I have an intense, unforgiving form of crazy when it comes to smell and memory. I have thought about dedicating my life to it, thinking that perhaps I could have a Chanel-Proust career (which sounds hopelessly snotty), but basically, one where I am a fabulously fashionable perfumer/memoirist.
Believe me when I say it didn't turn out that way, so I sort of toil along, writing and collecting bits on a perfume blog, happily accepting perfumes as gifts. Each scent I've owned has been extremely special to me, cherished in that it marks a memory or feeling, a person or event.
My favorite perfumes aren't totally run-of-the-mill; however, I understand and appreciate the Patou Joys and the Chanel No. 5s, those incredible classics that everyone puts on a pedestal. I get it--and I've given it, to my own mother. (I was so mistaken in that gift. Her favorites leaned more risqué, and then suddenly, in the last decade, decidedly youthful and floral--cannot pry J'adore out of her hands.)
I can usually tell you what everyone special to me smells like, and when I think of myself and how I feel and who I was and who I am, I smell like my favorite fragrance: Calyx.
My story with Calyx begins in 1996. In my family, we had a tradition where we would receive a small present on Easter Sunday, nestled alongside our Easter baskets chock full of jelly beans and chocolate rabbits. I remember clearly the My Little Pony years--oh, and they were good years--but the year I turned 16, it was perfume.
The present of perfume resonated so strongly with me throughout those years (it was the standout at Christmas and my birthday, too), I think because it was so precious and special in a way that was completely opposite of the town we lived in (sorry, hometown, but it's true). It was one of those places that had a tendency to keep people down; it was conservative and isolated. My best friend called it "the armpit of the southwest," and by the time we were older, I think that had turned into "the a-hole of the southwest."
The place smelled like cow manure and oil rigs, which was amplified times a thousand in the 100-degree summer days. It seemed as though there was nothing to do but get into trouble, and I was such a shy, good girl with kind of a rotten attitude. I didn't sleep around, I didn't stay out past midnight; but I did take a liking to my parents' stash of peach brandy, and my friends sure didn't mind drinking it out of Sprite cans. I had begun to actually act like a teenager instead of the bookworm that liked to climb on the roof and read F. Scott Fitzgerald. I was going through a real PG13 version of adolescent rebellion, and perfume was a way to be more adult without a real, embarrassing, visual commitment.
So, long story short, for Easter that year, my mom, sister and I took a little trip to the nearest (read: 109 miles away) mall in Lubbock, Texas. We were all dead set on purchasing something (anything!) from the pretty Dillard’s cosmetic counters, their lights twinkling like a thousand little vanities. We succeeded in our venture: my mom bought Lancome Poeme, my sister got Estee Lauder Pleasures, and I chose Prescriptives Calyx.
To say that this scent is the epitome of spring (and youth) is almost too obvious. It smells just like hanging out of your best friend’s car window on a cool May night; like running into some ridiculous unrequited love at a terrible party that the police are gonna break up anyway; like a goddamn Smashing Pumpkins video, you guys.
It is perfection in its grassy indulgence, alternating between earth and fruit in a way that I haven’t found in another fragrance. It is emotive and light, almost impossibly so, just as a teenage girl is, but not sweet, not gourmand-y. Just ethereal and untouchable.
I distinctly remember wearing it on a road trip with a friend’s family back to Texas to see a band I loved (ha, it was Tripping Daisy). I had hot pink hair, my best friend had blue; my other friend pierced her belly button on that trip. The band actually ended up serving us Sno-Cones. I still have the styrofoam cup to this day, packed away with yearbooks and concert ticket stubs.
And even after all that nostalgia and daydreaming, they took my Calyx away. THEY TOOK IT AWAY!
Prescriptives sort of tanked (online purchasing only) a few years ago, so the fragrance was in extremely limited production. I haven't been able to procure a bottle in ages until my dear, sweet Marci GAVE ME A BOTTLE!
Clinique has picked up the pieces and relaunched Calyx to a wider distribution. And the best part: the scent hasn't been altered. I still get that peachy-mint-lily-cedar mix straight up, like a huff of the fountain of my youth.
I'm so grateful, I feel like publicly thanking Clinique. Oh! I just did.
Editor's Note: March 21st is National Fragrance Day! Tell us: which fragrance do you feel defines you?