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Obsessing Over Obsession

At some point during my teenage years, sometime during the late 1980’s, my mom had an inexplicable thing for Calvin Klein’s Obsession parfum. Not the watered down eau de parfum that anyone can get these days, but the oily, “pure” stuff that came in a tiny, squat bottle. She’d tell us girls if we were to try it for ourselves, only the teeniest drop would do the trick, and she wasn’t lying. We’d know whenever my folks were planning on going out at night, and I know when I’d be roped into babysitting my sisters because I’d be able to smell her from all the way on the other side of the house. Every time she and my father got gussied up in their finest for some gathering or event where my dad’s official presence was required, she’d smell as if she’d bathed in a tub of heady, liquid amber and spicy, baked florals. My father swooned over the stuff, or so she claimed to us. I suppose she liked it, too, but I’ll never know for sure, not anymore. Personally, I think she wore it because he liked it. During the day, she’d smell of burnt coffee grounds (my parents were both caffeine junkies, drinking several cups of coffee a day) and soapy linens, so the signal that she was ready for evening-wear was always evident.

We were never allowed in my parents’ room if my folks weren’t home, so of course, that was an open invitation to enter and explore whenever they were out for the night. That lingering stench of Obsession hung like old lady drapery everywhere in the room. On a particular night after I’d spent the evening watching horrible, violent, forbidden movies with my sisters, I snuck into our folks’ bedroom to search for a bound collection of letters my mother and father had amassed from an old colleague of my dad’s, a man who’d mysteriously wound up in a mental hospital due to something he’d revealed about a scandal happening at my father’s work. I’d seen the pile, tied with a ribbon, once on their bed and had asked about it.  My mother had been deliberately vague in her answer; the idea was to keep us girls completely out of the picture, in the dark. It was big. It was serious. It caused all kinds of problems for all kinds of higher ups. That’s all I knew. Anyway, I couldn’t find the letters anywhere, so I did what any idle teenaged girl would do when rifling through her parents’ stuff…I got distracted by All The Pretty Stuff, including the perfume…the only bottle of perfume there. Stupid me, I dabbed a little on my wrists, then a little behind my ears, then a little on my neck.

That stench clung to me for days. Of course, I got in trouble. After all, it wasn’t all that difficult to tell that one of us had been in the forbidden zone of my parents’ room.

So, whenever I catch a whiff of Obsession on some dame, somewhere, I think back to my mother and father’s evenings out…I think about answers to a scandal that may never be revealed, ever…and I cringe a little inside at the thought of my oh-so-obvious foolishness back then.



In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Smell You Later.”

7 thoughts on “Obsessing Over Obsession

    • Thanks! No, I just tolerated it (and that’s putting it kindly actually). My little sister told me, after having read the entry, that she used to LOVE it, thought it glamorous.


  1. I recently visited a second cousin I’d last seen about thirty years ago when she was probably three or four. She asked me what perfume my mother had worn. She’d smelled it on a nurse in the hospital where she worked and she immediately remembered that my mother had worn it. It was Topaz, and it’s been about 50 years since she’d seen my mother!! Yes, memories do reside in scents. https://grieflessons.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/stink-think/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My mother and sister never had a thing for perfume when I was a kid. They did, however, have a thing for odd purses. My sister had this giant, clear plastic monstrosity that was filled with this blue fluid. Little plastic fish and other stuff floated around in it. I got into a lot of trouble because I decided to punch a hole in it one day and see if the blue stuff was actually water (it wasn’t). Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for reading, as ever, and for the compliment. I remember those bags — it was a little girl trend, like beach bags with the side pocket that really wasn’t a pocket. It, as you mentioned, would be filled with blue or clear, gooey fluid and would have little plastic things bobbing in it. I remember them well. Never had one myself, but at least one of my sisters may have, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

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