Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Estée Lauder Beautiful

I received a bottle of Beautiful the year I graduated from high school, 1987. Over the years I created a sort of myth that it was my signature scent back then, but in truth, I wasn't particularly devoted to it. Smelling it now, I cannot say that was a mistake. It was in regular rotation with other things in my teen perfume wardrobe, which was truly all over the place. What else did I even own then? Let's see: Ysatis, Rive Gauche, L'Air du Temps, Anais Anais, Coty Exclamation, Obsession. Not one of these bottles did I buy for myself. They were all gifts as I passed through high school and into college, mostly from relatives.

But the myth pervades. Right or wrong, it seems my entire bank of stored memories from my last year in high school through to my second year of college simply reeks of Beautiful. I could apply any other one of those scents I just listed for you, and I might get the tiniest whiff of nostalgia. I dab on a few drops of Beautiful, and I could write a book. I know I must have worn other things. Didn't I wear other things?

One thing I do know: The perfume that knocked Beautiful out of the running for me was Fendi, and Fendi was followed by Opium, and after that I mostly said goodbye to it forever. Well, until this week.

On the Estée Lauder site, it says Beautiful consists of notes from a thousand flowers. (Hello, isn't that Jean Patou's 1000?) In the booklet copy I have here, it says 2,000 flowers. Really, the number is neither here nor there, because all you need to know is that they are all pink. Beautiful is a WALL OF PINK.

The (mere fraction?) of notes listed for this perfume are as follows:
Top: rose, mandarin, lily, tuberose, marigold
Heart: orange flower, muguet, ylang-ylang
Base: sandalwood, vetiver

It's true: for the most part, all these flowers really just end up making one giant pink flower. I'm not sure if this is a compliment. When you have a star vehicle like tuberose, say, shouldn't you make something fabulous out of it? Why humble it, why dumb it down into a mess of pink? It's like Meryl Streep doing ensemble comedy on a sitcom for Lifetime versus Meryl Streep doing ensemble comedy in A Prairie Home Companion. The woman deserves the best vehicle. You don't put Meryl Streep on Lifetime unless you're re-running The Devil Wears Prada. The woman has Oscars to her name. Oscars!

And I didn't want to admit it, but I must: it does smell synthetic. I can't say that about any other of the Lauders so far, but it's true here. I knew for sure when Bob told me this morning that I smelled like an airport. (Gems. My husband comes up with some serious gems.) The funny thing is, I knew just what he meant. It's a conglomerate: the scent of disinfectant, mixed with the scents of industry (carpet glue, plastic chairs, newsprint), mixed up with travelers' perfumes. It's perfume sprayed on polyester or acrylic, something that never breathes.

It breaks my heart to say that. I wanted it to be wonderful, for my sake, for your sake, for Estée Lauder's sake. I love the ads. I love the hot pink color of the box (ironic, no?) and the shape of the bottle. I also do not think a perfume could possibly have a better name--Beautiful!--but certainly the wonderful name deserves a better perfume. Is is too late to rename Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, you think? That is a beautiful perfume.

*image from esteelauder.com