and women. As if its genderlessness is somehow the very thing I’ve waited my entire perfumeless life for!

Seriously? Now we even have to smell the same?

I can still recall the very first time I was made aware of the pungent powers of perfume. My paternal aunt was quite the gal in her day. And her visits never came often enough, as far as I was concerned. She was the only person on the planet who could irritate our ultra-strict father and not be threatened with a spanking for it. On one occasion, she reproached her younger brother for not relaying information of some sort soon enough, causing me to practically choke on my bubble gum when her reprimand was accompanied by a swat to the back of his head.

She could wear her high-heeled shoes in the house when the rest of us were threatened with execution for so much as stepping inside with our PF Flyers still attached to our feet. She drank beer from a bottle – despite that, according to the coven of women in attendance, this particular afternoon, no lady worth her talcum powder drank from a bottle – let alone, drank beer – without earning a ruinous reputation.

Anyway, on one of her rare appearances my aunt leaned over to kiss my cheek and I became mesmerized by the waft of perfume she left behind (and in front, beside and over me) as she passed. I remember this particular occasion well because it was also the first time I’d heard the word floozy!

Evidently – also according to the coven of other female relatives – overpowering fragrances were reserved for certain types of women and I further deduced from the endless tch-tching going on that bangles, perfume and low-cut, figure-hugging floral dresses were unacceptable attire in certain company. I instantly and reluctantly accepted that I would incur the wrath of Satan’s sisters if I so much as hinted that I wanted perfume for my 12th birthday! 

My reason for being so drawn to my aunt was probably because she was such a rebel. No one put her in her place … well, not without having paid an extremely and embarrassing high price, for their efforts, that is. She wore what she wanted, where she wanted – regardless of whether it was a church gathering or a family picnic.

Thereafter, fragrance became my inspiration, my motivation to grow up. I associated perfume with independence, individuality and boldness. I couldn’t wait to be old enough to disregard the advice of my elders and bathe in whatever it was my aunt was bathing in! As a youngster, I assumed that all adults sought some kind of higher authority’s permission before being allowed to waft scent all hither and yon. As an adult I searched high and low to find a scent that I felt conveyed my particular brand of wife-mommy-sassiness. It was a near obsession to find the right one. When I did finally find what I considered to be the right combination of me plus the me I desired to be, I was never without it. Even as a grandmother I still wear the same scent today – although now it’s less about being wife-mommy-sassy and more about being companion-superfluous-stubborn.

Fast forward to modern fragrances on offer and young women are left with nothing more than a unisex choice, a non-denominational imposter, a $2 ersatz in a $25 bottle that leaves me grieving for their loss. Gone is the floral or spicy, musky or zesty scent of a woman. In its place is a weird fusion of confusion.

Despite my aunt risking her reputation on tight clothes, baubles, bangles and perfume so potent it made your eyes water (not to mention, pissing off a man I knew to have a belt strap at the ready 24/7), I’d take that any day before I settled on the up-to-the-minute variety of eau de shopping mall! 

 

Be sure to follow me on twitter@anneashley57.

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