Thursday, September 02, 2010
Xeryus - A Musing on Fragrance
Current mood: Appreciative
I recently purchased a bottle of my favorite cologne, Givenchy Xeryus, online for something like thirty dollars. I have been wearing this cologne since the mid-1980s and as those who know me are well aware, I am not one to give up on a style just because it has some age to it. It was “a signature fragrance. Xeryus hits all the right notes and does so with terrific aplomb. It is masculine but delicately so, complex but accessible, announces presence but never offputting”, as one reviewer noted. I had always aspired to be present but never offputting, so it seemed the perfect choice for me. Imagine my disheartenment when, in the middle of the 1990s, the cologne simply disappeared. It was no longer available, nowhere to be found. I scoured the earth in search of the scent and found that there was some left in France, but it was no longer available in the United States. Well, rubbish, I thought. I was not about to call France, or even write them a letter simply to try and procure some eu de toilet.
So the search was on – I needed to find a new aroma and I needed to do it quickly. My final bottle of Xeryus was getting down to its last squeezins. Not an easy task. I went back to the cologne I had worn just out of my teens – Halston (Z-14), but found its smell too strong, too sweet. I had apparently outgrown the Halston, which I had used for five or six productive years. It went on the shelf as an emergency backup. I visited makeup counters in low-end shops and fancy stores where the lovely salesladies wore smocks. I squirted and sniffed and took home countless packets of samples, none of which made me feel comfortable as my courtly gray bottle of Xeryus had done for lo, these many years. Some made me nauseous, others made me cry; most required an immediate shower, with a hardy, lye-based soap. “Who cares,” one of my friends said when I was weeping about it over a cold tall and frosty. “It’s just cologne… Pick up a bottle of Aramis - chicks love the Aramis.” “But chicks reeeeally love the Xeryus,” I muttered. He shrugged and left me to my tears.
I found some sample bottles of Xeryus on sale and bought some – they were exact teeny replicas of the stately gray bottles in which the magical concoction was bottled and sold. It was if the Givenchy corporation was trying to erase the fragrance from history – they were throwing the last of the survivors into the discount bin. These lasted awhile and there followed a blue period when my medicine cabinet was littered with various bottles for which I had neither affinity nor loyalty. At one point, I even found that I could buy Woohue online - the cologne that Sinatra and Dean Martin had worn in the 60's that had been off the market for thirty years. It didn't live up to its ratpackuous reputation. I was underwhelmed. It was a dark time.
When I broke up with the second ex-Mrs. Ford, the twins stayed with Mom to live – I lived close by, so I could have them with me on certain days of the week. I’m sure some of you know the routine. Allison, it seemed, had a particularly hard time with the separation and it was suggested by a grandmother in the business that I should spritz a favorite stuffed animal (of the little girl, not mine) with my cologne. I took one of the mini-bottles out of the heavy-duty home safe that protected my valuables against theft, fire and witchcraft and dashed some of the precious fluid onto a small stuffed bear. It worked wonders and helped the child with her separation anxiety. It made the cologne even more valuable – it was magic.
I stumbled through the next few years in an odoriferous haze- functional, but never efficient; aware, but never attentive. I grew weary with those around me. Tasks meant nothing, other than to get to the end of another sepia-toned day. I was nearing the end of my rope – had another year passed in this indecisive quagmire of fragrance-limbo, I cannot imagine the horrors that might have erupted. Then, one typically depressing sunny day, on a random shopping expedition, a weekly task that I shuffled through, mostly moaning and erupting in vicious jags of weeping while picking through the chips and the onions, I glanced as I always did – with a short, static burst of hopefulness – at the men’s fragrances on the makeup aisle. Not only did this keep me updated on the latest disappointing fragrances, it camouflaged my taste for the occasional colorful rouge.
And there it was.
It was in a short box, which contained a small, stumpy, etched-glass bottle – “Xeryus”, the label read; “By Givenchy”. My heart skipped a beat and I fell to my knees weeping. Security was called and I was escorted from the premises. Once I had regained my questionable composure, I dashed to a nearby Target and fast-walked to the cosmetic counter. “XERYUS” – right next to the other men’s colognes. IT WAS BACK! I immediately purchased a bottle and tore open the box on my way out of the store, spraying myself liberally as I walked. “YES!” I shouted. The bottle was different – gone was the stately gray, faux-art deco bottle with its daring lines and elegant script – but there was no denying that the fragrance was the same.
The world came into focus and for the first time in years, I felt alive. I cleaned my house and ridded myself of all the other fragrances cluttering the medicine cabinet. They were dead to me now. Xeryus had come home. I am still in recovery, but each day gets a little easier. The fragrance, it seems, relaxes me and brings me comfort that helps center my universe. Retrieving that which has been absent brings a new respect and appreciation for everything around one and every morning when I spritz, I find myself appreciating the new day that is upon me. It is truly a gift.
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