Scent is supposedly the most powerful trigger of emotional memory. Who are you, marketer, to tell me how I should feel?
My first scent love, as a young child, was amber. It was somewhat predictable, having the fragrance be of the same description as the color of its liquid form. Amber was my first mostly by default rather than by choice. All I knew of the category at the time, it shaped my idea of what a perfume was.
The sweet, warm richness of amber signified to me the comfort and (feminine) authority of my female teachers. A presence that beckoned for me to grow and become better—to move in time in their direction. The sillage of amber suggested a confident woman—an adult to whom I could aspire—who knew what she was doing and could get things done.
At home, I also had a scented hair oil with a similar smell (although the bottle was green). Again, comfort and the promise of beauty, in semi-regular olfactory reinforcement.
I kind of just took that for granted.
Over time, of course, my nose met plenty of new fragrances, usually accompanied by new places and people. Familiarized with having choices, I formed new likes and dislikes. Amber faded to the background of future nostalgia.
I accoutred myself in aquatics. I flirted with florals. I gallivanted with gourmands. I regaled rose-patchoulis. I had many loves for many occasions, and by occasion I mean a Monday, or a Tuesday, or…
Fast-forward to January 2019, the glorious beginning of my taking my long-nurtured interest in perfume to the next level. As I discovered more of the new, I also started hankering for the old. Where did amber go?
Well. Who knew antique stores would be a great place to play perfume roulette? I didn’t.
Nonetheless, the tiny bottle was waiting patiently for me. I didn’t even know what it was because the label was covered by a sticker that indicated the price was $3. It wasn’t quite full, but at first whiff, was full enough of nostalgia… there it was…
Buy first, research later! I learned that this perfume, Senchal by Charles of the Ritz, was launched in 1981 and aimed at the modern, independent young woman of the time. The ad was a poster of illustrated glamor, adorned with the copy line “She’s not marrying the boy next door!”
Ah, marketing. Ever presumptuous, ever telling people who they should be. Conjuring up a character only to shatter the image and insinuate an alternative—one as unique and individual as each of the masses who drinks the Kool-Aid of FOMO.
What, pray tell, would be the fragrance for the woman who does marry the boy next door???
With some trepidation, I wore a few drops of Senchal on my pulse points to the office today. I hoped I wouldn’t smell like someone who was a preteen decades ago and had doused herself in this perfume to feel grown up.
Fortunately, no one commented. Still, I could not shake a persistent degree of mild discomfort. The drydown was a bit too powdery for my liking. This perfume just wasn’t me at all.
On the emotional plane, I realized I had long outgrown the things my recollection of the scent embodied. They belonged to a former cocoon of my childhood. The women who may have worn this perfume at the prime of its popularity are in a different phase of life now.
My disappointment at the pulverulence of the odor could be somewhat analogous to my gradual disillusionment from the magic that I once thought some people brought. Reality versus wishful innocence.
To me, this is one for a cabinet shelf. Like an old postcard, it conveys a distant memory of someone thinking of you from a pleasant locale photographed at low resolution, that doubtless looks much altered now. It mirrors the modern woman who appreciates the past for its contribution to making her who she is, yet fancies packaging it up neatly and putting a bow on it so she can feast her eyes (and nose) on the future, facilely.
Now, marketer, tell me how that smells.