La Belle Hélène Eau de Parfum (Parfums MDCI)

Once upon a time, I regarded pears with gluttonous passion. Raw, baked, poached in syrup or wine; cold from the refrigerator or fresh from the tree; glossy green, tan and leathery, blushed with scarlet or freckled and full of grace; from woody stem to shiny obsidian seed and all the sugary nectar inbetween-- I adored them.

Now, not so much.  What happened?

Four years ago, my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary with an elaborate backyard party. The chosen theme being "A Terrific Pair", pear-motif decorations abounded-- including a set of heavy pottery table centerpieces contributed by my younger sister. She was so proud of them, with their mottled green glaze and tarnished copper-wire stems, that I couldn't bring myself to admit I found them hideous... but then, I never needed to. Someone loved those pears so much, they simply took them home at the end of the party.

For the next three years, my sister pursued those pears with the dedication of a bail bondsman. She eulogized their loss at holiday dinners, cited their cost over plates of summer barbeque, described in detail the Ulyssean travails and tribulations she'd undergone to procure them. She even pointed them out to me in snapshots of the anniversary party, as if I were a key witness in a missing-persons case whose spotty memory needed jogging.

How could someone just TAKE them? she kept asking. Who would just HELP THEMSELVES like that?

I didn't know. To be honest, I couldn't actually imagine someone coveting those pieces of kitsch badly enough to plot a heist around them. Over and over, I expressed my sincere hope that they would be recovered... but after two years of this ritual, I noticed my sister's questions had started to become more direct.

Are you SURE you don't have one at home? she finally asked me one day. Her voice had an odd edge to it that warned me I might want to step carefully. Maybe you took it and forgot that you had it. Maybe you were loading party leftovers into your car and it ended up in your trunk. I'm not going to be angry. I just need to know.

I felt like laughing. She thinks I stole those stupid pears! I thought.  My mind flashed to that scene in A Christmas Story when Ralphie's Mom shrieks, "Jealous? Jealous of WHAT? That is the ugliest lamp I have ever seen in my entire LIFE!" I half wish I had said something like this... because it would have saved me a year of interrogative hectoring and sidelong glares.

To this day, the Case of the Purloined Pears remains unsolved... but the very thought of pears now makes me paranoid and twitchy. I can't even eat them anymore without looking over my shoulder. So why I am I wearing a perfume predicated on their scent?

Jesus, I don't know. It sounded good. It's the latest thing. I simply had to try it. All that crap. And now that I'm wearing La Belle Hélène, I wish I wasn't. It might be me, or today's hundred-degree heat, or the fact that I paid an obscene amount of money for a scant half-milliliter of something that smells like Garnier Fructis shampoo or (even less forgivable) Juicy Pear Jelly Bellies.  But La Belle Hélène fills me with a great and abiding impatience I cannot ascribe to any other cause but bad blood. It's pretty; it's fresh; I'm sure many people will fall on the floor in raptures over it. All it does for me is stir up a hornet's nest of bad associations, so while it probably deserves better (at that price, almost certainly!) I'm afraid I'm going to have to scrub it.

Others may assert that fragrance can be divorced from emotional baggage, or that molecular structure overrides personal memory, or that it is possible to practice total objectivity and never once connect new data to prior experience. To them I say, enjoy La Belle Hélène. I know I might have, if not for some stupid ceramic centerpieces from four years ago.

Scent Elements: Pear, tangerine, Mirabelle plum, lime blossom, aldehydes, rose, osmanthus, ylang-ylang, iris, hawthorn, myrrh, vetiver, patchouli, Virginia cedar, amber, oakmoss, white musk, sandalwood and something calling itself "licorice wood" even though licorice is properly a root, and not even that of a tree.