First time I gave a woman perfume it was a misstep. Remember the Senator’s daughter? It was the first time I met her mother. I was familiar with silverware, I knew how to open the door for people, and I even handwrote thank you notes. We drove out to her house, Toms River NJ, and her mother and The Senator come out into the driveway to meet us. She gets out of the car, they are all super excited to see each other, hugging and kissing and smiling (they were a remarkably healthy family for being in politics). I get out of the car, my first Mercedez, all prepped up because I was just then figuring out the hierarchy.
(5) What you see in a mall today
(4) Court clothes for first time offenders
(3) Wall Street in the 80’s
I was so new to the whole meeting girlfriend’s parents game that this was my thinking, get out, and slam the door hard enough so that they hear it. Back then, good cars had a sound when you slammed the door. Substance. They sounded like substance. These were well connected people of means, they would know the sound of substance when it echoed down their preened driveway. Substantial car door, substantial car, gotta be a substantial boyfriend driving it.
You are too young to remember. But there was this perfume back then called Aviance, and their tag line, which was E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E was “Have An Aviance Night.” And what that meant was, wear this, ladies, and you will be doing more than kissing good night at the door. There was no subtlety here. In fact…
So I get out of the car, slam my substantial door, say, “Pleased to meet you,” and quite literally hand my prospective Senator Wife Mother In Law a bottle of Have An Aviance Night.
ALWAYS check with the girlfriend before you give her mother the first present.
That incident became marrow, not only in my relationship with her and her family, but I just never ventured towards women’s fragrance again. But I am in the St John office, and it is sitting there, and I smell it. This was a few months ago. It gets in my head. I was never a perfume guy, didn’t like a ton of it on whomever. It actually seemed Church Lady-ish to me, but that could also just be my subconscious rationalizing Aviance.
Did I mention Aviance, in addition to having the cache of KY Jelly, was also about the cheapest perfume you could buy? Go big or go home, Burton.
So I ask Rhys, what do you think about me covering your perfume? I now use St John every day, you’ve read my rants about authenticity in production, a company with history. I mean, that is CRED, right? Rhys has an open mind (and knows if I wrote a debacle I would delete it if he asked me to), so he said sure.
I don’t know what it is like to wear perfume, so I spoke to Deirdre in his office, a very nice woman who is on top of Coral, St John’s women’s collection.
She described it as classic, like a sweater and a string of pearls. Well, actually she quoted Rhys saying that. She describe it as clean (it is) and she also wrote that, “it keeps the connection with the island.”
Damn if she isn’t right. Here.
I bring some home. Since my last dog died (Cisco, a British American Coonhound, a fantastic dog, it was sad, so sad in fact that the emptiness was more than we could stand. We put Cisco down on a Tuesday, and by the next Monday we were the proud roommates of Nugget, a Goldador. That’s a thing. And before you comment on the name, it was my daughter’s turn to name the new animal in the house, I lost that war decisively) – since Cisco died I have been surrounded by women. It has its ups and downs, but one of the ups is that it is a great field test for – everything.
I leave the bottle on the kitchen island. Trish comes in, asks, “What’s that?” I say, “Something I brought home from work.” And leave it at that. The bottle stays there a day, then goes missing. I look in the bathroom, it is there, the first leg of its migration. Next day, it has changed position on the counter. More movement, indicative of use. Third day, moved again. Micro-relocations now, it has found its way into the rotation. A few more days go by, then, bottle gone.
I walk past Gramercy’s bathroom. Wait, what? It is on her sink. I smile. The supply chain is at work. Theft is common in my house. But the next day (because by now I am tracking things) I look again, and it is gone. It’s on her nightstand. Then back in Trish’s bathroom. Then the nightstand.
In their business, they call these scent notes: Clean. Floral. Fresh. Islandy. Classic. It is all those things, to my uneducated nose. In my business, they call these endorsements: Trish’s counter, Gramercy’s bathroom, Gramercy’s nightstand, back to Trish’s counter.
If I had a brain in my head, I would have walked in the house with a few bottles in the weeks before Father’s Day and said, “I got you guys some of this from work because it reminded me of you,” and my stock would have gone up. (My stock being the ONLY stock going up apparently, do not check the market this morning.)
Be smarter than me. Coral is a perfume women and young women love, use, and steal from each other. Buy some, and then watch the Father’s Day Regatta begin.
JB, I simply must say you are really a great humorist. You remind me of your late penpal PJ O’Rourke. I am buying some today for my wife just to say thank you for the stories.
Haha. Great story.
In my view all the St. John’s perfumes are great. They create a real come to me softly pong. All my partners love them. Ivy ain’t IVY without them!
As the TV commercials used to intone way, waaaaaaay back in the 1970s, particularly during the Christmas and New Year’s season, “Oh yeah! It’s gonna be an Aviance night. Oh, yeah! It’s gonna be an Aviance night!” Watching these again on Youtube, the raciness (albeit kind of cheesey-creepy by 2020’s standards) of some 1970s advertising was was really something. Certainly more interesting than much of the ad pablum on TV and online now, but I can see how it would also raise eyebrows for some too.
And yes, your set-up for the rest of today’s anecdote is priceless. I tune in most days simply for the pleasure of reading your work here.
I gave a woman, (a girlfriend, not a potential mother-in-law) perfume once as a Christmas gift. And it wasn’t a cheap label. Never, ever again. Why is this not common knowledge; Don’t do that? “Seemed like a good idea at the time.” No excuses. I was old enough to know better.
Thank you for saving me from a(nother) failed gift purchase, JB.
I was just about to hit “buy” on another well known fragrance for Mrs Expat — while ignoring that little voice in my head that says “99% chance she won’t like it.” And that little voice has decades of data to draw from, so it’s best not to ignore it. And yet we still do, don’t we?
So anyway, thanks again.
Some rather nice St John’s smells in Johnny Simons new joint. Thus continuing a Russell Street tradition. Johnny bag once got rather snippy with me when I inquired about them during – possibly a heatwave, certainly during July or August of whichever year it was – the only time he wasn’t sweetness and light.
Not heard of Johnno doing that before. Anyways, the birds luv them as JB so rightly points out. They hang around in cashmere scarves. It’s doubtless their way.
let us know when Nugget borrows that scent
@ Woofter and Sad
John Simons on the contemporary use of the word ‘cool’ :
Just texted John Simons from here on the Netherlands asking him if St John’s wad as cool as you reckon his reply was, “The word cool now on everyones’ lips seems to me to have no meaning – a ghastly repetetive yes or no – uncool unsussed unnecessary. I can hardly remember the true meaning of the word so distorted by contemporary translation. It was part of the hipster’s dictionary now just a forgotten memory. Yet if i meet a like minded cat i like fall back into it “YOU DIG “and if the cat plays some nice tenor and has his axe with him we may blow some blues and if we put some great ideas down that would be cool you dig?
Well to me they are as cool as this Ivy site. And we can’t get any cooler than that o’l chums.