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WAITING TO INHALE
tales of a scented life

by our Resident Beauty Expert
Wendy Lewis, the Beauty Junkie


Helen Keller once wrote, "Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived." The purely personal experience of the sensory delights of fragrance is truly one of life's simple pleasures. There is nothing more comforting than being enveloped with the rich aroma of familiarity. Fragrance can transform an ordinary room into a place of beauty. It is the accessory that enhances a décor, completes an outfit and sets a lasting mood. Smells are processed through the right side of the brain where memories are stored and the sense of smell triggers our powers of recall long after the visual images have faded. For me, the personal sanctuary of a dressing table offers my most meditative sensual remembrances. Growing up I recall the faint whisper of Shalimar at my grandmother's vanity. Just one whiff brings on a warm and cosy feeling and elicits the corners of my mouth turning up to smile peacefully. My earliest introduction to French was on the bottles of my Grandmother's perfumes that I struggled to pronounce with an air or authenticity; Bal à Versailles, Je Revillion, L'Air du Temps. I would attribute my inspiration for choosing French over Spanish in middle school to just that. Despite an occasional dalliance here and there with the Italians like Fendi, Ferré and Krizia, for me parfum will always be French.

My own foray into the fragrance world was somewhere around the onset of puberty via 'Charlie', the cologne du jour of the preteen set in my day. Some of us never forget the first bottle of fragrance we could call our own. A gal's first bottle of perfume is a rite of passage. It is a curious phenomenon among the female species that you can look at different phases of your life by the fragrances you wore. Junior High was, among other embarrassments I would rather forget, my 'Charlie' years.

When I became enlightened, I switched to YSL's Opium with its deep pungent cinnabar tones and oriental allure. The deep orange oval bottle represented a giant leap into the lap of luxury. From there I was hooked and never strayed back to the drugstore potions of my youth. It may also have had to do with the fact that I was no longer relegated to minimum wage. I remained loyal to Opium until my freshman year at Barnard. Travelling the ivy -draped slated paths of Barnard during the late 1970's decked out with earrings, mascara and anything more fashionable than Birkenstocks was considered an act of heresy. The feminist Goddesses who roamed the same paths were watching, and material adornments would be cause for a failing grade. My post graduate scent of choice was Chloé, which marked a distinct departure into a more feminine bouquet, perhaps in response to the strictly un-feminine mystique of my alma mater. This departure into sweet essences showed me that choosing a fragrance isn't as simple as finding something that smells wonderful. We have a unique chemistry all our own that dictates how it will wear and last and whether you can clear a room merely by entering it.

That brief floral phase soon gave way to the Poison years that began in the mid-eighties. When Poison was launched, it was love at first sniff. Later I made the switch to Poison Lite to keep up with the trends, but it was never quite as seductive. This marked a dramatic detour in the course of my scented life; a willingness to switch fragrances at least as often as I change handbags. The days when women wore only one heady signature scent for years on end, departing perhaps for summer to something lighter, are long gone. Today we have a wardrobe of fragrances to go with our closets full of pumps, sweater sets and black pants. The concept of 'fragrance-free' is particularly lost on me. Fragrance adds a life-affirming element of glamour to anything that will touch your precious skin cells. If it is designed for use on the skin, hair, and body, in my view, it has an absolute duty to smell delicious. Given a choice between something touted to zap my wrinkles in a single drop that smells like it could attract a musk deer, or something that does little more than softens fine lines but makes my head spin when I open the jar, I'll go for the luxury every time.

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