I remember Amarige like I remember physical catastrophes I have lived through or heard through the retelling of elders, almost since the dawn of time. I remember Amarige with the abject horror we reserve in the farthest pockets of terror we keep in our innermost chthonian thoughts, ripe for sowning on a hot summer's day when the pending coming of the Antichrist doesn't seem too far away. I remember Amarige like the miasma of a horde of Attila the Hun sweeping through Asia and Europe till he is abruptly stopped by his own debauchery bedding a 16-year-old.
What prompted this tirade of evil reminiscences? Simply put, a timely comment by one of our readers, Sarah G, who asked if I had any recollection of having a scent completely "ruined" by associating with someone. Do I have one!
Amarige by Givenchy is a typhoon, no doubt about it, and it has earned its fair share of detractors through the years, as much as admirers. What however irrevocably sealed its fate for me was having to smell it spritzed five times under each armpit on the otherwise pristine shirts of someone close to me. The strange ritual was founded in the received knowledge that antiperspirants based on aluminum block sweat glands and therefore discouraged by doctors, who prompted to offer an alternative suggested a mist of cologne on clothes for a refreshing feeling. Little did they know they had opened the sacks of Aeolus! Amarige must have some redeeeming quality, yet refreshing cologne it isn't, by any stretch of the most perverse imagination. But to someone who is enjoying the suffocating chemical tuberose emanations, it must have smelled like the first day of summer. Alas it was my destiny to be around and it was its destiny to lose what advantage it might have had over my epithelium. Thus Amarige has been for ever associated with doom for me...Not that I consider it a good scent. But you get my point (it could happen to anything, even my beloved Lutens or vintage Guerlains!)
The matter of association is of the utmost importance when it comes to scents: we associate our mother's smell with comfort, our dad's with security, our loved ones' with feeling appealing and alive, our enemies' with displeasure; of warm bread out of the oven with satiety and of cold steel with fear entering a doctor's office for a much dreaded medical exam; of cut hay with the promise of summer vacations and of putrid water with disgust and anihillation. Scent poses its own universe of subconscious reality from each we often cannot escape. With every breath, with every quivering of the nostrils, we catch subtle or not so subtle wafts of essences which volatilize into holograms of all too real fantasy.
And it is most disappointing when those negative associations have to do with fine fragrance, fragrance which we might have chosen for ourselves or simply enjoyed smelling in the air, if only it weren't for that tangible web of memory which ruins it for us.
So, do you have similar cases of having a fragrance ruined for you through association? Let me hear those horror stories for twisted Little Red Riding Hoods now...
Photography by Jean Baptiste Mondino, courtesy of mondino-update