Filed under: Perfume | Tags: orange blossom, Serge Lutens, The Last Picture Show
Like many girls, I thought I was hopelessly unattractive when I was seventeen. My reasons for thinking so now seem achingly naive in the context of the things I should have been caring about: my hair didn’t lie right. I occasionally had a pimple. I wasn’t a skinny little nymph, nor had I come to terms with my curves. I hadn’t figured out how to dress myself yet. I didn’t have a boyfriend. Looking back on my senior year of high school, I wish I could go back in time and smack some sense into myself. When I see pictures of myself from that period of time, I realize that I was indeed beautiful despite all of my perceived flaws, the way all but the most unfortunate of seventeen year-old girls are.
Fleurs d’Oranger wasn’t invented yet when I was a senior in high school, nor would I have had the resources, growing up in the tiny town of Upper Black Eddy Pennsylvania, to ever come across Serge Lutens’ exclusive French niche line of perfumes. If I’d had some of this back then, though, I have a feeling that my senior year would have been a completely different beast.
I’d have been her:
Except maybe nicer. Although probably not.
Cybill Shepherd in The Last Picture Show portrayed Jacy Farrow, the high school bombshell of a small town just coming to grips with the repercussions of being part of a larger world in the 1060s. Jacy spends the entire movie seducing every man in sight, on purpose, just to see if it will work. Despite the hearts she breaks, you can’t help but feel that she’s doing it more out of innocence than actual malice. Even when she kicks her bewildered teenaged boyfriend out of bed after recruiting him to take her virginity, you can’t help sympathize with her frustration in still not knowing how to have sex properly afterward. Or maybe you can. I couldn’t.
Fleurs d’Oranger hits the same spot in my personal mythology as The Last Picture Show and my own senior year of high school. It’s hard to explain why, except that the fragrance is so achingly, horribly, beautifully innocent that you get the feeling it’s going to have a long life of mixed blessings and sorrows. Based around the orange flower and supported by notes of white jasmine, tuberose, white rose, green orange peel, musk, hibiscus, cumin, and nutmeg, Fleurs d’Oranger plays out all of the combined freshness and sweat of that long, hot summer right after high school graduation.
The orange blossom sings out most strongly, but it’s far from being the tepid and sticky kiddie cologne sold in Spanish bodegas and health food stores. This orange blossom is hot, lush, itching for trouble, and counting down the days until she can get the hell out of this two-bit town. The cumin and nutmeg suggest not sex and danger themselves, but a pulsing, palpable, frustrated desire for it. It’s sweet and juicy to the point of bursting, which would explain why it reminds me of a time when I still lived at home with my strict parents. I think if a seventeen year-old were to actually wear this perfume, some concerned neighbor would be doing the right thing by calling her parents. It’s for a woman, not a girl.
Yeah, I know it’s just perfume. But this is why I’m so obsessed with it: it tells its story to the obsessed, and probably only the obsessed. And Serge Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger is one of my most obsessed-over obsessions. Not because it’s trying; because it can’t help it.
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