Suzanne's Perfume Journal

If 2010 proved anything to me, it was the generosity of the perfume community, which, as I like to say, knows how to take care of its own. I received all kinds of perfume packages last year that knocked me out in regard to the generosity of fellow perfumistas, but what knocked me out even more is that the perfume packages I received were so thoughtfully attuned to my tastes. To receive such a package is to feel like you are really seen—really known—and what greater gift is there than that?

Often it is my intention to write a review (or what is more typical for me, a meandering essay) about the beautiful fragrances that turn up in these packages, because the gratitude I feel is so strong. But if 2010 proved another thing to me, it is that my ideas for writing about perfumes seem to be on the wane. Sometimes, no matter how much an affinity I feel towards the perfume that was sent to me, I cannot manage to rouse from within myself the kind of post that I feel would do it justice. This is particularly the case for a generous sample of Fendi Uomo sent to me in December by blogger Megan Ruisch (better known on the perfume blogs as Olenska; she who wears her intellect like a slinky dress and her kindness like her luxuriant flow of auburn hair).

“I am loving the Fendi Uomo,” I wrote to her in mid-December. “It’s quite a poignant smell to me as it reminds me of my father, who died in 1997 but would have been among our perfumista crowd were he still alive. He loved fragrances … always bought Estee Lauder gifts sets for me and my sisters and had accumulated his own rather large collection of men’s fragrances by the time he died. This Fendi Uomo is like the meeting of one of his favorite fragrances, Aramis, with one of mine: Bal a Versailles. I feel like he’s with me when I wear it.”

I knew that in writing a post about Fendi Uomo, I would feel compelled to set down the memories of my father, which is something that I’ve also longed to do, but of course the doing of it requires sifting through pains as well as joys. I was 34, and my father 56, when I received a call sometime around five a.m. on a late day in March. My husband was snow-camping in the Adirondacks (the miracle of the cell phone would soon return him home); alone in my bed, I picked up the receiver and heard a woman’s voice telling me that my father had gone into cardiac arrest but had managed to be revived and was now lying in a coma in a hospital in Harrisburg, a couple of hours away. A week later, after being at his bedside in the ICU round the clock and taking turns sleeping in the hospital waiting room, my sisters and I had to make a decision whether to continue life support or not. Because my parents were divorced at this point—and because the three of us had decided to let my father’s girlfriend be a part of the process—that day of the final decision was grueling. It took us all day long to come to a consensus to end life support. My father, who had never awakened from his coma, died instantly. It was April 2, 1997; Comet Hale-Bopp glowed brightly in the evening sky as I drove home.

After wearing Fendi Uomo off and on now over the past month, it strikes me as more than fitting that this fragrance which reminds me so poignantly of him takes as its name the Italian word for man—as, naturally, my father was my first and foremost model for understanding what a man is. Strong and gentle in equal measure, bracingly earthy yet quietly refined, my father was like the rib that God chose to birth Eve. He taught me and my sisters how to put our noses to the grindstone on the farm that we grew up on, and he urged us towards perfection to a degree that I sometimes now think I’d like to let go of a bit. But he also made sure that our lives were filled with gentle leisures, taking us fishing, leading us on trail rides on our horses through the woods, and treating us to Sunday brunches at a very young age (when we hardly ate enough to merit spending money on a restaurant meal) at the sunny upstairs porch of the Corner Room, so that we could listen to one of his and my mom’s favorite lounge singers. We always had proper summer beach vacations; we always had beautiful clothes that he often bought us himself. (He spoiled my mother in this regard, which I think is one of the reasons the two of them stayed friends after their divorce; maybe not close friends, but close enough that my mother invited him to every single holiday meal she ever had, right up to the last year of his life. “How can your parents have Christmas dinner together?” my sister-in-law once asked me, knowing that my mother was remarried and that my father would be attending with his girlfriend. Her own divorced parents would end up spitting at each other, she told me, if they had to face each other across a dining room table. “It wouldn’t be Christmas for any of us,” I said to her with a shrug, “if we had to spend it apart.”)

Music was one of his foremost loves, though he was not the least bit musical himself. It’s thanks to him that Gordon Lightfoot’s tender voice will forever accompany me like a quiet soundtrack humming in the background of my life. (It’s so nice to meet an old friend and pass the time of day/And talk about the hometown a million miles away/Is the ice still on the river, are the old folks still the same?/And by the way, did she mention my name?) And because of this, I think that my personality will always be bent towards the romantic and sentimental, often to my chagrin. Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings…their records were at my father’s command. So much so that it wasn’t until the 80s that I would finally fall under the swoon of Traffic’s The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys and even some of The Beatles’ and Rolling Stones’ albums that my contemporaries had been listening to a full decade before me.

The fragrances my father accumulated in the final years of his life were many, and I can see some of them lined up on an antique vanity in his bathroom. I’m fairly certain that Fendi Uomo was not among them, but it would have fit into his collection nicely. Originally launched in 1985 and now discontinued, Fendi Uomo opens with a tonic blast of citrus and herbal aromatics: lemon, bergamot, lavender, and what smells to me like a touch of clary sage. Lashes of leather and warm spices quickly join the mix, and it is at this stage of its wear—the first twenty minutes after application—that Uomo reminds me a lot of the original Estee Lauder scent, Aramis. Uomo is definitely what might be labeled a ‘mature’ men’s scent, which is to say that it would not appeal to those looking for a more modern, uncluttered approach to fragrance.

The very unique thing about Uomo, though, is that just when it reaches its manly apex, along comes carnation and cyclamen to insert an air of refined, ballroom-beauty powder and softness to the mix . Everything else is still there: the brut dryness of citrus, herbs and spices; the very leathery leather. But just as behind every good man stands a woman, there is a bit of la donna enfolded into the heart of Uomo, and that’s what makes this fragrance so compellingly complete. Here is where I sense Aramis greeting Bal a Versailles; here is where I find my father greeting me, reminding me to work hard but also to enjoy some of the finer things in life.

In its far drydown, Uomo reveals its vetiver (there is a distinct floralcy to its greenness) and the sensual pillowiness of musk. How many fragrances unfold like this, anymore? How many reveal such depths? Here lies the reason it has been so difficult to write about Uomo: it is a sharp reminder of the startling and wondrous layers I was privileged to see in the man I loved the most. 

January 12, 2011:

Bottle image of Fendi Uomo is from Perfumezilla.com; image above is my own. 

Fendi Uomo and A Remembrance of My Father

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