I still felt that way after sitting through five interminable acts of Mussorgsky’s “Khovanshchina” at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, seated behind an operaphile who was also a Dior Poisonphile. Remember Poison?
I’m quoting the ***** review Luca Turin gives Poison in the must-have “Perfumes:The Guide” he wrote with Tania Sanchez. Honor gave it to me for Mother’s Day a few years ago (knowing my proclivities) and I’ll spend a whole post extolling its greatness at a later date.I’ve spent more time memorizing its contents than I ever did on Bible verses. Just saying.
“Reviewing Poison is a bit like road-testing an Abrams M1 tank in the evening rush hour.People just seem to get out of your way, and if they don’t, you just swivel that turret to remind them you’re not kidding.This is the fragrance everyone loves to hate, the beast that defined the eighties, the perfume that cost me a couple of friendships and one good working relationship…” “Every perfume collector has to have this, but please never, ever wear it to dinner LT.”
Or to the opera. Or within twenty feet of another human being. I think it would be fabulous when skyjumping — brazen and apologetically unnatural. My opera Poison-Mist dispenser hadn’t the sense to tone it down, but hey, I admire her chutzpah, and I’m pro-parfum.
Many disagree with me. My scent-phobic sister-in-law once got on the phone with the billing department at Marshall Field and told them she would cut up her credit card if she ever received another smelly insert with her bill. Sensing she meant it, once a month someone hand-stuffed her bill. But me: go for it. Express yourself flagrantly and fragrantly — I don’t intend to tone it down, even if you haven’t the exquisite taste to appreciate my Apres L’Ondee. (“Guerlain *****”Among pale romantic fragrances, only Apres L’Ondee has the unresolved but effortless feel of the watery piano chords that make Debussy’s pieces[Images is exactly contemporary]so poignant, One of the twenty greatest fragrances of all time. TS”)
I always have a few Guerlain fragrances in rotation — all ***** according to Luca and Tania — and I find them necessary to my happiness in some essential, primal way. Cheap they’re not. But I’m the kind of parfumophile who has no problem with approaching a perfect stranger and asking “What are you wearing?” I don’t know how it is, but they never say “Uh, jeans and a Hawks jersey?,” but “Cool Water.” Not ” Pendleton,” but “Rive Gauche.” They are my brothers and sisters of the atomizer, my educators, and the most personal version of the Free Squirt.
My husband works as a part-time caregiver to a man with serious developmental difficulties named Nelson. The job consists of getting Nelson out of the house — er: into the community. Nelson loves malls and grocery stores. Lou loves malls and grocery stores –it’s all good. All winter Lou’s come home with a pocketful of the paper smellies his sister hates so much, mostly from the Macy’s fragrance counter. During cocktail hour he’ll pull them out, and say “Guess,” or “What do you think?” (I think Angel is overrated.) Free Squirt fun for cabin fever.
But here is the history of the purest form of the Free Squirt.
As a young woman I felt foolishly furtive trying out the testers at Saks. I was afraid of the macquilleed -coiffeed sisterhood behind the counters, afraid that one of them would reach into my wallet with her manicured hand and terrify into buying, say, Poison. My mother, wrapped in black mink and veils of Joy (Patou ***** “Joy does not smell of rose, jasmine, ylang or tuberose. It just smells huge, luscious and absolutely wonderful LT”) loved the Sisterhood of the Spritzers and all those pretty testers on mirrored trays. She knew what she liked and knew she’d receive her “big bucket of Joy” every Christmas from my father. But she too had a curious nose, and would smile at the saleslady who sensed a perfect customer. When asked: “May I help you?” Mummy would say airily “No thanks, I’m just here for my Free Squirt.” She’d leave the store with about twenty of those freebie tiny vials the saleslady pulled unprompted from under the counter. Shopping with my mother, whether for fish or frocks was always a small adventure.
I’m older now, and have real things to fear, not well-groomed saleswomen with swollen feet. Now I smile when approached and say “No, I’m just here for my Free Squirt.” They laugh and chat with me and occasionally hand me one of those tiny plastic-capped vials. Never give up on the chance for a free squirt of joy.