06 Jan
The Power of Perfume


Over Christmas, I enjoyed some very special hugs. In most cases, as the hug ended, the recipient of my hug inhaled deeply and said, "You smell wonderful. What perfume are you wearing?" My perfume, at the moment, is COCO, Mademoiselle, by Chanel, and I usually wear it, discreetly, inside the front of my clothing, near the warmth of my cleavage. My fragrance is rarely noticed, except by those I like well enough to hug. My granddaughter is often on my knee, and is particularly interested in fragrance. She will ask, “Grandma, what smells good?” Before helping me into my coat, my husband, on occasion, will bring the collar closer to his nose, to inhale the traces of my perfume. This magic is what we deserve from a fragrance. I have even been known to pull my sweater away from my neck to inhale the scent of myself.

I have had lots of experience with fragrance, both personal and professional. The boy, from The Get a Bigger Wagon stories, was under the spell of a cream sachet made by Avon, when he was just twelve years old. Even then, he would move nearer to me in order to inhale the fragrance of Here’s My Heart, one more time.

I have always worn my fragrance in cream or talcum powder form. I knew instinctively that this method of scenting the skin was longer lasting and subtle. I was raised with no frills, so I learned about Avon’s Here’s My Heart from Santa Clause. He, mysteriously, left me a tin of Here’s My Heart talcum powder at a Christmas concert, where I had played Mrs. Clause, back in1957. I always worried about receiving that gift, because the writing, on the tag, looked more like it spelled Marion than Maureen, but Santa insisted it was for me. It seemed a very grown-up present, coming from a fellow who catered to children. Anyway, I can honestly say that Santa introduced me to the perfume I would wear through puberty and beyond.

I married the boy, from the Get a Bigger Wagon stories, in 1970, and, for some reason, I chose a new fragrance for our wedding and honeymoon. The fragrance was called Cache, and like our marriage, it was launched in 1970. Prince Matchabelli’s new fragrance was a light, appealing fragrance. Advertisements for Cache claimed that it smelled different on everyone. Of course, now I know that this is true of every fragrance. We bring our skin, with all of its hormones, sweat, and chemistry, to our fragrance mix, no matter what perfume we apply on top.

However, if I had known in 1970, what I know now, about smell-memory, I would never have chosen a new fragrance for such a special occasion. I knew I'd be creating a memory with a new scent, but, in truth, a honeymoon should reinforce the courtship with a historical scent. I finished the bottle and never bought another.

Eventually, Avon discontinued Here's My Heart. Long before the discontinuation though, my loyalty had flagged. We owned drugstores, gift stores, and finally The Body Shop franchise for the province of Saskatchewan. I had a plethora of fragrances available to me. Like many young women, I wore one for summer and another for winter. I had morning perfumes and evening fragrances. I enjoyed creams, lotions, and bathing products. I loved to layer my scents, starting by exfoliating my body, then bathing in a tub filled with oils and bubbles, and finishing with a full coverage of lotion. I enjoyed fragrance, and although every pore was imbued with deliciousness, it was all under my clothing, so never detectable, unless I had a hot flash or came in close enough for a hug. 

Then, one day, I got a flyer in my mailbox indicating that, for a limited time, Here’s My Heart would be available from Avon. It was being reissued with a few other vintage fragrances. Ignoring the use of the word vintage, I began to think it would be fun to ambush my husband with a trip back to our youth. I called the Avon Lady and was disappointed to learn that there was no cream sachet or talcum powder being launched…just eau de toilette. Well, it would be similar, I thought. I ordered four bottles, because I was sure it would be a short run. I dug out my batik skirt, and I looked through recipes I had made for my husband before we were married.

Well, the Here’s My Heart arrived. I sprayed it on after my bath and let it mix with my skin, for the afternoon. One should always prepare early, for a date, and let things steep. The fragrance didn’t seem familiar to me, but I had been making puffed wheat cake and preparing hot dog toppings for our flashback supper. My nasal passages were likely confused. When I heard my husband’s feet coming up the steps, I ran optimistically to the door to welcome him home, anticipating a fabulous start to my Here’s My Heart date. He smiled and reached for a hug. Then he pulled back, looked quizzically into my eyes, and asked, “Have you been spraying Raid?” As the LP playing in my brain screeched to an abrupt halt, I thought, “Kudos to Raid for building a better spray,” but “Avon, you have let me down.” In truth, my hormones had changed, and, likely, so had my husband’s limbic system. So, you can’t go back, in perfume or in life.

I had a happier fragrance experience, developing a scent, unique to The Body Shops in Saskatchewan. We wanted to develop a scent called Saskatoon Berry Pie that would smell like a pie coming out of the oven. The samples were couriered back and forth to our chosen perfume house. I remember discussing, on the phone, with the developer that the scent needed an almond note and perhaps a touch more buttery goodness. In the end, we created a range of soaps and candles that our customers loved. I understand, and respect, perfume more completely, now.

I think choosing a fragrance is a process worth embracing. It takes time, and, if you live with others, it takes teamwork. I won't settle for, "You smell nice." I want my husband keenly interested, at first sniff, in coming in for the deeper inhale. I want his mind to fill with memories of us, whenever he encounters a waft of me. This time, I tried at least five lovely fragrances before we moved from “That’s nice,” to “Hmmm, you smell great!” For now, we are both enjoying my COCO Mademoiselle.   

Fragrance is important for men too. My husband wears a scent that I find intoxicating. Unfortunately, his fragrance has been discontinued. He tries to save it, but I encourage its use. We will stash a few bottles, and when they are used, we will begin the search for his new scent. We know, now, that our bodies change over time, and no scent can be our best, forever!  

My puffed wheat cake sales helped pay for these uniforms. 

Comments (6)

  • Marion Murawsky
    January 16, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    I love it!!! I remember " Play It Cool" from high school years. Still like similar fragrances - lol.

  • Raylene Kershaw
    January 7, 2015 at 03:30 pm

    Maureen, my husband is very much into scents. He has bought me several wonderful fragrances over the years. Just the other day I was giving all the pretty bottles a delicate wipe and couldn't resist popping the lid off a few. Inhaling deeply of Ed Hardy's Villain, I coughed suddenly and tears came to my eyes. It brought me back several years to when my daughter got her curious hands on the perfume and helped herself to several sprays to her fancy dress and hair. Oh what a site (and smell)! I haven't touched a drop of it since. A very happy memory but nary a molecule will grace my skin ever again. Perhaps I will gift the bottle to her when she is older.

  • Carol Senger
    January 6, 2015 at 05:50 pm

    Maureen, I also wore Coco Mademoiselle by Channel for years! I would wear it during the winter months and wear something lighter in the summer months. My daughter gave me a bottle of Inspiration by La Costa and I have been using that ever since. My Gord loves the scent. Love reading your blog!

  • Pat Senecal
    January 6, 2015 at 05:08 pm

    Laughed right out loud...such a good read!!:-)

  • Kay Robertson
    January 6, 2015 at 04:45 pm

    Maureen I love the photo of the basketball team. I recognize Mr. Short, the Aikten twins, Bill Clarke, Rick Longman, Gord, and Grant Coulter but I don't know the other two in the middle of the front row. Who? Loved the story of the scents, too. My husband marvels at the things I remember from years ago (like certain meals and certain conversations) but I may have met my match in you! YOur memory for these details is phenomenal! K

  • Mandy Ross
    January 6, 2015 at 03:10 pm

    Oh I loved this Maureen! I am a lover of smell and perfumery! I have often thought of starting my own aromatherapy line. I think one of my favorite parts of working at the Body Shop was the oil perfumes and helping people find a fragrance and even mixing them up a couture fragrance! And the giant square Saskatoon Berry candle you gifted to the staff was one of my all time favorites! I love nothing more than for my husband to smell me and sigh because I smell so good to him! Smell is so important and powerful! I love that idea that our bodies change and so our fragrances and our olfactory memories must always be making new memories! How rich life really is!

Let us know what you think