The great black and gold stoppered boules of Lanvin—Arpège or My Sin on Bette Davis’s vanity in All About Eve, the towering factice of Robert Piguet Bandit in the Paris bathroom from which Ann-Margret applies in delight in Made in Paris spoke to some secret world. Perfumes became the ultimate luxury in my eyes, and the ultimate femininity. My assumption was that this near-mystical sillage, like the distraction of a magician’s smoke, would transport me to womanhood. But I learned a scented path is as complex in its revealings of desire and development as any perfume’s structure.
In the summer backyard, the child poses by a garden chair wearing a long red cotton yukata printed with tiny white fans. The gleaming metal of her hair, now tightly plaited and coiled, is as reflective of light as her mother’s is absorbing of it. One small hand flickers out from the cool sleeve like a fin; a small fish playing in the waves of Midwestern grass, an unconscious recollection of the gilded koi that swam in the Sapporo pond.