What’s Your Poison?


First, Some History

In 1985, Christian Dior introduced Poison. It was the perfect name for a repellant perfume. I remember my first exposure. One of the sales people in my office wanted everyone to know about the expensive gift she’d received. Applying it for the first time, she misjudged its potency. She got her wish. Everyone knew she was coming, where she was and where she was going.

Poison by DiorIt made me gag. I thought she had doused herself with Raid.

It is a nauseating scent, but some people do, in fact, love it. “…from the house of Dior, Poison is the revolutionary fragrance that became a legend … An unrivaled alchemy; spicy, fruity, woody fragrance of enigmatic profoundness that mesmerizes the senses … This dark, mysterious and elegant perfume, … won a FiFi award in 1987…”

There’s nothing mysterious or enigmatic about it. It smells like bug spray and while your senses are mesmerized, it is trying to exterminate you.

Now, the Story

As I ambled down the hallway after swimming this morning, I passed the Glory Center. It is a high-profile room, set aside for contemplation and prayer by a Christian-based medical practice. It is open to anyone who seeks solace. Slides of towering overlooks and majestic mountains flow one after another across the wide-screen TV mounted on the far wall. The aroma of Ocean Breeze candles assails the senses roughly fifteen feet from the room. This is not to say it isn’t effective. It is. I have, upon occasion, taken ten-minutes to contemplate God’s Glory and realign my gratitude in their comfy wingchairs.

Today I caught a whiff of bug spray as I passed. It reminded me of when I worked as a typesetter in a ten story building in the North End of Boston. The top floor of the building was dedicated to a popular restaurant called the Scotch and Sirloin. (Besides massive steaks and sour cream slathered baked potatoes, its primary selling point was its majestic view of the historic waterfront.) Being an old building in an old city, it was infested with roaches. This is an unpleasant fact. If you live in a city, you are living with both cockroaches and rats.

One can fool oneself into thinking, not in my building, but, Mais oui, they are in every city in every building. This building’s caretakers hired a discreet company whose forest green work uniforms were not emblazoned with the name of the discreet company which had been hired to bait and spray said rats and roaches. They came at night carrying industrial sized cans of kill the bug juice and sprayed along the baseboards of every hallway, restroom, and closet. If like me, you sometimes worked deep into the evening, you occasionally caught one in the act.

But I digress. Today I caught a similar whiff of bug spray as I passed the Glory Center, which made me remember said building in Boston and wonder if the building I was in, also had roaches. I inspected the baseboard for signs of infestation, but as I walked down the hallway, away from the Glory Center, the stink intensified. I suspected the woman preceding me down the hall was wearing Poison. As I walked through the slipstream of fragrance she left in her wake, I wondered why a middle-aged woman, wearing a pink gingham-checked blouse with cut-off sleeves and white capris, chose to wear this “dark” and “elegant” perfume.

The woman looked about ten years younger than me. Perhaps, like me, she was at her most attractive in her twenties. This would make the 1980s her peak, her nostalgia, her go-to happy place. Oh, I knew I was reading too much into it. But she seemed like an ordinary fifty-year-old, who, having damaged the middle- and ring-fingers on her right hand, dutifully went to the doctor. Now she walked down the hall holding them aloft, wincing with pain. They were taped together and held straight up and so, as she wandered down the hall, she inadvertently flipped the perpetual bird to everyone she passed. She held the exit door for me and we stepped out into the sunshine. She to wait for her ride. Me off to purchase fruit and fixings for supper.

I suppose my point is we all pick our poison, our thing from thirty years ago that makes us feel secure. Whether we wear it as a perfume, hair style or clothing. Whether it’s anger or shame or insecurity, we raise the bottle day after day, dab it behind our ears or rub it on our wrists. We pick it up, put it on and feel better. Whether we need it or not. Whether it’s appropriate or not. Whether it supports our current choices or not.

So think about it, then tell me, what’s your poison?

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