Columns Addicted: Love, Loss & Recovery

Addicted: Love, Loss & Recovery

03/17/16 10:01:38 (31 comments)

by: Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison

LOVE

My fragrant tendencies became evident as a child; while other boys were collecting baseball cards, I was collecting perfume samples. I never was one to pay much attention to conformity.

I think I was probably about 7 years old when I fully became aware of what a "fragrance" is and the concept of perfume. I fell in love.

Like so many of us, it was my family that indoctrinated me by suggesting their own signature scents as potential holiday or birthday gifts - Royal Copenhagen aftershave for Dad; Shalimar bath soap for Mom.

In those days, happiness was discovering a fragrance I had never before experienced. The mysteries of the universe compelled me to find answers to questions like "Who IS Ungaro?"; "Could two sample vials of fragrance be mixed to create a new fragrance?"; and "Why am I reminded of mashed white potatoes when I smell Guerlain Vetiver?"

My first visits to perfume counters far surpassed any excitement that could be had in the isle of a toy shop. Toys were often visual while fragrance was both visual AND something else. Although, as a child of the 80s, I grew up with scented markers, scratch n sniff picture books, and dolls whose heads smelled like desserts.

digitaldeconstruction.com

Also, I had an aunt who sold Avon products. And if you ever had a family member who sold Avon products, you'll understand the gravity of the situation. Fragrance may have started with the visual bottle - and wow, Avon had a wild array of bottles - but always led to something more. Scent.


Avon Viking Ship Cologne Bottle, from Pinterest

And so my addiction began at an early age. Instead of discussing the new Michael Jackson album, I wanted to discuss the new Dior perfume. Instead of wondering about which cologne would attract the girls, I wondered which cologne might not clash with my styling gel. I even bought unscented hairspray so I could pour a little of my Benetton Colors into it.

As an adult, I began to amass quite a collection of fragrances, mostly because I worked in the perfume sales industry at stores like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus. But my proclivity for collecting was no match for my wanderlust and love of education, and so on numerous occasions I was forced to purge my perfumed prizes in the name of affordable downsizing. But as an avid hoarder collector, every time the collection was reduced, I quickly expanded it again thanks to swapping and shipping enablers.

But no matter where I went, I always maintained a sizable array of fragrances to keep me sane and centered. Fragrance, after all, is and has always been a huge part of my identity.

LOSS

I recently ended a relationship with someone who I loved dearly, and still do in many ways. Maybe you've been there. Sometimes paths cross only to diverge. It's a funny moment when cliched love songs suddenly make sense. We had planned to move from the northeast US to the other side of the world together and so after purging about half of my collection, off it went to our final destination - South America.

Here's the problem. I'm not in South America. I'm in Florida. I've been separated from my fragrance collection since July, 2015...and it sucks.

Shipping glass bottles full of alcohol from a third world developing country in South America to Florida is no easy or inexpensive feat. And so for the last 8 months I've been living with the split mindset that a) there may somehow be a way to recover at least some of my bottles and b) I need to accept that I'll never see any of them ever again.

Goodbye, 1980's Burberry for Men. So long, impossible to find Liz Taylor Passion for Men Cologne Concentree. Sayonara, discontinued Guerlain Lavande Velours. Adieu, Sagesse!

Perhaps I should be more concerned about the bound copy of my PhD dissertation, my antique Chinese tapestry, or my collection of signed, original artwork. But no, I miss my Diptyque Tam Dao, my Rochas Byzance and my Creed Millesime Imperial. Should I buy a plane ticket and go collect them? Should I buy my ex a plane ticket to bring them back? We had such a terrible experience with an international mover that the obvious option actually seems like a last resort.

It's a strange feeling, wondering if prized belongings might be forever lost. There is a rational inclination to accept and move on, to understand the fleeting nature of material possessions, to take comfort in the thought that most things can be replaced and that life always offers opprtunities to refill empty coffers. But what happens when those possessions feel like a part of oneself?

RECOVERY

Living without old familair friends who offer gateways to other times and other places can be startling. Imagine if your entire fragrance collection was suddenly gone and with it your memories. Opportunities to once again feel near to your beloved grandfather are vanished. Imagine a comfort scent that supported your mental health and tranquility now unavailable.

And then I started walking the path of recovery.

No, not from my fragrance addiction; quite the contrary. I started to recover and rebuild the collection. I reacquainted myself with favorite bargain sellers on Ebay. The first scents I replaced were those that held some of the most powerful memories for me. Hello, SJP Lovely! Welcome back, my old Obsession! Konichiwa, Kenzo Homme!

I reasoned that since a single 50ml bottle likely costs around $10 - $15 USD to ship to Florida from South America, I could just as easily replace some of my lost favorites. But with not knowing if some of my collection might also be recovered from South America, I've resisted the more expensive purchases.

More importantly, being a fragrance journalist has its perks in that companies regularly send me products for review or feedback. Though they may not be long lost loves, new bottles enter my collection every week these days.

And here's the funny thing, this entire experience has caused me to experience an existential challenge, a reconsideration of the nature of need and desire.

On one hand, I know that I have always had way more than I need and I've come to the conclusion that I don't actually need to replace everything in my collection. Some things I can simply say goodbye to.

On the other hand, some of this stuff is irreplaceable and worth a fortune! But am I willing to spend a fortune to recover it?

I made a list of 150 items I felt I truly wanted to have back in my collection. Each day I'm able to reduce that list little by little. Perhaps when I no longer feel the emotional pull to recover all of my lost loves, that's when the universe will bring them back to me again?

This week I pondered the return of Drakkar Noir and opted instead to replace the 1990's version of Courreges in Blue for a mere $12 USD. Empreinte is in my shopping cart for $10 USD and I decided not to part with $50 for a vintge bottle of YSL Jazz since I already have a bottle waiting somewhere in South America. Or did I sell that? Hmmm.... And wasn't I saving to buy a flat?

I wish I could say I didn't feel the desire and attachment, and that I was able to peacefully sit in alignment with the Buddhist principles I hold so dear. But at the end of the day, what is the nature of love and appreciation? What does it mean to be a collector?

 

Other articles in this series:

Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison

Managing Editor & Columnist

Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison’s journalism in the fragrance industry has appeared in international print and online publications such as PlayboyMen’s JournalMen’s Health and the New York Times. Marlen also works as a graduate professor, thesis advisor and faculty supervisor for MA programs in TESOL, Education, Writing and Literature. Learn more about Marlen by visiting www.MarlenHarrison.com.

 

 



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LadyIva
LadyIva

Thank you for sharing your story with us. As other readers have suggested: if at all possible, do travel down there and retrieve your collection! My mother is an avid collector of many items, and although we (read: the entire family) have urged her many times to get rid of some of her 'unnecessary' possessions, we have never actually dared to dispose of anything because we know that it would make her miserable. Interestingly, I did not inherit the collector gene; I am not attached to my possessions, plus I have moved house so many times (including two overseas moves, back and forth) that it would have been entirely impractical to drag all that stuff with each move. Hence I have learned to live with relatively few possessions and I can easily ditch or give away anything that's not been in frequent rotation. But I do understand the collector's urge and I love my mother the way she is.

Jan
02
2017
Andreab969
Andreab969

I love your reviews. I love this recount although I'm sad for you. I'm sure some magnificent new fragrance experiences will present for you. If my (small newbie) collection were to be gone I can't even conceive of my reaction. BUT perhaps it's like a "second life" adventure" and one day you'll be reinvigorated. And see the experience as growth and renewal. Good luck❤️ Happy Healthy Blessed New Year

Jan
02
2017
MrsLetterO
MrsLetterO

I was born a collector, the daughter of a collector, I am the Mother of a collector (at the moment Lego, he has moved on from cars and teddies), and I am married to a collector. You are born like it, or you are not. My Mum is not a collector, and found my Dad very difficult to live with and unfathomable. His lifetime of belongings just caused her anxiety and he had to find ways of hiding everything... which was difficult because he had a lot of stuff. After he died his stuff was hard to deal with, I had to walk away from a lot of it. It made me feel like I'd betrayed him, but they were his collections not mine. One day my perfumes and records, books and CDs, screenprints and music memorabilia will hit the tip, but in the meantime I fill my world with beauty and culture and it just makes me happy.

Jan
01
2016
cocola
cocola

go get your perfumes dr. harrison.i agree with suzannes.and all the others too. all the responses have been thoughtful,even if all the responses differ. go get those fumes.i'm sure your ex is as kind as you seem to be,if you chose them to begin with they must be special. ( your ex and your perfumes)retrieve your fragrances.getting over this breakup will take time,i'm sorry,but it will.we are all pulling for you...

Mar
22
2016
Solar Girl
Solar Girl

New things can't come to us until we let go the old ones.

And sometimes universe makes this strange thing of taking something most precious and valuable from us in order to give us something even more precious and more important.

the easier we let go, the better will follow.

Mar
21
2016
Maeva
Maeva

I really loved the article, Marlen, even if what you're telling us is so sad! As always, what you tell us totally resonates with us perfume lovers. You confront us with the pain of losing a loved one combined with our great dilemma as collectors (especially among those of us who are often short of money): that mixture of feelings like pleasure, pride, regret and guilt... the guilt of someone who knows that his/her passion is larger than his/her resources to contain it.

I wouldn't like to sound like an advice-to-the-lovelorn column, and maybe you don't really need our advice, but here's what I think:

There are two very important parts of your life in a foreign country. You chose to part with one of them, but not with the other. It can be beautiful and even liberating to let go of things that you love (since they somehow "enslave" us), but this other part of your life is also part of your nature, it's intensely personal and it took you a lot of effort, money and time to amass. You've been enriching your collection so that it could be unique like you, a true extension of your personality.

As a collector, you do feel an attachment to it that you cannot ignore. So my advice would be to do everything possible to bring your memories/bottles back, even if it has to be gradually and the process takes a long time.

Undoubtedly, while you are doing so second thoughts will haunt you, and you'll think "is this really the right thing to do?" but this is only part of a jouney you started many years ago. Nothing can compare to the happiness you'll feel when you have your bottles back home and introduce them to their new siblings.

Mar
21
2016
ParfummaniacC
ParfummaniacC

Awe dear Marlen,
I feel so sorry for you, thought all went well but was also wondering what happened.
You lost 'all' which must have hurt you and probably still does. I remember I bought a lot of perfumes from you before you left.If you need/want any of them back in your collection, let me know!
Sometimes happiness can be found in a bottle of perfume, to bring back memories you treasure.
Hugs , be strong !

Mar
18
2016
Thomaso7
Thomaso7

how did you get them there in the first place??

Mar
18
2016
miracleborgtech
miracleborgtech

I too have beloved possessions that have been in the same kind of limbo for 10 years. As time passes, my attachment lessens and I can concentrate on new loves. I suspect that if I did get all of them back into my immediate possession now, they wouldn't hold the same value for me. Even so, they are part of my history and I can't completely let go yet. But the time is coming! Whatever way you resolve this, at least know that new loves are on the horizon.

BTW - love your new pic!

Mar
18
2016
eirenelisa
eirenelisa

If it were me, I think I would send someone to retrieve my collection(if I had the resources to do so). I think it would be better than struggling for months to simultaneously let go of loves(of the ex and the perfumes) and also of the comfort and joy of a collection all at once. This perhaps is not very enlightened of me, but I think I would find by peace faster by not remaining in the state of dilemma of whether to retrieve or to replace.

Although if you do decide to replace your collection piece by piece, please treat us to some stories on the process. Your articles are great. I am so sorry this happened to you.

I wonder, are there certain perfumes you can still smell vividly in your head and others that you can't? This is the way it is with me and scents from my past that are now gone. Some I can still experience inside myself and others I can't quite reach. I would need the bottle to smell them again.

Mar
18
2016
Q80
Q80

Thank GOD that i do have the mindset of comforting. Despite loving fragrances that are superbly weird and rare to smell like, i can get over them all and search for something i haven't smell before :). In other words, if now i lost my whole wardrobe, i wouldn't be feeling bad about it :) that's maybe i rushed it up and filled it with fragrances that i wasn't sure about, or maybe because i love to discover new fragrances and explore new dimensions.

You know, i used to feel bad & heartaches about something i missed, something i lost, someone i lost, or even a memory i want back, but once i realize that we are mortal and eventually going to die... i go "oh WHATEVER" and a bright smile comes to my face knowing that life is superbly short and there is no time to waste feeling guilty, bad, or even angry.... as a matter of fact, i even stopped working and doing the things that i don't like to do just to fulfill an aspect of life like paying my dues, getting money, or even saving some & i realized that money can come from ANYTHING you can imagine:

Washing dishes
Acting in movies
Singing on stage
Working behind desks
Working in banks
Working as a waiter
A porn star
A doctor
etc... etc... etc...

So why would i pick a thing from above that i don't like & proceed my life with it!! oh and then i nag, complain, whine,, bla bla blas....! so i decided to knock this off, live my life the way i want, to hell with anyone who don't like what i do, and hello the things i want to have and want to do :)

Doing that helped me on all my other aspects, like for instance in fragrances, buying the fragrances that i love and everybody hates, wearing the fragrance that everybody hates without any care as long as i love it, not to weep on a discontinues vintage, and not even look at a price tag if i loved a thing to have.

Eventually life is short Dr.Harrison so don't waste it collecting what you already have or even feel bad about loosing them cause what made you bound to your collection can make you bound to another collections. It was a stage of your life that gave you an extreme experience so travel to another horizons beyond your imagination, think openly and out of the box, and enjoy the journey as long as you breath air and feeling healthy :)

Mar
18
2016
Addict2Perfume
Addict2Perfume

As someone who was away from their own collection while I was traveling and off at college, I must say that my perfume collection was the HARDEST thing to leave behind. The amount of time and money I have invested in my collection is irreplaceable to me. It sounds so superficial to have such an attachment to materialistic things, but scent in the strongest sense tied to memory and each fragrance in my collection reminds me of a period of my life which is why I hold them so dear. A fragrance can remind me of how old I was, where I was, people I have met, relationships I have had, and what was most important to me at that time of my life – it far surpasses just looking at a picture, at least to me. All my other material things can easily be replaced. If you are at peace enough with letting your collection go and replacing the ones you still really want then you are a bigger person than me and I applaud you! The only thing that would feel like a thorn in my side is that you already own this fabulous collection and even though those fragrances are not with you, they still belong to you! I hope that your Ex can find it in their heart to send it to you and if it is for financial reasons maybe your money would be better spent saving up and then having your Ex ship them back to you or flying there to collect them yourself? It is a tricky situation for sure, but I am rooting for you to one day get your collection back (and your dissertation)! I always enjoy reading your articles because you have such a fun interpersonal writing style where I feel like I am having a witty conversation with a close friend! Thank you for sharing your life experiences and nostalgic fragrance memories with us!

Mar
17
2016
Zaleska
Zaleska

"What does it mean to be a collector?"
I always ask myself this question.

Mar
17
2016
Oamae
Oamae

I really enjoyed reading this, thank you for sharing.

Mar
17
2016
Vasily
Vasily

Funny, when I was six or seven I liked to mix fragrant things together -- what I learned was that (as is the case with mixing paint colors) two good smells mixed together usually don't smell as great together as you'd think they would.

I'm sorry to hear about the difficulties with your collection, and your relationship loss. May you be richly blessed in the coming years!

Mar
17
2016
NebraskaLovesScent
NebraskaLovesScent

Oh, Marlen! What a tough spot to find yourself in! The stoic in me would like to think I could let it all go if this happened to me, but I know there would be some treasures that it would tear me up inside to lose. I send you peace and the energy to move forward in the way that seems most fit to you.

Mar
17
2016
Filomena1941
Filomena1941

I'm so sorry! The loss of love and the loss of your perfume collection. You are really starting over...but that may be a good thing. A new beginning for you is on the horizon, as well as a new perfume collection. Enjoy all the new loves awaiting you.

Mar
17
2016
ContessaQ
ContessaQ

Honestly, I'd buy a ticket back there. Doesn't mean you'd have to bring it all back with you, but you'd be able to have a choice in what you actually wanted back. Best wishes for the future.

Mar
17
2016
drugstore classics
drugstore classics

Oh, Marlen, that is indeed the ultimate existential perfume quandary! You have my complete empathy....

For me, the dilemma is very similar, without the complication of overseas travel. I am constantly striving to capture the scent of things I have smelled, in particular fragrances I didn't 'like', but now CRAVE - right After they became Totally Unavailable or horribly reformulated. Not really a matter of the grass is always greener, because I had no idea the desired scents were rare at all until I began to dream and yearn for them!!! Life...

But while these ironies are not lost on me, I - like you - am constantly growing through the process. ( Your shopping philosophy is very much like mine, FYI! ) Harmony is learning to adjust our needs to our resources and STILL SOAR. You are doing well at that, Marlen. :D

Mar
17
2016
ladymegda
ladymegda

As always, thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Undoubtedly, new and exciting fragrances will come your way. Blessings to you.

Mar
17
2016
smellagent
smellagent

I hope you work out something but that getting perfume bottles gratis every week. Hey that sounds like a blessing so maybe the universe is looking out for you. I do feel your pain. I had a bottle of wonderful perfume back in the nineties and I did not save the bottle so I no longer know what the name and am for ever on the lookout. I ache to smell it again but I don't tell most people that but here I am safe.

Mar
17
2016
kinetisphere
kinetisphere

Dam. :( that sir is quite the conundrum.

Mar
17
2016
relle
relle

Nice info and adorable intro pic! This may sound strange, but what about cargo-ing the collection on a cruise ship or freighter? Seems like that would be far less expensive than an airline ticket for your ex. Where there's a will, there's a way. Good luck!

Mar
17
2016
girlsworld
girlsworld

Better to have loved and lossed than to have never loved them at all

Mar
17
2016
Suzybee
Suzybee

Marlen, thanks for sharing your poignant story that resonates with all of us and the lessons that come from life's trials and future triumphs.

For me, anyways, reading your article has taught me to enjoy what I've amassed, thus far. Each and every day, no matter how simple, is a good day to wear your most treasured perfume as each day is a gift to be grateful for. One day, my bottles or I may not be around to enjoy them.

Thank you, again, and I hope you find comfort in the perfumes you currently have. Blessings!!

Mar
17
2016
Kalitera
Kalitera

I'm on the other some of the boat - have perfumes of the person I loved and lost. I wish I could put into words what it feels like to inhale them now... I'm not trying to let it go though, it will always be with me.

My situation is different, but I feel for you Marlen!

Mar
17
2016
spray_and_pray
spray_and_pray

I feel your pain though I have been fortunate enough not to experience the extreme nature of your situation. Hell, I feel seperation issues just being away from my collection for 12 or more hours! Hope you get reunited with your bottles soon!

Mar
17
2016
SuzanneS
SuzanneS

Oh dear..I so feel for you! I had to move mine from just state to state and cant even imagine being in South America...

But I will offer some creative advice because the heart wants what the heart wants... (and I wont go into the outrageous stunts ive done for such things that should be left well enough alone...but it does make some jaw dropping stories)

Take a cruise or rent a boat to go get your things. Bring friends with you for the ride/vacation and share costs...(and help with pesky pirates)

Find someone with a private plane,a sentimental heart and get them out. Planning such extraction methods from your ex could be wicked fun..

I mean you are pretty invested in this financially arent you? So maybe doing a cost of replacement vs recovery list?

Im so sorry this happened to you and thank you even more for sharing it with all of us. (huggs)

..ps.. spend the fortune to recover it. It will haunt you...but im just a girl from California....so what do I know... ;)

What it means to be a collector? We collect memories and experiences through our sense of smell and the fragrences act as a scrapbook for the memories.

Mar
17
2016
ChouliGaloria
ChouliGaloria

Oh dear, I feel for you but the irony is your first world problem is literally stuck in a third world nation.
Laugh and bid sayonara to those fumes. Yet on the bright side the ex might be wearing some awesome perfumes!

Mar
17
2016
ntabassum92
ntabassum92

I'm so sorry!!! Reading this made me ache inside :( I"m glad you're on the path to recovery :)

Mar
17
2016
Dierre
Dierre

I believe that the loss of someone or something dear can be a gift; one has the possibility to become wiser and more compassionate. Thank you for sharing from the heart. I hope that you know how much you add to other's lives, and also that you are becoming more balanced everyday.

Mar
17
2016

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