Chloé, true and false.

Casting about for a tuberose with whom I enjoy a truce, I hit upon good old 1975 Chloé. This was the signature scent of a long-retired coworker of mine-- a woman named Lois whom I remember with deep fondness. I'm not alone in either the memory or the scent association; my friend TJ shares them with me whenever we meet. Say the name 'Lois', and TJ will exclaim, "Oh, remember her Chloé?"

So indivisible were Lois and her perfume -- and so accustomed were we to huffing it vicariously throughout the day as it gently evaporated from Lois' wrists, her hair, the fibers of her sweater -- that the idea of adopting that mantle of scent for ourselves seemed faintly sacreligious. The thing is, LOIS had to be there for TJ and I to enjoy Chloé. And when she retired, we were doubly bereft.

Lois rarely visited us in the workplace after that. It didn't feel right to her-- just the same as wearing Chloé doesn't feel right to us. And perhaps it didn't even feel right to Lois, anymore. When her last bottle of the 1975 vintage ran out, she went to buy a new one and ended up with the Michel Almirac 2008 reformulation-- a wilting rose-peony, pale and arch, which left her profoundly scandalized. What imposter had usurped the place of the bold, upright flower she loved?

If you had never known the ballsy, bra-less Chloé of yore, you might never realize how sad the new incarnation is. Perhaps after sniffing a thousand and one fruity-floral horrors of the Ed-Hardy-Vera-Wang species, it might come as a refresher for the sinuses-- some tiny cup of half-strength rosewater sorbet eaten to help forget a bad meal. If Edwardian vinaigrettes were still in style, you could carry it to sniff whenever you needed to clear your head-- but if you knew Chloé as we knew Chloé, you would agree that this was an unacceptable substitute.

Perhaps that's why I hold on to my little secondhand mini-bottle of vintage Chloé even though I never wear it. I figure that if we ever run into one another, there will be two reunions: me with Lois, and Lois with Chloé.

Scent Elements: Honeysuckle, lily-of-the-valley, orange blossom, hyacinth, ylang-ylang, tuberose, rose, jasmine, narcissus, carnation, sandalwood, amber, oakmoss (1975); peony, freesia, lychee, rose, lily-of-the-valley, magnolia, amber, cedarwood (2008)