I am a Coco Chanel girl. Have been since I was 20, have always been rather proud of it, have never thought much about switching. It’s the kind of perfume that makes me feel both fancy and hopeful that people will say, “What are you wearing? It really suits you.”
Because to suit something Coco Chanel is responsible for? I have no problem with that, letmetellya.
I love women who smell strongly of perfume, don’t you? I mean, not crazy strong and not, like, Jovan White Musk, but the kind of women who leave a good, strong wake behind them.
My best friend Kristin’s mom is that kind of woman. Every time Jocelyn would come over with Kristin in tow, I would bask in her scent and think she was crazy glamorous. She wore Clinique Aromatics Elixir, and it smelled of sandalwood and bergamot and confidence.
My mom wore it too, because she and Jocelyn were (and are) best friends. My mom would always give herself a good spritz right before she and my dad went out for the night and after I’d watched her apply three different shades of shimmery eyeshadow (bronze, gold, pink, in that order).
She kept her perfumes in a little wicker and bamboo stand in her bathroom and I loved to look at the bottles. She also had Youth Dew by Estée Lauder (remember the one that came in the bottle with the gold bow cinched like a belt around it?). She hardly ever wore that one, though, because have you smelled Youth Dew? Yikes.
Perfumes had a different status in the 1980s and 1990s because of their commercials. Like, remember the black-and-white commercials for Eternity when it first came out? With the gorgeous people making out in the surf? Holy moly, it was so hot and heavy you hoped the commercial didn’t come on while you were watching TV with your parents.
And remember the commercial for Poison? Showing only the bottle and a woman’s hands whose fingernails were painted the color of blood? I was both a little bit afraid of and wanted to be the type of woman who would wear a scent like that.
And who could forget Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds commercials?
My favorite was the one where the men are playing cards in a place that looks like Casablanca or somewhere equally fantastic. It was in black and white too. The men have a huge pot of money in the center of a table, and someone adds a raw diamond to the kitty. They’re about to show their hands when Elizabeth Taylor walks in wearing a white dress with a sweetheart neckline and says, “Not so fast, von Ryan.” She then pulls her diamond earrings off and adds them to the pot.
Coolest move ever. My grandma actually wore White Diamonds for a while. She was a pretty cool lady too.
Then there were the moms who wore powdery scents like Love’s Baby Soft or Anaïs Anaïs. I’ll be honest, I had the type of mom who kind of made fun of moms like that. And I’ve likewise become the type of woman who can’t really be friends with powdery-scented ladies. I’ve found they often like going to Disney World way too much.
When I was 17 and working as a busgirl at the Medicine Rock Café (winner of the least appetizing restaurant name in the world), I saved up $55 in tips to buy a bottle of Eternity perfume, feeling convinced that if I owned that scent, my life would resemble Christy Turlington’s.
You know when you get a new prescription for your glasses and you are nauseated for the day? Well, that’s how my first day was wearing Eternity perfume. But you know how you only stay nauseated by your new glasses’ prescription for 24 hours? Well, the nausea didn’t wear off for me with Eternity. I suffered for a week, green to the gills, before I finally admitted wearing Eternity felt like an eternity. The bottle sat on my bedroom vanity for years, years, before I finally threw that thing out.
I learned two lessons there: don’t buy a perfume before you’ve smelled it, and don’t buy a perfume just because you like the commercial. It’s a couple of lessons, I would wager, not a lot of people have to learn.
However, after wasting my $55, I decided to save some dough and try out a Designer Imposter body spray. Remember those? I’m still not sure how they pulled it off legally, but the aerosol bottle says, “If you like Giorgio, you’ll LOVE Primo!”
Again, this ended up being a failed experiment. One, I felt like a fake. And, two, they, umm, didn’t smell the same.
Which, at long last, led me to my beloved Coco. Yes, a bit of an investment. But a small price to pay for feeling like a boss.