Yes, I’m still alive! More alive during the summer than I can remember ever being! There’s no feeling on earth like a cold front in the middle of July. When it arrives, the air smells and even sounds different than it did moments earlier. We’re already three days into this cold front and we still have more lovely ahead of us. Can you believe it? 69 degrees for the high in the middle of July in Oklahoma!?
My current obsession is perfume. I’ve always loved it, but I’ve just begun to get a bit more serious than “I like this” or “I don’t like this.” The other night, I was revisiting my late teens with Paloma Picasso, multitasking on beads, tidying up, and sweating like a sauna rock in the kitchen over a vat of pasta destined for my first stab at Pioneer Woman’s Best Macaroni Salad Ever. Then I returned to the bead cave and parked myself behind the triple mix and I literally heard the cold front arrive. It was so alarming I paused Jennifer Horton/Devereaux/Horton/Blake/Horton/Devereaux/Horton mid stunned cringey gasp (Days Of Our Lives) for a better listen to whatever was happening outside the window. It was nothing but a significant pressure change, and seconds later my new metal bottle of denatured alcohol popped and announced the arrival of the long awaited cold front.
At that very same moment, Paloma became slightly more appealing. It is a fragrance best worn – and more likely to be appreciated – in cooler weather. Strange how that happened so instantly once the air cooled. Maybe it’s purely psychological or maybe there’s something to it. Paloma Picasso, in case you don’t know it, is a cacophonous fragrance released roundabout 1984. Where I attended catholic elementary school (which would have been around the same time period as Paloma’s release, incidentally) the outdoor boys bathroom was legendary. The girls always tried to peek in when the door swung open and a grubby member of the opposite sex emerged, but as far as I knew, no girl had ever set foot inside. All I ever caught a glimpse of was dark dankness and a yellowed wall revealed by a dim bare light bulb. The rumor was that there weren’t even toilets in there any more; the nuns had simply given up on training them to aim, and the charming little lads were allowed to pee on the walls. It certainly smelled that way each time the stench wafted out the door. The point is, Paloma’s first spritz summons to mind those miserable days on the playground where I spent cold and lonely hours in my green plaid uniform, sometimes finding shelter from the north wind in that nook outside the boys’ bathroom door while I waited for my mother to fetch me after work. Woe was me.
But after a few minutes, Paloma cleans up that cesspool with a burst of bar soap and freshly potted plants – and she does it all in her black wool suit and 5 inch heels and tomato red lipstick, her board straight Cleopatra hairdo sweeping across her shoulders with each movement. I’m not sure why I imagine her this way, I have no idea what Paloma Picasso looks like (I think I may be imagining a younger Angelica Huston), and I’d almost prefer to keep it that way. I have a complicated relationship with this fragrance, as I do with most fragrances that have been in my life for this long. During my teens, Paloma was in fairly permanent rotation amongst other screamers such as Opium, Aromatics Elixir, Chanel’s Coco, Krizia’s Teatro Alla Scala, and Karl Lagerfeld’s KL. On one unforgettable evening during the fall after I graduated high school, I wore (what I thought for years afterwards was) Aromatics Elixir. But after trying repeatedly over the years to recapture that scent memory with my last few drops of Aromatics, I gave Paloma Picasso a sniff at Macy’s several months ago and thought “hmmm… it could have been Paloma” and after spraying the tester into the crook of my arm it was confirmed. They’re similar, but very different in a few distinct ways – and it’s been Paloma all along and I’ve been wasting my precious (pre-IFRA* nonsense) bottle of Aromatics in vain hope of recapturing what turned out to be a false scent memory. Woe once more.
Perfume is so different now. Few of them still have that same character, that lengthy evolution from first loud awful spritz to whimsical and long-lasting dry down. The truth is, most modern (and accessible) fragrance isn’t as much about fragrance as it is about marketing. Many people assume that their long-time fragrances are simply gone forever when they can no longer find them at the department store. Sometimes that’s the case, but most can be found online or in independently owned local shops. Unless they’re adventurous, many of today’s young women will never experience a bold, complex love-and-or-hate fragrance of Paloma Picasso’s ilk because they’re not marketed to younger women. I’ve experienced this myself. The overwrought department store employee recommends the newest celebrity fragrance dripping in sterilized rose and gooey candy because that’s what’s for sale and you look like you’re about 25. Even if you’re on the home stretch to 60, you might be asked “aren’t you a little young for that?” when you request a tester of Opium or Paloma Picasso… if they even have a clue what you’re talking about. One must ask because they’re generally behind the counter to make way for the trendy jasmelon spritzes that stay that way start to finish, and fade within two hours. Sometimes that quick fade is a very good thing.
Considering my description, I do love Paloma Picasso, although this is a fragrance that should be allowed to calm the hell down before you go near other people. I found that the dry-down is very similar to one of my favorite stick incenses, HEM’s Patchouli. Sometimes I spritz a teensy bit of Les Orientaux Patchouli (a nifty single-note affair meant for layering, produced by the French perfumer Molinard) and Paloma will be tame enough to wear much sooner. Or if I want it to stay true, I often smear a bit of lotion over it to help spread it out a bit.
*IFRA – International Fragrance Association – We are why your favorite fragrances have seen significant reformulations over the years and are merely a shadow of what they once were. We serve only the whiny people who hate patchouli and are allergic to their own skin and the litigious windbags who seek to line their pocketbooks with the dollars of said whiny people. JOIN US OR DIE. (Seriously, though – have a look at this website if you’re at all curious about perfume. You’d probably need to be a lawyer and a chemist to understand most of it, but its an interesting read all the same.)
Anyway, I’m still working on boro beads and I’ll have another update for you very soon. It’s looking like there will be many, many boro beads. We shall see. Thanks for reading!