Over the weekend, a friend sent me an article from The New York Times called “The Case for Melancholy.” You can read it here.
I’ve read it twice now, once as a reader and once as a writer. I tried not to take it too seriously, because the piece was written for the paper’s “Style” section. Is the “paper of record” hoping to bring melancholy back into vogue, like it was when Thomas Gray and his morose friends, the Boneyard Boys, lurked about cemeteries and contemplated the mortal coil? We Baby Boomers continue to age (yes, I said “continue to age”) and we’re a rich and fertile market for such a trend. Cemeteries are lovely haunts; the Lady Alone Traveler has visited them twice or thrice.
Let’s bring on melancholia, shall we?
What I liked about the article was its nod to fragrance as an element in the melancholy mystique:
“Guerlain has expertise in melancholy. There is the mysterious twilight-esque 1912 creation, L’Heure Bleue (the bluish hour). And Jicky, created in the late 1800s, is sensuous and shimmering and described as charming and melancholy with accords of citrus, lavender and dusty books. And Mitsouko, a fruity chypre made in 1919, is another.”
That paragraph sent me running to my boudoir bathroom to spritz on my own fragrance, Roger & Gallet’s “Lotus Bleu.” Was it morbid enough? My mother, that Clinique “Happy” wearing diva, once said it smelled like the insecticide Raid. And Raid, after all, “kills bugs dead.”
Sitting here in my own personal fog of fragrance, I remembered my first visit to a Guerlain boutique. It was at that old icon of retail, Marshall Field’s. You know, the former flagship store, on State Street in Chicago which is now (cough) a Macy’s. I haven’t been to Chicago since Macy’s bought the store; how is it these days? Does it have a Britney Spears fragrance boutique? Or maybe a Jessica Simpson perfume boudoir? A quick trip to a Macy’s online shopping cart tells me I can get 3.4 ounces of Ms. Simpson’s “Fancy Girl” or “Fancy Love” eu de parfum for only $61!
But does it kill bugs dead? That’s what I want to know!
Oh dear…I’ve digressed into one of my guiltiest of sins, my fragrance obsession and snobbery. That Guerlain boutique was beautiful, the old glass cases filled with elegant bottles, little gold compacts of compressed solid fragrance, crystal flacons, and of course, the trademark refillable canister atomizers. Guerlain, for those not obsessed with fragrance, is a lot more than Shalimar.
The in-store boutique left a mark on me and I’ll never forget it. Today’s blog post merely scratches the surface of my “perfume mania,” borne at Lewiston’s once gracious Peck’s department store. Was it a bottle of Revlon’s Moon Drops or that wretched White Shoulders, courtesy of Evyan? Good grief, I’m sure I’ve now just hurt someone’s feelings or upset their Nana memories.
I’m going to need to soak my typing digits in a holy water-filled finger bowl and nibble on Meow Mix as a penance for today’s catty outburst.
Long sparkles of sunlight are streaming through my office window now, so we’ll have to table this conversation about melancholy, fragrance, and finger bowls for a darker day. I don’t want to minimize the idea that happiness is only one of many emotions and our culture’s restless quest to “be happy” is a fool’s errand.
And do pick up the Lewiston Sun Journal this Sunday for my feature story on holiday fairs!