Scent of a woman

By Kris Ferrazza | Feb 13, 2020

Lately I’ve been on a mission to find an old friend.

In this case, Facebook is no help, and I can’t file a missing persons report. I’m not tracking down an old beau from high school or a bestie from college. It goes deeper than that.

This old friend has been with me through thick and thin. Given me courage when I needed to attend a funeral or deliver a painful eulogy. Helped me celebrate when I turned 30, 40, and 50. Attended my wedding and was there for the birth of my child.

This old friend is around somewhere, but seems just out of reach. It’s a part of me. It’s the perfume I’ve been wearing since the 1980s, and it feels like it’s in my DNA.

Since it has been discontinued, and my bottles were dropping to dangerously low levels, I started to panic.

Now before you jump all over me and explain that perfumes have fallen out of favor in recent years, I am well aware of this. With asthma, allergies and other health maladies seemingly on the rise, people in 2020 do not want to smell other people’s perfume. There is just no tolerance for it. Truthfully, I feel the same way.

I don’t want to breathe in the Axe body spray the boys bathe in at the middle school where I work. I don’t want to smell the fruity and flowery lotions and body sprays my 13-year-old applies on special occasions. And yes, Nana’s perfume is a headache in a bottle for me. I get it.

So like most things, we play our fragrances close to the vest. My daughter and I spritz a microscopically small amount on ourselves, and only occasionally. We wear it for ourselves, not to subject others to it.

After more than 30 years, frankly, it’s out of my control. I can’t stop, okay? I’m hooked on the junk. At this point, I can’t live without it.

My fragrance first came into my life during my college years when I was dating a handsome guy I adored. He commented on the scent and said he would turn around and follow any woman down the street who wore it.

From that day forward, I retired my other colognes. Gone were the Versace scents I loved, along with bottles of Chanel No. 5, Shalimar, Opium, Fendi, Dior and Yves St. Laurent.

I always understood the power of a signature scent. I could tell my mother was going out based on the arrival of Estee Lauder. It would herald her arrival before I even heard her voice or footsteps. Her trademark scent triggers memories that date back to childhood. I would sit on the edge of the tub and watch her apply her makeup and do her hair. The last order of business was always a small spritz of Estee Lauder, which is not a light perfume.

Today we try to be more subtle, but I knew I had replicated the experience for my own daughter one day when baby Elizabeth toddled through my bedroom, got a whiff of my favorite fragrance, and simply said, “I smell mama.”

I’ve worn this scent to so many special events, that it feels like a part of me. I was wearing it when I graduated, got engaged, won Journalist of the Year, and married my husband. When I gave birth to Elizabeth, the body wash was waiting in my hospital bag for that delicious post-delivery shower.

All of the highlights of my life have been punctuated by this special Ralph Lauren perfume, so as it has become more difficult to find, I’ve had to resort to some unconventional methods.

I’m fairly certain I bought my last “store” bottle over the counter at Macy’s in the 1990s. At the time, I couldn’t really afford the designer scent, but I ponied up the $50 I needed to buy the gorgeous garnet bottle.

With that purchase long gone, I had to resort to scouring Filene’s basement, TJ Maxx, Marshall’s and other discount stores for random scores. Once that well ran dry, the eBay online auction was my last resort. Results have been hit or miss.

Sometimes I’ve been thrilled to receive a vintage bottle and spritz it to find pure bliss. Other times, I’ve been livid to find what I’d been sold had gone bad or was nothing like the original.

Recently I learned the happy news they had reformulated the perfume and put it back in department stores. I raced straight to the reviews and found my joy had been premature. Part of me knew it was too good to be true. While newbies raved about the scent, anyone who had worn the original in the 1980s railed against the reformulation. I won’t waste my time.

Over the last three months, I have successfully found three large bottles and four mini bottles. Last week, I purchased two more travel size sprays. All are legit, and likely will last me until the end of time. In fact, they may outlive me.

Even though my brain tells me it’s time to stop looking for my old friend, my heart tells me to keep looking. I might want to leave an extra bottle behind for my daughter, just in case she wants to smell mama after I’m gone.

And the beat goes on.

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