Life-Love 42: Being surprised by a hint of perfume

Growing up French Canadian, and spending a lot of time in France meant paying attention to the finer things in life. Personal grooming, stylish attire and thoughtfully chosen adornment define much of the French child’s world where he or she is taught to discern: elegant from mundane, vulgar from exquisite and appropriate from awkward. I have, in many ways, adapted to the easy and forgiving ways of the Anglo world, but I still express this discernment in the realm of cologne. I love perfume. I love the way it blends sensuously with one’s own scent, highlighting one’s personality, bringing out and accenting the physical self. There is no greater pleasure than catching a whiff of woodsy citrus or vanilla after I have played soccer or gone for a run – how it blends with tang of my sweat turning my sodden undershirt into a collage of smells: a blend of the animal odour of the workout and the elegantly ordered notes of the Parisian or Milanese perfumer. For me, a trip to the perfume counter at Holt Renfrew or other such purveyors of fine scents is a joy to be savoured. I enjoy the sage conversation with the perfume counter salesperson: what a joy to chat articulately, chat analytically about something as visceral and ephemeral as perfume. How reassuring to know that there is a science and a culture and caring craft behind the finest scents; to learn of their ties to great eras or persons in history. Scent is such a delicate and yet powerful thing. I think there no more tantalising moment than when you approach another, to shake hands or touch cheeks in a kiss goodbye, and catch a hint of his or her chosen scent. Smell tells a story in a moment, bringing back flashes of memory from the past, opening a very intimate door into how they interpret their body to you. Choice of scent is very private – a good choice opens up your personality and explains who you are. I find orange tones with woods and spice match my daily routines, whereas Autumn is musky and Winter spicy, with a hint of cinnamon or vanilla – all of these delicately chosen scents match our bodies, telling the tale of our day’s exertions in a visceral, powerful way. What a pleasure to see someone’s face light up and eyes widen, when they lean in close to hug or kiss or whisper something, and discover, in a warm intake of breath, your chosen scent. Ah, the fleeting joy of a secret revealed, a door unlocked, a curtain pulled aside for a few seconds. The moment passes, conversation continues, leave is taken, but the memory of the scent lingers as you walk into the cool darkness of the stoop at night.

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  1. Alex! You didn’t choose to indulge us in your favourite scents? I’d be interested in knowing what frangrances you stockpile (if you’re like me – you have a few bottles arranged on your bureau, some emptier than others!)

  2. Haha – I am into Zegna Forte right now and I love Hermès Eau d’orange verte as well as Hermès Terre des Hommes.

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