Sunday, May 16, 2010
Lately I’ve been contemplating my stash of My Sin, which consists of 4 large bottles of edt (3 full) and two little vials of parfum. That’s a rather modest hoard by perfume freak standards, especially when you consider that this dear, departed Lanvin is the nearest thing to an HG I’ll ever have. Still, I am wondering if I should surrender some of it, or maybe even get rid of the stash altogether. At my present rate of use it will take me years to get through it all, and I’ll be very reluctant to see that last drop go. Odds are—barring some catastrophe, or radical action on my part—I will leave behind at least one not-quite-empty bottle of aged juice when I exit the planet.
I think all perfume obsessives know that the hoarding impulse is not really about the pleasure of scent, or even simple greed. Our favorite perfumes are touchstones for us. One of the ways we create our identities is through our subjective responses, our likes and dislikes. We declare ourselves to other people through our preferred pleasures, yes--but it’s really more than that. We actually recognize ourselves in the familiar reaction we feel to a particular scent. Experiencing a beloved fragrance is like looking in the mirror or writing your name. It reminds you who you are. That’s why finding out a favorite perfume has been discontinued—or worse, reformulated—is so distressing. It feels as if some piece of your very self is in danger of disappearing. Hoarding is a hedge against that.
Perfume is just one of many such existential crutches. Favorite foods, clothes, trinkets, books, records, photographs, love letters—there’s no end to the stuff that we think we need to keep within reach so we won’t forget ourselves. That’s natural enough, and not altogether bad, but I’m feeling the need to cut a few things loose. A crutch you don’t really need is just a burden, and surely at this point in my life I can do without a few of mine. And yet, somehow it feels like a transgression to dispatch even this one old friend...
Vanity, Hans Memling, c.1485