COLOGNE AND THE BABY JESUS

I’ve started wearing cologne again. On days when I’m not with groups of people or seeing doctors, that is.

I didn’t wear cologne or perfume for some 25 years, what with being in a Zen community, people’s sensitivities to fragrances, and my general confusion about spirituality, but lately I’ve wanted once again to smell it on my skin, especially when I’m at home and not disturbing anyone with allergies. I talked this out with my friend, Maggie, who comes from Colombia.

Maggie, I had no idea how expensive perfume and cologne have gotten over all the years I haven’t used them.

It’s true, Eve, but for us, growing up in Colombia, cologne was always very expensive. In fact, almost the only place we put cologne was on the baby Jesus.

You put cologne on the baby Jesus?

She explains: We had neighbors who had a statue of the baby Jesus in a small glass cabinet so that everybody could see him, and at Christmas time they would bring him in the cabinet to one family, leave him there overnight, and the next day they would bring him to another family, leave him there overnight, and do that all around the town. And they always put cologne on the baby Jesus.

They perfumed the baby Jesus! Wow! I said.

No, no, never perfume, Eve. Nobody could afford perfume, they could barely afford cologne. They put cologne on the baby Jesus, and you know which one? Tabu.

Tabu? The heavy, strong perfume?

Yes, because it was the cheapest, the only one they could afford.

I remembered Tabu from my youth as something oriental, heavy, and very strong, Nothing subtle about it. The forbidden fragrance, it was called. It might have been spelled Tabu, but in my adolescent mind it was always Taboo.

I looked it up on Wikipedia. You know what I just read? I told Maggie. The perfumer who made Tabu was told by the client to develop a perfume that a prostitute would wear. That’s what your neighbors put on the baby Jesus.

She just giggled.