White Shoulders A Three-part Christmas Tale

If Heaven has a signature scent, it would be White Shoulders perfume. Have you ever smelled the sensual, sultry fragrance of honeysuckle full-blooming in May? Then you know what White Shoulders has captured and put into its little glass bottle of perfume.

I first discovered White Shoulders one morning while secretly sampling the marvelously varied bottles of scents that were lined-up on top of my mother’s vanity table, that sacred altar of devotion to feminine beauty that I was irresistibly attracted to at an early age.

Stored in the middle of the vanity, between two sets of side drawers I personally knew to contain mysterious potions, paints and various devices consecrated to attracting a man, the matching gold brocade bench was the ladder I used to get me to the top where the irresistible treasures were on open display.

What is it in a young female that attracts her to her own image? The round beveled mirror alone was as big as the full moon. I could stare at myself while dabbing perfume behind my ears or powder-puffing my nose and cheeks, imagining I was (or one day would be) as beautiful as all the women I saw everyday on TV.

After a face-painting episode involving lipstick, powder, rouge, eyebrow pencil, eye shadow and mascara, (precociously applied in all the right places, though wildly bizarre and Baby Jane-ish) from then on all vanity drawers were forbidden. But the vanity top, with all the luscious perfumes remained open ground.

Initially I was attracted to White Shoulders perfume because of the embossed image of the pretty long-haired white woman on the front of the bottle, which I could relate to, and probably fantasized was me.

Actually, the White Shoulders’ girl is more a light Caucasian pink, the color of the perfume. Bare-shouldered and breasty, her long hair flows gracefully in the wind straight behind her, an image that has been modernized and streamlined throughout the decades, but remained fundamentally the same.

The White-Shoulder-Girl has the kind of soft pink-white shoulders Mammy was fierce for Scarlett O’Hara to never let see the light of day. Come to think of it, the white-shouldered girl evokes the very image of Scarlett, the most famous and venerated of the wealthy, self-centered slave-owner girls, though I wasn’t thinking of that back then. I had real white shoulders myself. It was a white world I was living in. I know that now, though I confess, White Shoulders perfume is still the only one for me.

As far as being experimental with new scents, my mother and I were like yin and yang. Through the years Mom has been positively promiscuous with perfumes. Evening in Paris, Chanel No. 5, Shalimar, Diorissimo, Emeraude, Yardley Lavender, Les Fleurs, Windsong, Chantilly, Opium, Obsession…

In the 1970s she even bought a bottle of Charlie cologne for God’s sake! It was made by Revlon and I remember it smelled as manly as its name. Mom also had a long flirtation with the Avon scents, which I thought all smelled alike, except for Daisies Won’t Tell, a light cologne that was like inhaling candied daisies through the nose. I loved it, but never wore it, just sniffed it straight from the bottle.

During a decades-long parade of colognes and perfumes (not to mention the scented oils, bubble baths, soaps, misty sprays, powders, lotions, creams…) White Shoulders was always there for as long as I can remember, and always the one I loved best.

So it’s not like I haven’t been exposed. I have. But it’s always been White Shoulders for me. It has a way of warming to your body temp and melting into your skin, blending with your own unique oils, creating and exuding a personal perfume, making it signature. Once I dab or spray it on, soon I forget all about it. Until someone comes up close to me, breathes it in and says, “Whenever I smell White Shoulders perfume, I think of you.”

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