When memory becomes better than the real thing


It’s a typical story. Niche perfumery makes amazing perfume under total creative freedom. This is rare and celebrated, and celebrated because it’s rare. Big cosmetic company comes along and buys niche perfumery. Big cosmetic company wants to cut costs, and niche perfumery loses creative freedom. Amazing perfume gets reformulated with cheaper ingredients and becomes less amazing.

Perfume lovers bemoan this inevitable change, and either buy the perfume anyway, or go on the hunt for the old versions, or move on.

Yet, reformulation is something that happens to all of us, isn’t it? Not on purpose, perhaps, and usually not to cheap out. With perfume, the newer versions are most often considered to be inferior. What about with people? Supposedly, over time we’re becoming better versions of ourselves.


The test of this idea comes when you see someone you have known well, after a prolonged absence. You have a mental image of each other, shaped by memories. Forgetfulness of minor details may have airbrushed this image a little bit (for better or worse).

At the moment you meet again, neither of you are quite the same people as you were the last time you met. Does the present reality live up to the memory?

Is that even the right question? I daresay it isn’t, simply because it’s moot.

However, being human, we can be forgiven for asking.

Because who hasn’t pined after a perfume from yore only to track it down and find that it’s not as good as it was remembered?

Fortunately, the rules that apply to perfume don’t necessarily apply to people.


When reformulated you meet reformulated me, the conversation becomes different and potentially interesting. Even if we habitually reminisce about old common ground as a way of bonding to find new common ground.






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