Vintage Chloe

I saw Grief drinking a cup of sorrow and called out, ‘It tastes sweet, does it not?’ ‘You’ve caught me,” Grief answered, ‘and you’ve ruined my business, how can I sell sorrow when you know it’s a blessing?’

–  Rumi

In 1981 a 15-year-old female discovered a lump on her neck tucked behind her right ear. Her parents promptly took her to a specialist, a young surgeon who diagnosed it as a benign tumor. He recommended immediate removal via surgery lest it turn malignant in the future. He further informed them that there might be a minute chance that nerves were attached to this tumour and that he would have no choice but to sever them, resulting in paralysis with severe facial drooping on the right side of her face as well as the loss of her sense of taste. He stated that this would be very unlikely in someone so young. However, he insisted that her parents sign a waiver indicating that they were aware of the potential risk and would not pursue legal action should the outcome of the surgery be less than favourable.

bergamot thefragrantman the fragrant man

Ylang Ylang

Her grief stricken mother, fully aware of society’s prejudice against any sort of  physical disfigurement, was observed crying at work one day and was questioned by her employer as to the source of her distress. Upon hearing the dilemma he insisted that her daughter be taken to his personal physician at his expense. This doctor then sent her on to a seasoned surgeon who specialised in those types of tumours. Given that their modest health insurance would not cover his high fee, he waived it with the agreement that he be allowed to publish this unusual case in a medical journal, as she was the youngest patient he had ever operated on with such a tumour in his 30 years of practice. He promised her parents that he would do everything in his power to ensure that the outcome of the surgery would not be a lifelong disfigurement.

The surgery was scheduled on the day of New Year’s Eve. What should have been a three-hour surgery became an eight-hour ordeal as the surgeon worked diligently to carefully release the large bundle of nerves that were completely entwined around the tumour. On New Year’s Eve, as everyone in NYC was toasting with champagne, she was miserable in her hospital bed, vomiting all night, having been under the influence of anesthesia for such an extended amount of time.

bergamot thefragrantman the fragrant man


The next morning a team of doctors including her surgeon came into her room to assess her. They forewarned her parents that because of the unforeseen complications there might be some temporary nerve damage affecting the area with paralysis likely for a few weeks. The surgeon asked her to smile. She did. She made note of the reactions of all the doctors as their faces lit up and overheard one of them whisper to another, “It’s a miracle”.

Her smile and her face were intact with absolutely no nerve damage.

She spent a week in the hospital existing on pain killers and ginger ale due to the extreme nausea caused by the remnants of anesthesia. She left the hospital weighing a mere 77 pounds. Once at home her mother, knowing of her love of perfume, gifted her a bottle of Chloe. The gorgeous tuberose fragrance warmly enveloped her tiny body throughout that recovery process.

chloe vintage thefragrantman the fragrant manVintage Chloe (1975)

Top: honeysuckle, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, hyacinth, lilac, coconut, bergamot, aldehydes, juicy peach

Heart: jasmine, rose, narcissus, tuberose and carnation along with the oris root, and the base adds up with

Drydown: oakmoss, sandalwood, amber, musk, cedar and benzoin

Over 30 years later, what remains from this trauma is a three inch scar on my neck. Recently I was gifted a perfume bottle of vintage Chloe in pristine condition. I wondered what thoughts would be conjured up upon smelling it. It was the memory of my mother’s love.  It was the fact that I was given the gift of understanding what it might very well have been like to go through life with people constantly staring at you (a benefit to all the students that I work with, some of whom present with facial deformities caused by syndromes).  It was the idea that fate stepped in to alter my life all those years ago.

A sample of vintage Chloe awaits one reader. Leave a comment on any specific perfume that evokes strong memories for you.


43 responses to “Vintage Chloe

    • Neil, my dear, I cannot thank you enough for gifting me that gorgeous and pristine bottle…brought back so many memories not just of that time but others as well….I put it on early this morning whilst heading to the supermarket and despite being sans make-up, with disheveled hair and looking like a waif I am smelling divine in my vintage Chloe!!!

  1. What a wonderful story, Brie. I love it and thank you for sharing. The original Polo (green) was my first fragrance purchase. I bought it after smelling it on my best friend, Matt. Though it never smelled as good on me as it did on him, I have always had a soft spot for Polo and I am taken back to my late teens when I smell it.

  2. All things happen for a reason, isn’t that the saying? How lucky for you and your mom to have someone step in like that and refer you elsewhere. Glad everything worked out okay in the end.
    Kenzo Air for whatever reason, instantly takes me back to my grandmothers house. I was young when she died but spent a lot of time with her. Something about Air smells like her house to me. I don’t really ever wear it except those moments I want to remember how it felt to be there. I was so young I don’t even know if her house really smelled like that but something about Air triggers that in my mind. Strange.

    • Poodle, that is truly a beautiful…I love how you save the fragrance to conjure up memories of your grandmother….and indeed I was quite fortunate all those years ago and never fully understood that until later in life.

  3. Wow. Just wow. All the perfumes from my teenage years are transporting devices for me – Aromatics Elixir, White Linen, and oh yes, Chloe. 🙂

    • Lorraine, I must say you have great taste as Aromatics and White Linen were two of my favorites many years ago!

  4. I remember when I was just eight years old I had a friend who I met through my father her name was Rose Marie West she was 25 years older than me I had known her all my life for forty years and when I smell White Shoulders it takes me backs me back to a simpler time in life and my friend Mrs. west.

  5. That story is gripping and powerful, Brie. It is amazing, and more so because it is true. The spare way of your telling added to the emotional punch of the story. I appreciate you sharing this.

    • Thank you Tora…sometimes truth is indeed more profound than fiction…after I took a whiff of that vintage Chloe after over thirty years I felt compelled to tell my story despite the fact that it is highly personal.

  6. What a moving and beautiful story Brie! The kindness of others, your strength and your words to tell your story really touch me.

    • Thank you Sandra…indeed the kindness of that seasoned doctor clearly demonstrated in his assuaging my parents’ fears and in working so diligently for a positive outcome was incredible whenever I think about it. It had a profound impact on the type of individual that I
      became as an adult.

  7. Dearest Brie
    Such a compelling and moving story.
    The wonderful thing of course about the memory of love is that it is a part of the thing itself.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  8. My dearest, thank God it all worked out. I was almost pained while reading your powerful stories with those memories. And how very scared you must have been. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. From the time I read your story yesterday, until today when I could comment, I just kept thinking of that little 15-year old in a hospital bed. My dear, I wish I could hug you right now.

    As for the vintage Chloé, no need to enter me in the drawing. It is a scent I associate *SO* much with my oldest sister that I don’t think I’d be able to even test it. Growing up, there was a rule in my family that no-one could wear another person’s signature fragrance (and Chloé was hers for the entire span of the 1970s), so I’d almost feel guilty to put it on now. LOL. As for a fragrance of my own which evokes strong memories, well, most of old vintage classics conjure up some memories. For example, Hermès’ Parfum d’Hermès (now reformulated as “Rouge d’Hermès”) makes me think of my Paris highschool, as it was one of my main teenage scents. Fracas and Opium bring back my time in Cannes and my mother. Habit Rouge, my father. That’s what I love about perfume: it’s an instant short-circuit to the memory-retention part of your brain. 😀

    • The irony is Kafka at the time I did not completely understand the seriousness or the complications involved in such major surgery… so there was not a tremendous amount of fear on my behalf… was the post surgery pain and nausea that most disturbed my teenage self! A big smooch from the hairy German would have been nice! And you are so right about perfume being an “instant short circuit to the memory retention part of our brains”!

  9. Brie, thank you for this brave piece. Not sure if it is your writing or Chloe or the combination but you seem to have inspired some levitation on Twitter.

  10. I’m so glad to hear it all turned out ok.
    I can’t say I have a perfume that evokes such strong memories of me. Possibly the smell of nettle in perfume as it evokes my grandmother washing my hair when I was a kid (she always used nettle shampoo).

  11. I teared up while reading this story. When it dawned on me that you were sharing your life story, I couldn’t help but shout out: Bravo! It is a beautiful story of strength and especially of love and it moves me. That it’s so closely linked to a perfume must make that perfume all the more special. Thank you so very much for sharing.

    I don’t have any perfume that evokes such strong memories, but I do have a quirky tale to tell. When I was serving in the army (it was compulsory for us to serve for 2 years), I decided that I wanted to be different from everyone else who pretty much stank of sweat and didn’t care how they smelt. So I went to camp wearing D&G’s L’Imperatrice, which is what I’d call a soapy fruit salad, miles apart from how everyone else smelt, as a form of rebellion against the rigidity of the military. Though my tastes have moved on since then, smelling L’Imperatrice always reminds me of the time when I made a stand through wearing perfume.

    • That perfume is special…and given that I have not smelled it in thirty years I had forgotten how glorious it was and still is!

      and may I say, smellybagabond, I applaud you for your rebellious nature in perfume choices as it brings to mind an eight year old wafting in chypres or an eighteen year old doused in Grey Flannel (yes, I was a rebel too!) Keep on making a stand, I say!!!!

  12. Brie, what a beautiful story and I do believe in the power of love and miracles!! I remember that perfume, Chloe and recall wearing it at one time. It smells wonderful. Though now, my signature scent is Tresor I do remember that lovely smell and now it will always make me think of you and your heartwarming story. Thank you for sharing this.

    • So good to see you here, Brigitte! Tresor is wonderful as well and I did not know that it is your signature scent!

  13. Brie, you made me cry a little. Thank you for sharing this very emotional part of you with us. I’m so glad everything worked out for you (and your mother). And I’m glad that you have a perfume to remind you of your mother’s love and caring.

  14. It is amazing how perfume seems to be intertwined with your life in so many aspects. Your writings always convey a feeling of sincerity that I find most attractive. I do have one objection though: I don’t think you are that “tiny”. There is way too much strength in you to call yourself that 😉

    • OK, Amer… I will acquiesce- I am “tiny” in body but perhaps not in spirit……thank you for your kind words! I have worn perfume for so many years (over 40) that it would be impossible for fragrance not to be attached to a story,right?

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